TRIBUTE THE MAGAZINE
India Abroad May 21, 2010 M12
Towards the beginning of Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance, Vikram Jaisingh (played by the director’s brother Farhan) is attending the graduation cere- mony of his acting class – Nand
Kishore School of Acting, run by Saurabh
Shukla. The chief guest is the veteran
Bollywood actor Mac Mohan, who is playing
himself in this brief appearance.
Kishore asks Mac Mohan to say a few
words to the students. Before Mac Mohan
can say anything, one student yells out a
request for the actor to repeat his famous
line from Sholay.
“Sholay?” Mac Mohan asks. He then looks
down and repeats the famous three words
written for him by the duo Salim-Javed:
“Poorey pachas hazar!”
The students start to laugh and break into
applause. That’s the end of the Mac Mohan
guest appearance in Luck By Chance. He
only spoke four words in the film — words of
no apparent consequence, and yet those are
some of the most famous words in the histo-
ry of Hindi cinema. Last week when the
actor died after a battle with lung cancer,
every obituary remembered his appearance
in Luck By Chance.
Thirty-five years after its release Sholay is
now a part of Hindi cinema mythology. Its
characters – Gabbar Singh, Jai, Veeru,
Basanti, Soorma Bhopali, and especially
Kalia and Sambha (played by Mac Mohan)
— are as popular as any religious Hindu
mythological figures. Watching Sholay in
theaters in India was a cultural experience in
itself, with the entire audience mouthing the
dialogues with the characters.
Much has been written in praise of Sholay.
An epic film, inspired by classic Hollywood
westerns like The Magnificent Seven and the
spaghetti Westerns of Italian master Sergio
Leone, Sholay ran for over five years at
Mumbai’s Minerva theater (at Grant
Theatre, south Mumbai), breaking all previous box office records.
On the day I learnt about Mac Mohan’s
death, I checked out the longer Kitney
aadmi the sequence from Sholay on
You Tube. There are several clips of the original sequence as well as spoofs on it on
YouTube. It opens with loud drum rolls,
menacing sounds from the background, as
the camera pans Gabbar Singh’s boots and
his belt scraping along rocks. At one point
Singh (Amjad Khan) turns to his trusted
Sambha and asks: “Arrey oh Sambha.
Kitna inam rakhey hain sarkar hum
par?” And Sambha dressed in a red,
sitting on top of rock, a gun in hand
says the magical words: “Poorey
There is something about Sholay. It
is hard to explain the reasons for the
film’s immense popularity, and yet
generations of Indian filmgoers continue to mouth those lines. Zoya
Akhtar’s inclusion of that dialogue in Luck
By Chance, was her homage to the film, its
characters, the writing (by her father Javed
Akhtar) and the enormous entertainment
value it provided to her generation.
When Sholay opened in India 1975, I was
a first year student at Delhi University. I have
vivid memories of watching the film at the
The death of
Mac Mohan acted in 190 films.
But he is most famous for three words
Plaza, a theater near Connaught Place in
central New Delhi. I had never seen an audience that engaged in a film, relishing every
moment, every word and every shot of the
I also have another less pleasant memory
of that screening. I nearly got pickpocketed
while buying tickets from a scalper for the
film outside the theater.
Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur referred to
Sholay as the most ‘defining film on the
Indian screen… Indian film history can be
divided into Sholay BC and Sholay AD’,
Kapoor was quoted as saying to film journal-
ist Anupama Chopra in Sholay: The Making
of a Classic.