There's not much left for the PPCC to say on Manmohan Desai's classic extravaganza, Amar Akbar Anthony (or, thanks to the titular song's refrain, as we keep calling it: "Amaaaaarakbaaaaarantoneeeee"). Everyone's already covered every single thing we wanted to say. Carla has already noted the sweetness of Hamko Tumse Ho Gaya, the sweetness of Rishi Kapoor, and Shabana doing laundry. Bollyweird's review has already looked at the narrative structure and the gender issues. And, of course, Philip Lutgendorf's review has basically said everything and anything that the PPCC could have possibly thought was relevant, and done it in a more informed way, too. Not only that! But everyone seems to have screencapped the same scenes, so even that we could not give you!
Well, goodness, the PPCC fretted. Maybe we shouldn't even review this movie!?
But then we thought, NO, we cannot deny our loyal readership a movie review simply because we're not the first ones to gush about it. Similarly, we've recently ordered a ton of really obscure Shashi movies (justifiably, by the looks of 'em), so we'll have ample untreaded territory to tread soon enough. Ergo, voila.
Amar Akbar Anthony is the story of three brothers, separated as children: Amar, Akbar, and Anthony. By a series of circumstances that only Manmohan Desai, in his infinite genius, could cook up, each boy has been raised by someone of a different religion. Eldest son Amar is raised by a Hindu policeman, and he becomes the usual upright, middle class maintainer of mainstream Hindu India played ironically by current BJP politician, Vinod Khanna (see Prof. Lutgendorf's review for lots more interesting stuff on the whole religious majority/minority issue). Middle son Anthony is raised by a Catholic priest, and he becomes a super-trendy (like SUPER SUPER trendy), super-rascally, Anglicized, Goanized Amitabh Bachchan. This movie is worth its price alone for Amitabh's performance. The third son, Akbar, is raised by a Muslim tailor, and he too becomes a stereotype of his religious minority: a passionate romancer Insha'Allah-ing left and right, also SUPER SUPER trendy, and a bad-ass qawwali singer, played by a (surprisingly lovable! more below) Rishi Kapoor.
The trio's parents are - of course - the inimitable, the wonderful, the perfection on celluloid PRAN (!!!), and Nirupa Roy. Did Nirupa Roy ever not play a mother? Discuss.
OMG! You make Pran suffer? You pay!!
One of our favorite moments: these two are so stylish!
The trio's religious-appropriate heroines are: plucky Neetu Singh for Akbar/Rishi (of course), gorgeous Anglicized bombshell Parveen Babi for Anthony/Amitabh (of course), and comes-already-domesticated good Indian wife Shabana Azmi for Amar/Vinod (yeah, Shabinod!). Alas, unsurprisingly, the heroines are given little to do apart from get into trouble and be rescued.
Any masala fan will know that despite the film's wildly veering path, we are sure to end up at a dennouement which involves fisticuffs, villains getting their comeuppance, and the family's reunion. So what can the PPCC say that hasn't already been said? Well, not much. But we'll try. Here goes:
1. Have you ever noticed that Rishi Kapoor's camera is really awesome?
Why, Rishi, is that a Lubitel in your hand or are you just happy to see me?
2. OMG but have you ever noticed that Rishi Kapoor is super trendy and super awesome in this?
Rishi, you are KICKIN' it.
Maybe we were wrong about Rishi. The first time we saw him (in Kabhi Kabhie), we hated him with a passion. Then we saw him in Fanaa and softened considerably, figuring it was just because he was more suited as a father figure than a romantic hero. He impressed us mightily in Duniya Meri Jeb Mein, but we still thought he looked like an idiot. But mayhap anyone would look like an idiot next to the fire of the Shash.
Ergo, what a pleasant surprise to see how fashionably awesome Rishi is in this! Apart from being an infinitely lovable, infinitely sweet bad-ass, his wardrobe also stands the test of time very well. Sure, Amitabh's kicking it in Coptic crosses and leather jackets and floppy hats, but at times he seems a little ridiculous. But Rishi! With his pencil-thin moustache and mad hair and floral-patterned see-through shirts. OMG he looks FAB! We don't mean that ironically, we mean that genuinely!
3. OMG they just mentioned the World Bank?!
Did they really mean the World Bank?! THE World Bank?! Did the movie just suddenly acquire an incredibly contextual, realist detail?!
4. Hey, so Vinod is super-fit.
Vinod challenges Amitabh.
Amitabh agrees to the challenge.
Check out his bod. Yeah.
And we love that he kicks ass. Sure, it's also because he's the eldest son and ergo it is proper that he kick even lambu Amitabh's ass, but, actually, we've never seen Vinod lose in a fight. Consider: he is introduced to us as a fighting man whose brawny skills impress Amitabh in Muqaddar ka Sikandar; even Shashi cannot sway Vinod from his path in Chor Sipahee when Shashi smashes a chair on Vinod's head - to no effect!
6. Consider Hamko Tumse Ho Gaya, our favorite song, as an exploration of typical romantic ideals.
In this song, the three brothers have fallen in love with their respective heroines. Though they all say basically the same thing, the brother's language reflects their upbringing: Christian Anthony using English phrases (including our favorite: "God promise, main saach bola huun!"), Hindu Amar using Sanscritized-sounding Hindi and swearing by Ram, and Muslim Akbar favoring Urdu words and a cool qawwali beat.
But apart from the narrative structure, each brother represents a stereotypical "love" ideal appropriate to their status in the family. Older brother Amar's ideal is domestic bliss; he reads a book in the hammock, she takes the laundry in. Middle brother Anthony gets the highly cliché romantic love: horse-drawn carriage, sunset, beach. And meanwhile, baby brother Akbar gets a muppety, raucous, joyous puppy-love ideal: cavorting with Neetu atop a moving train.
Whatever your preference, you are satisfied! The PPCC personally prefers Shabinod's set-up, because you can have fun cavorting atop trains with anyone, but domestic bliss comes only with real, honest-to-God love. Remember, our favorite scene in Swayamvar was when Shashi and Moushimi enter domestic nirvana. Sigh! And indeed, we are not ashamed to admit that we got a bit verklempt during the final bits of Hamko Tujhse.
That's all we got. We hope we've illuminated yet another little corner of this fab movie. And we highly, highly recommend that you just watch it for yourself.