Sholay Redux 07 – M S Shinde aka Master Editor
Sholay was nominated for nine Filmfare Awards and ended with just a single win. Do remember that Deewar was also released the same year. The trophy which saved the blushes for Sholay was for Best Editing picked up by Madhav Rao Shinde. Little could Shinde foretell that a man at the top of his profession in Hindi film industry could die an agonizing, impoverished death. The dictum ‘out of sight, out of mind’ could have been coined for Shinde.
Sholay’s on location cameras rolling in Ramanagram, Bangalore spewed out exposed footage like the daily print run of a newspaper. Ramesh Sippy needed every shot to be perfect. The action scenes, choreographed by the team of Jim and Gerry from London were the toughest; the train sequence, Gabbar’s Holi attack on Ramgarh and the impeccable climax.
300,000 feet or 92 kilometers of raw stock was exposed by cinematographer Dwarka Divecha, concluding his work. This mountainous pile of footage needed to be sorted, each frame studied, spliced and joined into a fluid, lucid continuous action, true to the spirit of Salim-Javed’s screenplay. And Shinde, working for the Sippy unit, did it all at a salary of two thousand rupees per month. Very little of his contribution is ever acknowledged in the making of Sholay.
Born in 1929, Shinde apprenticed for a while before making his solo editing debut with Bewaqoof (’60). Shinde worked on over 100 films including Raaz, Mere Sanam, Brahamchari, Shaan, Shakti, Razia Sultan, Sohni Mahiwal, Saagar and Chamatkaar.
The rolls exposed by Sippy on the set were sent to Shinde, a thousand kilometers away who was simultaneously editing the film in Bombay’s Film Centre. Affectionately called Dada, Shinde stood out in a crowd with his thick curly white hair and pan stained mouth. The rushes were then transported back to Bangalore but every day after the shoot, Sippy was too exhausted to look at them. So essentially much of what Shinde’s gifted film sense conjured was accepted.
The completed first cut was 21,000 feet, close to four hours of screen time and the violence was pronounced, not nuanced. It was, after all, a curry western. The censors were incensed. Considered too gory, it was further reduced to 18,000 feet of release print. And this is where Shinde’s endorsement in history of Indian film editing becomes imperative.
With the censor’s distaste for violence, Shinde excised a number of brutal lines of dialogue and blood soaked action. To Shinde, much of the violent imagery had to find a way to originate in the so called ‘mind’s eye’ of the audience and stay there after the end. Each viewer could then narrate his version, which though off-screen, would become a part of their personal folklore in years to come.
Some of his cuts are now textbook examples of art of editing combining sound, symbolism and imagination. Here are just two examples to illustrate pointing to his greatness. Words do no justice to the scene, which have to be viewed:
1) Slaying of Ahmed (Sachin): On his way to Jabalpur, Imam Sahab’s only son Ahmed runs into the bandits.
Detained, he is brought to the chief Gabbar, who is sprawled in front of a meat roasting fire, still infuriated at his recent trouncing.
When Sambha informs him about the capture, Gabbar in idling mode is observing this little ant roaming free spirited on his hand.
The symbolic squashing of the ant is cut to Ahmed’s corpse on his horse entering the village, horrifying them.
The intervening, implicit torture very briefly visible in a long shot of Ahmed’s burnt face stays in the mind.
2) An ensnared Thakur, in Gabbar’s den, is strung to pillars at an arm’s length. When Gabbar says, “Khul gaya phanda”, it is a supreme reversal from Thakur’s previous chokehold dialogue “Yeh haath naahi, phansi ka phanda hai”. No one has ever reached Gabbar’s throat before and he wants the instruments responsible for it to be excised.
Just the downward movement of the swords is enough to convey the carnage.
The shot of this movement (in flashback) is juxtapositioned with Thakur’s robe being knocked off his shoulders when we see him amputated, in the present.
Shinde became the toast of the town after his Filmfare award for Sholay. More than that, it was his tireless work ethic which endeared him to his fraternity. Ramesh Sippy’s last film as director Zamaana Deewana was also Shinde’s last as editor. Other than being a permanent in the Sippy camp, this veteran also worked with producers I S Johar, Sanjay Khan and F C Mehra. India’s first 35 mm TV serial Buniyaad was also edited by Shinde in 1986.
After his retirement he lived in Parel, Central Mumbai till 2010. Then in a mishap, their building collapsed and the owner refused any repair. For lack of aid, he had to move to the slums of PMGP Colony. He lived with his youngest daughter Achala in a tiny 160 square feet room tenement who said on his death, “It is sad that my father put in so much to the industry but no one came forward to help us”.
Like A K Hangal’s plight, Shinde too was keeping unwell for some time and was unable to pay his medical bills. Despite having worked in so many films with established filmmakers and stars, no one from the industry helped Shinde during his last days.
He was 83 when he died on 28 September 2012.