Classic Indian Film 'Sholay' Gets Graphic Novel Treatment

"Sholay" film - Graphic novel
Graphic India/Sholay Media and Entertainment

Producing graphic novels from hit movie titles is an emerging trend for the Indian industry.

The 1975 epic Sholay (Burning Embers) created Indian box office history with its iconic blend of action and drama at a time when the country was mostly enamored with romantic fare. Timed with the film's recent re-release in 3D by Disney-UTV, Sholay is also reaching out to a new generation via graphic novels published by Graphic India.

Directed by Ramesh Sippy and produced by his father G P Sippy, Sholay revolved around two criminals Jai (Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (actor Dharmendra) who are hired by a former police officer (Sanjeev Kumar) to capture ruthless bandit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan). The film also starred actresses Jaya Bhaduri and Hema Malini. Borrowing heavily from Sergio Leone's westerns and mixing elements of Seven Samurai with Borsalino, Sholay was the first Indian film to feature six track stereophonic sound and released in 70mm widescreen.

PHOTOS: Bollywood 2013 in Pictures

While exact box office figures are not available, rough estimates indicate that during its initial release, Sholay grossed about $2.5 million (150 million rupees), making it an undisputed box office champion for many years. The film ran continuously for five years at a landmark Mumbai cinema, the longest ever run by any film at the time.
Converted to 3D by Mumbai-based VFX facility Maya Digital, Sholay opened on Jan. 3, with estimates indicating the film has collected just over $1 million in its opening week, which some observers think is a bit disappointing given the film's iconic status -- a 2002 British Film Institute poll placed it among the top 10 Indian films of all time. Another factor could be the ongoing dominance of what has now become India's most successful film ever, Dhoom 3, which has just crossed the $80 million mark (5 billion rupees).

Sholay is also embroiled in a copyright dispute amongst the Sippy family. Current rights are owned by Ramesh Sippy's nephew Sascha Sippy, who heads Sholay Media and Entertainment, which re-released the 3D version co-produced by Jayantilal Gada of Pen India. Ramesh Sippy was not involved in the 3D mastering. Earlier this year, a Mumbai court denied his request for a stay on the re-release until his rights to the film were restored.

PHOTOS: Indian Talent Going Global

Graphic India's Gabbar novel, which revolves around the film's iconic villain, has been released along with a motion comic series exclusively across mobile devices. Also included are a series of “Sholay Shorts,” featuring all-new, original short stories based on fan-favorite characters from the movie, created by leading artists and writers, including Saurav Mohapatra, Jeevan J. Kang, Edison George, Saumin Patel, Ashwin Pande and others.

“Gabbar Singh is without a doubt India’s most remembered cinematic character. The plans for Sholay moving forward in this space are immense,” said Sascha Sippy.

Sholay is known and beloved by potentially hundreds of millions of people across the country and remains the quintessential film to define Bollywood cinema,” added Graphic India co-founder and CEO Sharad Devarajan. “We are thrilled to be working with Sholay Media and Entertainment to take these iconic characters into exciting new stories through comics and digital shorts for the first time.”

Graphic novels based on films are a new trend that is catching on here. Veteran Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films recently launched its comics division, Yomics, and released titles based on some of its hit films, including the Dhoom franchise, last summer's hit Ek Tha Tiger and 2008 romcom Hum Tum. Graphic India is also releasing Sholay: The Graphic Novel, the official adaptation of the original film retelling the epic story.