‘The Sholay Girl’ Review: The inspiring story of Hindi cinema’s original stuntwoman Reshma Pathan

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Bidita Bag with Reshma Khan, Premiere, The Orginal Sholay Girl
Bidita Bag with Reshma Khan
Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay is quite easily one of the biggest films ever to have come out of Hindi cinema—often popularly referred to as Bollywood. As a matter of fact, Sholay is often described as the quintessential Bollywood film. Sholay, which is primarily an action film, not only set the tone of the 1970s Bollywood but also the decades that followed. The best way to describe Sholay is as a Curry Western—a rather unconventional blend of the elements of Indian dacoit films, Italo-American spaghetti westerns and the Japanese samurai cinema. Whenever one talks of Sholay one is automatically reminded of its larger-than-life characters: the ferocious bandit Gabbar Singh, the brave anti-heroes Jai and Veeru, the dutiful and resolute Thakur, and, of course, the feisty and talkative Basanti, among others. During a famous scene in Sholay, Basanti (essayed by Hema Malini) tries to escape Gabbar’s men while riding her horse-cart. The very scene serves as the opening scene for ZEE5’s The Sholay Girl—a biographical film based on the life and struggle of Reshma Pathan who is said to be India’s first stuntwoman. Body-doubling for Hema Malini in Sholay, Reshma suffered a leg injury while shooting the aforementioned scene but it didn’t stop her from finishing the scene only a few days later.

Pathan started her career as a stuntwoman at a young age of 14 in the year 1968 and went on to body double for the biggest names in the industry such as Hema Malini, Sridevi, Dimple Kapadia and Meenakshi Seshadri. In those days the Movie Stunt Artists Association didn’t accept women members and so for a long time she had to work on a junior artist’s pay which was hardly just, especially given how she was putting her body at risk day in and day out. But the association finally relented as Pathan was officially inducted as a stuntwoman. Sholay proved to be her big break as it gave her the opportunity to impress the industry giants with her courage and daredevilry. At a time when male stunt artists were employed as body doubles for both male and female actors, Pathan’s entry into the industry was nothing short of a revelation. Earlier whenever a male stunt artist used to body double for a female actor he had to dress up as a female while also trying his best to act as one. Of course, it had many limitations which greatly reduced the shooting possibilities but with Reshma in the mix the filmmakers and cinematographers had a lot more to play with. By putting her life at risk Reshma allowed filmmakers to go the extra mile.

A Still from The Sholay Girl, Chariot Scene, Sholay
A Still from The Sholay Girl
Directed by Aditya Sarpotdar, The Sholay Girl is based on a screenplay by Faizal Akhtar and Shrabani Deodhar. Bidita Bag, who previously starred opposite Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, essays the eponymous role in the film.  The film seems to ooze with the delectable melodrama of the ‘70s most evidentially seen in the films of Manmohan Desai. But the film’s retro look and feel appears to be a bit forced at some places, apparently owing to some budgetary constraints. The overall period detailing however looks just fine. Remember, the film is never meant for a theatrical screening. It’s strictly made for an OTT platform and the small screen has its own pros and cons. So naturally the writing is the strongest part of The Sholay Girl. Undoubtedly, the film does a brilliant job of capturing Reshma Pathan’s incredible journey as Hindi cinema’s original stuntwoman.

Bidita Bag with her stunt double
Bidita Bag with her stunt double
Coming from a conservative Muslim family it wasn’t easy for Reshma to work in the film industry. But abject poverty forced her to take the plunge despite her father’s strong opposition. The Sholay Girl takes us to the early 1960s wherein a young Reshma courageously confronts a police officer who is seen arresting her mother for illegally selling rice. Next she chases the police jeep all the way to the station and stoically sits there for the next two days, refusing to leave without her mother. Impressed by the young girl’s resolve, the police officer finally shows mercy and releases her mother. It is the same resolve that Reshma would show while confronting all those who look down upon women. Later on in the film, a fully grown up Reshma gets accosted by a bunch of thugs while returning from an exhausting shoot. When they refuse to back down despite her repeated warnings she single-handedly beats them to a pulp. While the scene may look a bit exaggerated, Reshma was actually strong enough to take down men twice her size as confirmed by Bidita, who spent a lot of time with Reshma while preparing for the part. Even today Reshma is quite active and can be seen playing minor parts in films of Rohit Shetty.

Bidita Bag with Reshma Khan
Bidita Bag with Reshma Khan
The Sholay Girl is a great reminder of how Reshma dealt with the powerful men in the film industry who stepped out of line. Today, the #MeToo movement has empowered the women the world over but at a time when the working women were most vulnerable, Reshma not only brought dignity to her profession but also gave other women the courage to stand for what is right. No wonder The Sholay Girl was released on the ZEE5 platform on the occasion of International Women's Day.

Rating: 7.5/10

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!

People who liked this also liked...
Share on Google Plus


Post a Comment

Thanks for sharing for valuable opinion. We would be delighted to have you back.