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?
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...
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.
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!
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? :)
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