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Sholay returns — in 3d!

Come, blow your mind!” is filmmaker Ketan Mehta’s invitation to the Sholay experience, 38 years later, in 3D. The iconic Ramesh Sippy spaghetti Western that still remains the greatest Bolly story ever told will get a new lease of life in the third dimension on January 3, 2014. A t2 chat with Mehta, whose company Maya Digital, has worked on converting Sholay to 3D.

When were you approached to remake Sholay in 3D?

About three years ago, Sasha Sippy, who is the grandson of GP Sippy, approached me about the possibility of converting Sholay into 3D. They wanted to revive the franchise with this new technology and recreate the magic of Sholay. We also got very excited because Sholay is Sholay… an iconic film in every right. We also felt that it was correctly placed for a 3D version… if there is any Indian film that deserves being remade in 3D, then that’s Sholay. It’s a film with such huge impact, visually and otherwise.

So, we jumped at the idea and it was a crazy job because Sholay is a 38-year-old film. Even the negative was fading. The film had to be restored, digitised and colour-corrected frame by frame. Each element of the frame had to be cut out, separated and recomposited in 3D so that it had the correct kind of depth. It was a tremendous task… 350 people worked for more than a year under the leadership of Frank Foster who is a veteran in the field of computer animation, visual effects and conversion from 2D to 3D. This will be an enhanced experience for those who have loved and rewatched Sholay through the years.

You’ve just said that Sholay as a film lends itself naturally to 3D. Why is that so, given that it doesn’t really have mind-boggling visual effects?

Sholay has some incredible action sequences that lend themselves to 3D very well! The action scenes on the horses, the whole expanse of Ramgarh, Gabbar’s hideout in the hills, the train sequence in the beginning… they all just get so much more impactful with 3D.

Was there any apprehension about tampering with Sholay because it’s so iconic and so sacrosanct. We all know what Ramgopal Varma did with RGV Ki Aag!

Not at all. I feel that 3D is the future of entertainment. I feel that the Sholay experience will be enhanced further to give the viewer such an immersive watch that he will feel that he’s watching the film for the first time, even if he has seen Sholay 50 times before.

Can you pick some sequences that are working great in 3D?

One is the sequence very early on in the film where the engine of the train collides with a pile of logs on the railway tracks. We have actually created computer animated logs that, on impact, seem to leap out of the screen at the viewer. Then, the part where Sanjeev Kumar (Thakur) fires at the handcuffs of Dharmendra (Veeru) and Amitabh Bachchan (Jai), the bullet comes straight towards the audience. Also, the entire train sequence has some really wonderful 3D moments.

Sholay means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? Do you remember when you first watched it?

I remember, I remember… I was studying film when it released and as a student of cinema, I realised that this was an extremely ambitious film. The technical as well as storytelling superiority of Sholay was evident to everybody. It had such a humongous starcast. Sholay is the kind of film that happens only once in a generation.

Is 3D the way forward for Bollywood too?

No doubt about it. Every filmmaker will have to embrace this technology sooner rather than later. The only way by which we can preserve our old classics is by restoring them in the third dimension. Mughal-e-Azam will have a huge impact in 3D.

Any of your own films that you feel lend naturally to 3D?

I think Oh Darling Yeh Hai India! (the 1995 film starring Shah Rukh Khan and Deepa Sahi). It’s got some stunning visual effects, lots of action and many, many characters moving around.

Priyanka Roy