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How Soorma Bhopali was born

By SUBHASH K JHA
July 10, 2020 15:25 IST
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'When Salim-Javed wrote the character, it was meant to be a comic diversion, a warm-up before Jai and Veeru reach the Thakur.'
'Full credit goes to Jagdeep for the success of the character.'

IMAGE: Jagdeep as Soorma Bhopali in Sholay.

The Man Who Made Sholay is sad.

His Soorma Bhopali is gone.

Jagdeep's death evokes memories of his character Soorma Bhopali in Sholay for its director Ramesh Sippy.

Is it true that the character was added to the film as an afterthought and was not shown in the opening week of Sholay?

"Not true!' Sippy exclaims.

"When Sholay released, there was a state of Emergency in India. My film is three hours and 24 minutes long. Even if the first show began at 8.30 am, the last show would get over by midnight. Those were uncertain times," Sippy remembers.

"Plus, the trade experts had slammed Sholay in the opening week and declared it a flop. Back then, films opened in 'B' and 'C' centres after they played in 'A' centres. So before Sholay could release in Punjab, the film's distributors Rajshri Productions came to me and politely asked me if we could shorten the film.

"We decided to take out the comedy tracks with Asraniji and Jagdeepji. But when the film released, there was an outcry about the cuts, so we had to restore them."

 

IMAGE: Dharmendra, Jagdeep and Amitabh Bachchan in Sholay.

Jagdeep's Soorma Bhopali act became one of the highlights of Sholay.

"It became Jagdeepji's big ticket attraction at live concerts and on stage performances," the director says.

"When Salim-Javed wrote the character, it was meant to be a comic diversion, a warm-up before Jai and Veeru reach the Thakur. Little did we know the impact the character would have on the audience," Sippy reveals.

"Salim-Javed based Soorma Bhopali on a character they knew in Bhopal. Jagdeepji worked hard on the accent and the spoken language. Full credit goes to him for the success of the character."

Ramesh Sippy recalls his first meeting with Jagdeep when the latter played a part in the 1968 Shammi Kapoor starrer Bramhachari.

"My father produced that film," he says. Little did we know that he would one day create a character named Soorma Bhopali that would sweep across the nation's collective consciousness for generations," says Sippy.

"Comedy is the hardest genre of acting and Jagdeepji had mastered it. He has passed on his legacy to his sons Jaaved and Naved and now to his grandson Meezan."

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