India Insight

A Minute With: Sascha Sippy

December 13, 2013

Ramesh Sippy’s epic buddy action film “Sholay” failed to impress audiences when it came out in 1975. Almost 40 years later, the movie is an integral part of Indian pop culture. The film is now being released in 3D amid much acrimony.

Sippy went to court against his nephews who own the rights to the film. His nephew, Sascha Sippy, who runs Sippy Films, said that his uncle didn’t have any rights to the film, and did not have a say in whether the film could be released.

The Bombay High Court rejected Ramesh Sippy’s order, clearing the way for the new version. Sascha Sippy spoke to Reuters about the feud, why he decided to release the film in 3D and how he plans to take the “Sholay” franchise forward. Responses have been lightly edited.

When did you think of converting Sholay into 3D? Also, why 3D? Why not just restore it?

The original idea was to restore the film and give it a longer lease of life, but at a certain point, the relevance of the film to new generations came into question, and we felt very strongly that this film should not become irrelevant.  It’s on our heads to protect it, take care of it. It is a big part of Indian cinematic history and there’s a responsibility to make sure that goes on. 3D has become very popular. We started talking to people about it and realised it would be too expensive – around $15-$16 million. It was unaffordable.

I came back to Bombay, not knowing if we could put a project together. By chance, Ketan Mehta, the film-maker, called me, and I had hope. We had a vision that it would be something that was all around you, and captured you. This is the most extensive renovation and restoration of any film in the world. We’ve re-recorded the original six-track sound. We had to send the sound tracks to London to have them all separated. Then we had to merge the separated sound with the voice and dialogue. Every sound has been re-recorded. It’s like making a new film – we have spent as much time on this as we would have on making a new film. There’s no editing. We haven’t removed one frame from the film.

How has the court battle affected the film and its release?

How can a court battle affect a film? When you love something so much, no matter what I tell you about it, you are still going to like it.

Did the fact the person who conceived it, envisioned it and created it, was not part of the restoration process, affect it at all?

Very honestly, yes. Because it’s a family. Ramesh Sippy is my uncle, I grew up with him. It’s just that after my father passed away… everybody has been fighting… or rather people have been fighting. We’ve never initiated anything against anyone. In the matter of a court case, when you know you are right, you are right. There is no grey area.

But surely, his input would have been crucial during the restoration process?

From a practical point of view, no. From an emotional point of view, yes. We are pretty creative ourselves, and we had phenomenal teams working with us. It’s a new perspective on the sounds, the visual, but it’s the same actors, the same setting, the same music. The idea is not only to keep the classic relevant, but to take it to the next level. We have a mobile game, an app on Gabbar and we’re doing a home merchandising line. We have graphic novels releasing and a deal with the Cartoon Network to make something called “The Sholay Adventures”. It’s coming together, we’re building a whole franchise around the film. You never know, if this film is successful, you might see live action, prequels, sequels etc. You never know.

Do you think you were late in cashing in on this franchise? Couldn’t you have moved earlier?

No. I announced that I wanted to make Sholay part 2, in 1999, but at that time it wasn’t feasible. Where would I have sold a T-shirt for Sholay 15 years ago? There was no Shoppers Stop. How many people then had credit cards? Today there is retail, there is spending. Film merchandise is still not big by any stretch of imagination, but for that you have to convert people’s attitudes towards this.

Have you had to face any opposition to this restoration, besides your uncle?

Not really. We are hoping both the younger and older generations watch it, and at least twice because we have to recover our money. (laughs)

(Editing by Robert MacMillanFollow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Robert @bobbymacReports  | Disclaimer: This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)

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