Genre: Thriller, Western
Author: G. P. Sippy
Publisher: Westland Ltd, Graphic India Pvt. Ltd. 2014
Subthemes: Good versus evil, friendship, resilience, loyalty
Timeline: Set in 1970s in rural Karnataka in the fictitious village of Ramgarh, following a non-linear timeline involving flashbacks.
Set in the 1970s, in a Wild West-esque setting in the rocky rural areas of Karnataka, Sholay is iconic to the Indian movie goer as the thrilling story of the two dashing robbers Jaidev and Veeru, and the terrible dacoit Gabbar Singh. The graphic novel is a near impeccable retelling of the movie, and brings to life the two dearly loved blackguards and their eventual transformation under the commission of Thakur Baldev Singh, the upright and principled ex-police officer, through their journey to bring Gabbar Singh to justice
The film – and consequently the graphic novel – is based in the fictitious village of Ramgarh. The focus of the novel is firmly entrenched in the two protagonists Jai and Veeru, played by Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra in the movie, and stylistically brought to life through the sketches of the graphic novel. The other central characters are Thakur Baldev Singh, an incorruptible ex-police officer, and the infamous dacoit Gabbar Singh. The plot essentially revolves around these individuals, and the narrative plays out as an exploration of their exploits and character evolution. The narrative follows a non-linear timeline, alternating between flashbacks and present day, with the former serving effectively to provide context to the reader. The artwork is very faithful to the movie; the illustrator has done a magnificent job particularly with the protagonists, and the rustic use of colour makes for an authentic backdrop.
The dialogue delivery is very powerful, and well translated from Hindi into English. Here too, the narrative is faithful to the movie. A pivotal element to the narrative – Jai’s coin – is introduced early into the plot. The coin works as a metaphor for the inherent integrity of the protagonists’ characters, and often proves to be the linchpin in their career trajectory. The foundation of the narrative is established through tales of courage and heroism portrayed by the two friend, with an intermix of humour. Through flashbacks, the initial meeting between the Thakur and the two friends is revealed, as is the reason for the former’s trust in the latter’s abilities. As the plot develops, the themes of lifelong friendship, loyalty and resilience are brought out through the interactions between the characters. Gabbar Singh makes his initial appearance through the iconic scene in his rocky hideout that marks one of the most thrilling moments of the movie. The fight sequences are particularly well executed, and the artwork strikes a fine balance between gory and impactful. The character evolution of the protagonists underline the theme of good triumphing evil against all odds, with the scene where they return their compensation money to the Thakur but promise to continue fighting Gabbar on a matter of principle marking their symbolic absolution and redemption from a life of sin. The narrative then picks up crescendo leading up to a final showdown with the dacoit, bringing about his downfall, but only after the protagonists face the ultimate heartbreak.
The graphic novel is essentially a Western-Dacoit thriller. Certain scenes and sections from the movie have been seamless edited out to fit the scope of the novel, most notably the song and dance sequences. Strikingly, the romantic angles of the movie featuring Basanti and Radha have been touched upon only tangentially, and more through the visuals than textually. Ultimately, it is a triumphant tale of adventure and daring and intense camaraderie between friends.
Jaidev’s coin is symbolic of the characters’ intrinsic goodness. It eventually goes on to represent Jai’s undying love for his lifelong friend. The characters of Thakur Baldev Singh and his surviving daughter-in -aw Radha are the epitomes of extreme suffering and sacrifice forced on the lives of the people by the dacoit. Jai and Veeru act as foils for each other and symbolise the natural harmony struck between opposite and complementary characters.