Amar Akbar Anthony
India 1977
Directed by Manmohan Desai.

The all time, immortal classic about three children separated from their family and from each other, filled with the biggest stars of the era, and topped off with a sparkling soundtrack of hummable hits. Add three hundred heaping spoonfuls of melodrama, and stir.

It all starts when Kishenlal (Pran) gets out of jail only to find his three children starving and his wife (Nirupa Roy) dying of T.B. He goes to his boss, Robert (Jeevan), the man he took the fall for years ago. Robert throws him out, laughing, but Kishlanlal manages to get away with a car full of gold. From there, everything goes spectacularly badly for Kishlanlal, though his family survives, his wife is blinded and his children separated. Akbar (Rishi Kapoor) is raised by a Muslim cleric, Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan) by a Catholic priest, and Amar (Vinod Khanna) by a member of the third great religion of India, a police inspector. (Presumably he is Hindu, though little in the story indicates it).

So the Christian grows up to sell bootleg liquor. Not sure what the implications are there, but nevermind. He's a good sort, anyway, and sells at a fair price, though he often has to fight the thugs in the neighborhood. He hasn't found the right girl, at least not until Robert's daughter Jenny (Parveen Babi) returns from overseas -- then it's love at first sight. But I mean, come on -- it's Parveen Babi. Who DOESN'T fall in love at first sight when she walks in? Akbar is a qawwali singer, in love with the daughter (Neetu Singh) of a textile company owner. He spends his time wooing her with exhuberant song. And Amar grows up to be a police inspector like his adoptive father, and busts a ring of thieves, one of whom (Shabana Azmi) he falls for himself. The girls are all talented actresses in their own rights, but are overshadowed by the heroic trio.

The brothers fight among themselves, befriend each other, and eventually learn who they are, all the while events leading to a final confrontation between their father Kishenlal and the villain Robert. There are no surprises in the structure of the plot, but the details are a delight. Lots of movies claim to have it all, I swear AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY really does. Rishi Kapoor steps into his uncle Shammi Kapoor's shoes and does the song-and-dance wooing routine, while action heroes Vinod Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan duke it out in sleeveless shirts against each other and anyone else that crosses their path. And for sheer goofiness, it is hard to beat Amitabh's show-stopper, My Name is Anthony Gonzalves, sung at an easter dance after he emerges from a giant egg in a top-hat and tails and opens his black umbrella. Amitabh actually sings the song himself, too -- no playback singer for this song.

AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY is pure entertainment, a fantasy film in which improbability piles upon impossibility, and instead of coincedence there is only fate. To expect the story to be "realistic" is to try and impose a small-minded view onto a big-hearted story. Director Manmohan Desai is the master of escapist entertainment, and AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY may be his best film. Highly recommended.

Rating: Highly Recommended (Highly Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on November 21, 2005.


Hi Peter

It is playback singer Kishore Kumar and not Amitabh singing "My name is Anthony Gonsalves"..Amitabh just gets in a few lines in between

Posted by: Srinivas at March 1, 2007 09:06 AM
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