Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bitten By...The Masala Bug??...Amar Akbar Anthony



First of all, let me apologize for abandoning the blog once again...life has been crazy hectic, but rest assured, I've been spending the time accomplishing things that are relevant to Bollyblogging, such as: 1) I attended the 2009 Boston Bollyblitz Meetup and 2) completed all of my classes in the most stressful semester I have ever experienced (so that I can get a good job to support my Bollywood DVD shopping sprees).

But make no mistake--I've still been managing to squeeze in some good ol' movie watching through it all...How else could I make it through the day to day grind without a good dose of this:



Amar Akbar Anthony marks one of my very first attempts to tread the waters of classical masala. And after my personal lackluster reactions to Deewar and Suhaag (Beloved films by many that I promise to retry before my upcoming reviews), I was beginning to think that perhaps, sadly, classical Hindi masala madness just wasn't for me...

But then I popped in Amar Akbar Anthony and--something clicked. I found AAA to be such a wondrous experience--On the one hand, it was so utterly ridiculous that I was laughing out loud. But on the other, it was so gosh darn enjoyable that I lapped it up like sugar in a bowl. And then it hit me--that's the whole point of classical masala, isn't it?

The gorgeous Neetu Singh



Similar to the other masala films I've seen, AAA begins with a poor family. Nirupa Roy plays maa, as she does so well. Pran pays the father, Kishanlal, who, upon his release from prison, comes home to find his wife ill with TB. He goes to visit his rich "friend" Robert for help, but is ridiculed and mocked instead.



A confrontation between Robert and Kishanlal ensues, resulting in Kishanlal's separation with his wife and three sons. I won't go too much into detail here, as this is the brief summary of events, but rest assured most of this is explained much as it needs to be in the film.



The three sons are then separated from each other, and found by three different outside characters. Amar is adopted by a Hindu police officer, Akbar is taken in by a Muslim tailor, and Anthony is raised by a Catholic priest(Can you guess which one will grow up to be Amitabh Bachchan?).

Of course, its Anthony (which I only happened to know from the parody segment in Gol Maal-and the readers who were kind enough to explain it to me!). This was the first (and granted, I haven't seen many) "older" Amitabh film that I really, really liked him in. He was great in Deewar, true, but had sort of an icy and conceited quality that was perhaps necessary in order to portray Vijay. Here, Anthony was funloving, goofy, and even a bit awkward(he loses two fights!). If you've ever heard the "Easter egg song" mentioned, here's the movie it came from (I've included the youtube video below). Quirky and lovable, Amitabh and Parveen make one of the cheesiest songs I've ever seen an instant favorite. Despite all of this, Big B was still smooth enough to make this one of his iconic roles (there's a great mirror scene following the egg song). Clad in an array of assorted colored pleathers and bell bottoms that looked supersoft to the touch, Anthony showed me a glimpse of what made Amitabh Bachchan so special to his fans--After all, who else could pull off all that chest hair? :P



Rishi Kapoor plays Akbar, a.k.a. King of Qawwali, and lives up to his nickname in not one, not two, but three songs(ok, only two of them are really qawwalis, but Rishi gets the most songs in the entire film mostly to himself and I'm definitely not complaining). Quite the cutie pie, Rishi lights up the screen (literally) in every song picturization he has. I've included my favorite one below, in which he romances none other than real life wife Neetu Singh (though I'm not certain on whether or not they were yet together when this film was made).



The whole thing mesmerizes me, from the song itself to Rishi's colorful attitude (and outfit), and Neetu's striking beauty alongside that red rose and black veil...

Amar is played by Vinod Khanna, and what a hottie he turned out to be! Though there were times I swore he was wearing blush...



As a police officer, Vinod has one of the more serious roles in the film, but ironically enough, during the title song he's given the most comical disguise of the three brothers.

While its obvious from the beginning that Akbar's girlfriend will be played by Neetu Singh, the other two women were welcome surprises (since I'd purposely read very little about this film before viewing it).

Anthony ends up falling for a Christian girl named Jenny, played by the lovely Parveen Babi...

Dizzy with images of Parveen Babi! A nice place for anyone to be.





