“Thakur," my colleague called out from across the cubicle. “Can you please send me the weekly report?" The thick shawl wrapped around my shoulders as protection from the air-conditioner’s draught perhaps made the nickname inevitable.

I had to explain the Sholay analogy to some of the non-filmy team members in Bengaluru: Sanjeev Kumar aka Thakur sported a thick shawl on his shoulders in the iconic film, much as I did in office. When I casually remarked that Ramanagara, about 50km south-west of the city, was the backdrop for the film’s dacoit scenes, we suddenly had a weekend plan.

Sholay completes its 40th year on 15 August, so a visit to Ramanagara would be timely.

We too started early on Saturday to beat the traffic, keeping in mind the fact that there were plenty of short detours we could take: Channapatna and Kokkare Bellur were on our list. Ramanagara would be our last stop.

We headed first to Channapatna, 10km ahead of Ramanagara, where the Kadambam Iyengar Restaurant’s thatte idli finishes swiftly on holidays. The highway pit stop’s popularity was evident from the parking lot itself—it was nearly full at 7.30am. Puliyogare (tamarind rice), thatte idli (a large, flat pancake like idli) and a cup of filter coffee are the favourites here.

After the meal, we headed to a small toymaking factory nearby. The artisans in Channapatna have kept alive the Persian art form of wooden toys and lacquerware, introduced by 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan. The toys are made from the softwood of a local tree, aale mara, which cannot be used for furniture.

Inside the factory, six machines were whirring as the toymakers carefully chiselled dolls, bangles and animal-shaped curios. In the courtyard, a few of them slathered colour on to the pale brown pieces.

Flocks of painted storks and spot-billed pelicans have made Kokkare Bellur their home. Visitors meander down the scenic village road to see this spectacle.

Hundreds of these birds sit atop trees and rooftops, staying within village limits through the year. The villagers, used to the cacophony, consider themselves blessed, for they believe the birds protect them from harm.

Finally, we were ready to head back to Ramanagara, 30km away from Kokkare Bellur.

The bouldery outcrop transported us to Sholay and the lair of Gabbar, the villain. The craggy rocks looked familiar. But this is about all you can remember Sholay by here. Today, Ramanagara is popular with birdwatchers and nature lovers. For the endangered yellow-throated bulbul and long-billed vulture can be spotted here.

To take in the sprawling stretch, you must climb the Ramadevara Betta, a Hindu shrine at a height of 3,000ft. If you are coming from Channapatna, turn left at the Ghousia College of Engineering and drive for a few kilometres to reach the base of the temple hillock. A long flight of steps is flanked by natural pools in the rocky crevices, and a Hanuman temple that ends in a steep ascent to a Ram shrine. We huffed our way to the top, but the view from there was worth it.

The panorama of golden brown broken by patches of green had a slight ominous, “end of the world" feel, but it was striking nevertheless. It was clear why Ramanagara fit the bill for Sholay’s theme of bandits versus heroes on horseback.

Ramanagara is also a rock-climbing destination, with rock faces like Kapotagiri, Kaakasura Betta and Rama Siddeshwara Betta. Rock-climbing outfits even organize day trips for beginners.

We were ready to head back. The day had brought varied experiences: from Kannadiga cuisine to raucous birds, age-old craft, the stunning landscape of Ramanagara—and memories of Sholay’s “Westernesque" entertainment.

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