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aka Flames of the Sun aka Embers 1975 199’ col Hindi d Ramesh Sippy p G.P. Sippy pc Sippy Films s Salim-Javed lyr Anand Bakshi c Dwarka Divecha m R.D. Burman lp Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri, Amjad Khan, Iftikhar, A.K. Hangal, Leela Mishra, Macmohan, Sachin, Asrani, Helen, Keshto Mukherjee

Massively popular adventure film shot in 70mm. India’s best-known ‘curry’ western patterned on Italian westerns with admixtures of romance, comedy, feudal costume drama and musicals. In addition, it is peppered with elements from e.g. Burt Kennedy, Sam Peckinpah, Chaplin and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). The revenge plot has two adventurous crooks, Veeru (Dharmendra)and Jaidev (Bachchan) who are hired by ex- cop Thakur Baldev Singh (Kumar) to hunt down the dreaded dacoit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) who massacred Thakur’s family. The film tells its story in three long flashbacks, the first showing the meeting between Thakur and the crooks followed by a long sequence of bandits attacking a train; the second shows Thakur arresting Gabbar Singh, who retaliates by wiping out Thakur’s entire family, except for his younger daughter-in-law Radha (Jaya Bhaduri). This episode introduces the third and final encounter when Thakur, whose two arms have been cut off, kicks the bandit into submission. In keeping with his romantic screen image, Jaidev/ Bachchan is also killed (which also allowed the film to adhere to the Hindi cinema’s norm that the widowed Radha may not remarry). A technically accomplished film, it uses its spectacular cinematography panning and craning over rocky heights and barren quarries, often under menacing clouds, mainly to build up its major legend, the evil Gabbar Singh. Amjad Khan’s best-known screen role includes dialogues that became famous throughout the country (an edited soundtrack of the film was released as an LP). The kaleidoscopic approach to the plot structure allowed the film-maker to anthologise the highlights of various genre narratives (e.g. How the West Was Won, 1962) and to combine them into a single film, a privilege usually reserved for crazy comedies but here held together by its intensely emotional current, sustained not only by the high-energy shooting styles but also by the music and savoury dialogues. The end result resembles a skilfully designed shopping mall with the viewer being propelled past successive window displays, each exhibiting an eye-catching presentation of some aspect of the popular cinema’s history. W. Dissanayake and Malti Sahai (1992) published a book-length commentary on the film.