Parveen's such a beauty to begin with, but she brought the same golden-hearted cheer to her role that Anthony did to his, making them a funloving addition to the already likable Neetu and Rishi coupling. And while Jenny seems rather softspoken and meek in the beginning, we get to see she's got much more of a backbone in later scenes. And, as in Deewar, poor Parveen always seems to get attacked in her own home. But look at the way she books it in a pair of high heels!



And, also, where can I find a hat like this? I used to have one similar, but can't seem to find it!



Amar's romance begins on the wrong foot with a seemingly fiesty yet misunderstood young woman named Laxmi played by none other than Shabana Azmi!



One of the only disheartening things I found in this film was the under-use of Amar and Laxmi. Much of the romantic screentime in the film was granted to Parveen and Amitabh, and while Neetu and Rishi still had their songs, Vinod and Shabana were left with little to do. After the two warm up to one another in their first segment, we see only a glimpse of their life together as Laxmi hangs Vinod's clothes to dry while he rests in a hammock.


I wanted more of these two!




Another disappointment I had with the film once again involves Amar. In the end, when the three brothers are reunited (and you know they will be, so I'm not going to post a spoiler alert), we miss out on Amar and Anthony's reunion. This would have been neat to see, especially after their fight in Anthonyville, yet its skimmed over with nary a dialouge.

Still, Amar Akbar Anthony is more than just the delightful tale of three long lost brothers. One of the best jodis in the entire film was the hilarious long term rivalry between Robert (played by Jeevan) and Kishenlal (played by Pran).



These two enemies were pure masala entertainment in each and every scene they shared, equipped with stolen boxes of gold, bullet proof vests, and midnight kidnappings!



And it wasn't just the songs in AAA that were brilliant (and they all were--my favorites were "Parda Hai Parda" and the title song); the background music was just as memorable and fun. When Anthony and Amar fight, we're treated to a flamingo-eqse tune to keep the mood upbeat. When Anthony first spots Jenny in the church, he chases her to a catchy tune that echoes the Western image of their characters.

I feel like this is one film I could sit down and watch again and again--and notice something different every time. While laugh-out-loud ridiculous at times, it was such a delight from start to finish that I'm left feeling like I need to see more of classical masala. Needless to say, this film was perfect for a group watchalong at our Boston Bollyblitz Meetup. Our playful banter made for a hilarious rewatching experience, and I think I'll always remember our comments every time I watch this. What a great film to toast new friendships!


Before "Chaiya Chaiya" there was Neetu and Rishi!





Here are some burning questions we came up with (all in jest, of course):

*What ever happened to Maa's TB? Was it magically cured or swapped for blindness?

*Did somebody actually misspell Anthony's sign and was too lazy to make a new one or was this just another glimpse of Manmohan Desai's brilliant humor?

*Did Maa actually think delivering flowers to Akbar would be a legitimate reason to stop a surgical procedure?

*How could Robert and Zebesko think that by listening to Jenny's pulse, Dr. Salma could tell she was pregnant?

*In the beginning, when little Amar buries a pistol in the dirt (to "hide it from Anthony", no less), his father seems more concerned with why he is doing so instead of why he had the gun in the first place!!

There are many, many more--and, of course, these unanswered gems are part of what make this film so great. Can you come up with any? :)

25 comments:

bollyviewer June 9, 2009 at 3:34 PM  

What a fun review of a fun movie! I am glad something in the masala genre clicked for you - for some reason I always think of films like these as exemplars of the best of Bollywood films (the serious ones are more "Hindi/Indian Cinema", to me) and am always glad to know of newer fans to the genre.

And what do you mean by, "How... by listening to Jenny's pulse, Dr. Salma could tell she was pregnant"? You mean they dont teach that in medical schools in North America? tsk tsk tsk... Even students in the lowest ranking Bollywood med schools learn to do that, and have been doing it for decades!

Nida June 9, 2009 at 7:15 PM  

Hi, Bollyviewer!
I think I've definitely crossed over to MasalaWonderland...and what a fun and wacky ride it is so far!

