Hynkel, Hynkel

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“I definitely don’t have any arms under this vast shirt. You can take my word for it.” Sanjeev Kumar in SHOLAY.

Bollywood movie SHOLAY (1975), a blood-soaked revenge drama, slapstick comedy and vibrant musical, was made by G.P. Sippy and numerous family members, going by the credits. Among its many original touches (an armless man kicking hell out of the man who dis-armed him; a dance number performed amid flying clouds of paint powder) it also depends upon many shameless borrowings — mostly from Leone the heroes (Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan) hatch a scheme to get themselves arrested, then escape and split the reward money with the pal who turned them in (a paraphrase of the scam from THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY), and there’s a ruthless family massacre that owes a very great debt to the R.F.M. in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, only with added freeze-frames for emphasis. If you feel the need to be more emphatic than Leone, it’s a sure sign you’re working in Bollywood.

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But my favourite swipe was the lifting wholesale of the character of Adenoid Hynkel from Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR, transplanted to the role of governor in an Indian prison. You know that little stumble Chaplin does a couple of times to undercut Hynkel’s dignity. The comedian in SHOLAY does that in every scene. He doesn’t actually play with an inflatable globe, but they throw in a globe just to say, “We know that you know…”

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