Sunday 11 May 2008

Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)


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!

5. PRAN!!!


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.


Memsaab said...

Although I too love this movie, I must admit that I was a little let down by the ending. It just wasn't...dramatic enough. In fact, I have this problem with almost all of Manmohan Desai's films: they start off with such a bang, with complicated exciting events one after the other and the momentum keeps going until about 45 minutes before the end and

Beth Loves Bollywood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I was too distracted by Vinod to remember much of this movie at all. How embarrassing. But my review indicates that I too was fascinated by what the religions represent and that I too felt Philip's Fil-ums said it best. (Some day I really must hop in the car and drive over to Iowa City to pay my respects.)

Filmi Girl said...

I love this movie! I, too, was quite taken with Rishi's awesome style. Of the three appropriately religioned heroines, I felt that Neetu's doctor character was the big stand out. I think she was also the only one of the three with a job.

You might also enjoy "Bobby" and "Karz" for some killer Rishi style.

(Also, re: Pran, is he ever not awesome? )

Bollyviewer said...

Am I the only one who found a burkha-wearing doctor (Neetu Singh) seriously off-putting? I watched part of it on TV (years ago) but never saw the whole movie. Sounds like it may be worth a second try inspite of Rishi's moustache and Big B's weird fashions!

a ppcc representative said...

Memsaab - I COMPLETELY agree re: AAA. The first half was magically masala, and after gushing about how amaaazing this movie would be, I was a bit disappointed by the second half.

Have you seen Naseeb? That's the next Manmohan on my list.

Beth - Vinod is a STUD in this, isn't he? And if you're going to Iowa City, can I get a ride? I'll bring the coconut and other offerings.

Filmi Girl - Welcome! I think you're right - Neetu's also the only damsel who doesn't get in distress for the final fight, and she helps save the other two bimbos. Go, Neetu! Karz is my next Rishi movie, if only for Om Shanti Om.

And I'm thinking... I'm thinking... Pran fan club. Right here. We can call it the Pranclub.

Bollyviewer - This one's definitely worth a full watch! As I recall, Neetu's only in full on burkha for the qawwali. And for some reason I found Rishi's pencil-thin moustache seriously appealing!

Long Haired Spider said...

I love Rishi in this--especially in Parveen's dress-fitting scene :)

Filmi Geek said...

Vah vah! Your deconstruction of the sublime "Humko tumse ho gaya hai" is a thing of beauty.

a ppcc representative said...

LHS - And he's awfully cute in his disguise as well! But honestly, Rishi can do no wrong in this film.

Filmi Geek - Bahut shukriya!

Anonymous said...

I like Naseeb, just watched it again recently. Also recently watched Namak Halaal too. I'm having myself a little Manmohan Desai festival!

But he does go off the rails at the end almost every time. A scriptwriting friend of mine told me once that the end is the most difficult thing to get right. He said it's stopped many a good film from being great. But MD has enough "magical masala" ingredients to keep me coming back for more! :-)

Anonymous said...

Also forgot to say: this was the first film where I suddenly understood Rishi's appeal. The bell finally rang! :-) It was the qawwali that did it.

a ppcc representative said...

Memsaab - We must share a brain, I too was watching Namak Halaal just last night. I meant only to screencap Ram P. Sethi for a project post on underappreciated actors, and I ended up getting sucked in!

A good Manmohan Desai ending: Aa Gale Lag Jaa? I think that's the only film I've seen of his so far that starts slow and builds up momentum as it goes. But the end, when Sharmila slaps Shatrughan, and Shatrughan says, "In the past, I've been given flowers for successful operations. Not slaps." And Shashi rolls out and Shatrughan, like a good third wheel, rolls away - GUH! I am always SO HAPPY.

And the end of Suhaag? With Shashi and Amitabh hanging off Amjad Khan's helicopter and that wonderfully epic, momentous choral music?! Love that one too.

Agreed re: Rishi, 100%. I think I started loving him when he showed up on Amitabh's side of town wearing a sarong and invited him to the qawwali.

Indy said...

Watch Amar Akbar Anthony at - Watch Thousands of Bollywood movies online free

Anonymous said...

I am proud to share a brain with p-pcc :-)

I need to watch Aa Gale Lag Ja and Suhaag both again. It's been a long time since I saw them...can't wait for your review on Karz. It's a masala disco treat!

Anonymous said...

Karz is amazingly good and it also features Pran in a chinbeard, if I'm not mistaken.

Simi Garewal is wonderful and Aruna Irani has a fun item number.

This is one of those films that I wish I could have seen on the big screen, though, as it features some really lovely big scenery scapes.

Indy said...


You can watch Aa gale lag ja and all your other favorites at

Search by movie name, actor, actress or year, and enjoy all your favorite Bollywood movies online free.

a ppcc representative said...

Memsaab - Definitely moving Karz up on the list! Masala disco!?

Filmi Girl - Pran in a chinbeard?! HOT. OK, might get it today.

Indy - OK, OK, thanks for the link, but we think 6 times is turning into ad-spam. Don't make us use the trashcan!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I love love love this movie! But you may consider seeing "Pyar Mein Twist" (2005) - its a romance w/ Dimple, and they are both adorable.

I find Pravin Babi v v pretty in this one; Jeevan and Nasir Hussain are super fab, as is Pran.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Oh also- adding u to my blogroll. now.

Sanket Vyas said...

This movie occupies a very special place in my heart ~ it is the 1st Indian movie I saw on the big screen in India in 1977 at age nine. I was born there but we moved to the US when I was two & this movie was my first Bollywood movie ever at the brand spanking new Relief Theater in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

I honestly cannot give an objective review to this as it is so interwoven with memories of that magical summer when I (re)discovered India & was (re)united with family that I had never met before. This probably explains my fanboy worship of Amitabh & Kishore Kumar that lingers to this day.

Probably will write this up one day as well but agree with everything you said and more. Love love love every moment in this Manmohan Desai classic and the comedic scene after Amitabh gets his arse handed to him by 'Zebesto' as well as the dramatic scene in which he talks to God after his beloved father is killed are particularly memorable.

P.S. Caught 'Do Bigha Zamin' on TCM a few years back during their Tribute To Bollywood week. Imagine my surprise to seeing Nirupa Roy in a starring role - that actress has definitely put in her dues!

Anonymous said...

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Avijit said...

Namakhalaal was directed by prakash mehra. Just sayin. Rest all I agree.