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Kitney Aadmi They? Why it works

“Kitney aadmi they”.

Those legendary 3 words from Sholay, the blockbuster starring Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan,

Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri, Amjad Khan and others and directed by Ramesh Sippy.

Who hasn’t heard of them.

And who hasn't marvelled at the mystique and aura of these 3 words.

Here, in order of importance, are the reasons why I think this line works.

Yes, it is entirely possible that this was serendipitous, and in our own interest, we must analyse as much as possible if we have to replicate it in future.

1. Get into a scene as late as possible:

This is a classic example of the screenwriting principle of ‘getting into a scene as late as possible.”

The complete rule is ‘Get into a scene as late as possible and get out early.’ Here we are concerned with Part 1 of the rule.

Imagine how this scene would normally have been shot. That is, how generally this scene would have been approached.

There would be 2-3 shots as Kaalia and his accomplices leave Ramgarh. 2-3 shots of them entering Gabbar’s hideout, 1-2 shots of them informing Gabbar what happened at Ramgarh, and then the “Kitney aadmi they” scene would follow.

Yes, even if there are not so many intervening scenes, at the very very least, there would be 1 or 2 scenes between the Kaalia-Ramgarh scene and the Kitney aadmi they sequence..

It is possible that those scenes were shot and edited out in post-production. It is also possible that this was conceived at the script stage itself.

2. Quoting out of context:

'The essence of the photographer's art is quoting out of context'.

I had read this line in a book on Photography. It is written in one of my small diaries lying around somewhere. I forget who the author is.

What does ‘out of context’ mean in this context?

This is Gabbar’s introduction scene and what do we see.

We see his feet as he mouths those iconic lines. Totally ‘out of context’.

Imagine if the line ‘Kitney aadmi they’ had been shot on a wide shot of Gabbar Singh or even a close up of Gabbar’s face following the shot of his feet.

Would the line work? Would it work as well? I don’t think it would.

3. Gabbar's suppressed angst

After the 'Kaalia at Ramgarh' scene we expect a violent outburst from Gabbar Singh. We have no reason to believe that Gabbar's reaction can be anything but a wild, uncontrolled, abusive rage.

Instead, what we see is a calm, composed reaction, the exact opposite of what we expect. So part of the reason why this line 'Kitney aadmi' they' works is that while all we hear are these 3 harmless words, we cannot miss the suppressed volcanic anger of Gabbar Singh.

4. Abrupt change in music.

The music changes abruptly. Possibly among the most abrupt changes in music ever.

5. Asynchronous sound

This is related to Point 2 and it is also a point in its own right.

To clarify, synchronous sound is where we hear a sound and we also simultaneously see the source of the sound.

Asynchronous sound, on the other hand, is when we hear a sound and we cannot see the source of the sound.

So in this case, we hear ‘Kitney aadmi they’, and we do not see where it is coming from. Yes, we presume but it is not the same thing as seeing it on the screen.

I’d very much like to know what you think about this.


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