As for the "pregnancy test", maybe I should be studying abroad at a Bollywood Med School instead of saving my money for Japan ( I had planned to go next spring with my class). Sounds like they've got some cutting edge discoveries we in the U.S. need to jump on board and learn! Though I suppose if you can get pregnant from hypothermia, why can't you use a pulse to tell whether or not you actually are? ;)

bollyviewer June 9, 2009 at 10:12 PM  

There, you're already getting the hang of things. Before you know it, you'll be curing blindness by eye transplant from a live donor, polio by pop-psychology, and cancer by prescribing love!

Anarchivist June 10, 2009 at 5:09 AM  

Can I just say: ha ha ha!

I really think Amitabh is at his best in relaxed comic roles. Odd, considering that in real life he can seem so stiff and humorless. (Or at least his blog gives that impression).

Definitely agree about Vinod and Shabana, but I can't fault the movie for being the Rishi Show. Especially considering what a fashion improvement the sheer shirts and glittery vests are over his usual jumpsuits and Cosby sweaters. When this crazy thing has him at his best-dressed: poor guy! :)

shell June 10, 2009 at 6:45 AM  

I've decided I need to stop reading blogs. With such great reviews about such wonderful films I'll never get caught up! I've seen references to this movie quite a bit in the recent past, but now I know I need to add it to my list. I've never seen Mr. Bachchan in any early work, and this sounds like a fantastic one. I can't wait.

Nida June 10, 2009 at 8:59 AM  

Bollyviewer-Can't wait!;)

Anarchavist--I loved the extra Rishi stuff. Lol about the wardrobe!! It was really great, super colorful, as you pointed out. He added such a bright and sunny angle to the film--it just wouldn't have been the same without him! I wouldn't have cut this screen time one bit. In fact, I think it was more Amitabh and Parveen than anyone else. Well, mostly Amitabh but you get what I mean. I loved them too, but could have at least used one or two more scenes with Amar and Shabana! And wow, great point about Amitabh's offscreen persona...I don't read his blog regularly (with so many great friends like you who have their own blogs, its hard for me to find time to read the celebrity blogs, but perhaps I should start!), but I have noticed from interviews and stuff that he has this "stiff", holier-than-thou persona...Seems so serious, much like his character in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, don't you think?

Shell--No, don't stop!!:) Though I know exactly what you mean about never getting caught up. That's how I feel about my writing--I have so many movies to review, then an even bigger pile to watch, then a loong list of new movies to order....ARGHH!! But it gives me something to look forward to, and I love every minute of it! Anyways, I do think you should add this one to your list. Its such a crowd pleaser. Though I do caution that there is some elements that, like I said in the post, are downright ludicrous. But that's part of what makes it so much fun! Do start somewhere like this to get your young Amitabh-fix. I started with Yash Chopra films, and that was such a mistake.

memsaab June 10, 2009 at 9:26 AM  

You pinpointed one of my major disappointments with this (although I love it, that disappointment makes it not one of my absolutely masala faves): the lack of an Amar-Anthony reunion. All that great buildup (and Akbar's reunion with his Ma is lovely) and then ... it just fizzles.

But otherwise, a completely fun and fab film. We'll make you into a Manmohan Desai fan yet!

jocelyn June 10, 2009 at 10:07 AM  

I admit it; I've only seen bits and pieces of this. (My husband passionately detests any film made before 1985, it seems, no matter which side of the Pacific it was made on.) Okay, with your review to back it up I'll undertake a by-myself viewing!

theBollywoodFan June 10, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

Haathi Mere Saathi and Amar Akbar Anthony are the first Hindi movies I remember having seen in my life! I was at around the right age to accept this whole-heartedly as a four/five year old. :D

But a couple of decades later, I love it just as much (Parveen Babi!), and it's alongside Andaz Apna Apna as my all-time favorite pure masala film. Hands down! Glad you enjoyed it.

Nida June 10, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

Memsaab--I'll have to peruse your blog for some M. Desai recommendations! Psst--I do own MARD, but have yet to watch :) And yes, the reunion with Akbar and Maa was satisfying, as was the whole pistol-digup thing with Kishenlal and Amar, wasn't it? Though I'm still laughing at the fact that little Amar had a pistol in the first place !;)

Jocelyn--There was something so endearing in this film, madness and all. It really is now one of my faves. Let me know what you think if you ever get to trying it again!

Bollywood Fan--yes, Parveen! She's such a great beauty, and such a good sport to do masala (look at me, a couple films and I'm already talking as if I'm an expert! hee hee). And, I ordered a new copy of Andaz Apna Apna..Haye Allah! We should do a watchalong.

memsaab June 10, 2009 at 5:29 PM  

If you want to do a Mard watchalong, I'm always up for it! :)

and yes, the pistol in a small child's hand thing...but then child safety in India is not a huge blip on the radar. I think Aamir's next film should be about seatbelts and other child restraints in/on vehicles of transport :)

Nida June 10, 2009 at 6:37 PM  

Memsaab--Yes, that sounds good--I'll save MARD for that! We can set it up over email...:)

And LOL about Aamir Khan! So true...

Pankaj June 11, 2009 at 9:13 AM  

Nice one. AAA popular-i-zed a genre of movie making. One of the most successful "lost and found movies" after Aawara, Yaadon ki baarat and Waqt, I think Amar akbar anthony created hysteria when it came out. It definitely added to Big B's comic style (that was still coming on its own then), Rishi kapoor/neetu singh/mukri track is really wonderful! Vinod Khanna playing the good guy-big brother! Pran's Joota saaf karo - Chehra dikhna maangta hain was too bollywoodish :)

Nida June 11, 2009 at 2:24 PM  

Pankaj--Yes, this film was just such all around fun...the entire cast really worked, didn't it? And this is my first comical Big B role, so I can't wait to see him playing more goofy yet lovable characters! Loved the soundtrack as well, as you can tell from my youtube inclusions :)

Joss,  June 12, 2009 at 4:28 AM  

Hi to Jocelyn! - My full name is Jocelyn, and I don't come across many people of the same name anywhere. And then on a Bolly blog, it's double the co-incidence.

Nida, nice post. I left a comment here yesterday, which seems to have disappeared. I hope your exams gave you the result you were hoping for, and I hope you can enjoy the summer. You can now go back to your true vocation - bollyoscopy. No offence given, I hope.

bollywoodfoodclub June 17, 2009 at 12:01 AM  

Nida,
Great post. I loved in the beginning when the brothers (not knowing they are bhais) are giving blood and the windows behind each brother has a silhouette of a building representing their faith: church, mosque, temple. I also loved the mom going blind and not knowing she was in the car with her son. And Pran running around with the heavy suitcase of gold bars, and him having to clean the guy's shoes with whiskey... just too, too too much to like in this film to list.

All the best!
Sita-ji

Anonymous,  June 24, 2009 at 1:41 AM  

I love this film - such fun, fun, FUN! Always good for a laugh. Everyone in it is so good! and they really get stuck into the craziness of it all. I think the blood transfusion at the beginning cured Ma's TB - or didn't it? The thing to do with Desai, as you've discovered, is just to suspend reality and enjoy... glad you enjoyed this one, I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

Nida June 30, 2009 at 6:30 PM  

Joss-Hello there! None taken--"bollyoscopy" is my true passion, indeed :) Wish I could devote my entire career to it--but maybe someday...

Sitaji--Namaste Dost!:) Yes, there were tooo many goodies in this film to list them all...its like one big smorgasbord of treats, one I can keep revisiting over and over again and probably notice something new every single time...

Anonymous-_Exactly! I'm not sure, you're probably right about the TB thing. We'll never know for sure, will we? I've GOT to start watcing more Desai films...

dyana August 12, 2009 at 10:10 PM  

Hello People, I was on a holiday for a month just passing by read this interesting post its great to see that every thing here is getting more lively...thanks a lot for these keep them coming....

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Venkatesh December 21, 2009 at 9:01 PM  

I love this film is fun movie i like overall movie actor's if you want more info plz visit our website http://www.altiusdirectory.com/Entertainment/online-bollywood-awards.php

Hans Meier August 18, 2010 at 12:36 AM  

<<<*In the beginning, when little Amar buries a pistol in the dirt (to "hide it from Anthony", no less), his father seems more concerned with why he is doing so instead of why he had the gun in the first place!!
>>>
That question struck me too. Though at the end i made myself belief it was a TOY PIStol, which might likely be a popular thing with desi boys.

Otherwise, great post, and longing to read more from you.

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