This blockbuster – AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY was released on 27th May 1977. By then the stars of this movie were well known and stars in their own rights but one among them was more than the proverbial first amongst the equal.
He was none other than Amitabh Bachchan, who had by then attained stardom and though this movie was a multi-starrer, it firmly entrenched him as the new superstar his ‘angry young man’ image was already accepted but with this movie he added one more facet to his acting skills i.e. comedy. Till that time most movies had a full time comedian in the form of Mehmood, Jagdeep or someone to provide comic relief but this movie changed all that with the hero also donning the role of comedian.
His contemporary and also in race for superstardom, Vinod Khanna was also in this movie, but this movie took Big B (as Amithabh is fondly called) leagues ahead. 1977-78 was one of the most productive period of his career a purple patch where he gave hit after hit may it be Don, Trishul, Kasme Vaade, Khoon Pasina etc. This movie was produced and directed by Manmohan Desai it was an out and out a Manmohan Desai brand masala movie with the oft used lost and found formula. This movie promoted national integration and religious pluralism.
The story of AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY goes like this – driver Kishanlal (Pran-effective) takes blame of his smuggler boss Robert (Jeevan-menacing) on himself and goes to prison leaving behind his wife and three sons who are subjected to abject poverty in his absence as the boss goes back on his words and does not take care of Kishanlal’s family as promised. After coming out of prison he goes to Robert for help but is humiliated and is ordered to be killed, but Kishanlal escapes with a car full of gold and reaches home to take his family away. He finds that his wife had gone off leaving a suicide note as she is suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) – which was supposedly a life threatening disease in those times..
As Robert’s henchmen are still after him he takes his sons with him and leaves them under Gandhi’s statue in the park to take them later, but as fate would have it all three go their separate ways and are adopted by three different people of three different religion, the eldest Amar (Vinod Khanna) is adopted by a Hindu policeman, the middle one Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan) is adopted by a Christian priest and so named, the youngest then named Akbar (Rishi Kapoor) is adopted by a Muslim tailor. In the meantime Kishanlal’s car crashes and he is presumed dead and his wife Bharti (Nirupa Roy- the misery prone mother).
Years pass by and all the three are strapping adults Amar Khanna a police inspector, Anthony Gonsalves a licensed Liquor dealer and Akbar Illahbadi a tailor and qawwali singer. All three have their respective Love interests Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi) for Amar, Jennie (Parveen Babi) for Anthony and Dr. Salma (Neetu Singh) for Akbar. There is a long interlude where Anthony helps Akbar with his love and convinces her father Tayyabali to give his blessings. In the meantime Kishanlal has become a don in his own right. He teaches Robert a lesson and takes Robert’s daughter Jennie from him and raises her as his own niece and sent her to London. Robert has to suffer the same ignominy at Kishanlal’s hands and also pines for his daughter whom he has not seen since. After many twists and turns the Heroes and their whole family ends up in the villain’s den in the end and all meet up including the mother who has by now miraculously got her eyesight back and the father.
This was a movie which promoted hope as India had just coming out of a tough period of emergency and a new people’s government was at the center, thus the final message of the movie was all’s well that will end well. As the expectations of the people were high and they expected unexpected things to happen which was also the underlying theme as mentioned in the title song ‘Anhoni ko honi karde’ which literally means making the impossible –possible.
Some of the scenes in the movie were iconic comedy scenes specially the one where Anthony after being beat up by Amar is berating and sympathizing with himself in front of the mirror and is trying to apply band aid on his fore head and ends up putting it on his image in the mirror. Then when Amar asks him about Robert he starts talking about Andy Roberts the cricketer.
The fun song in AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY – ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves’ where Anthony falls for Jennie, these are all unforgettable, and were discussed in schools and colleges amongst youngsters thus endearing the characters of this movie. This was also the time around which Shirdi ke Sai Baba a hit film was also released, so we also had a very popular song based on the saint in this movie another masala ingredient. Though the movie should have been named Amar Anthony Akbar as per the hierarchy but it now seems that the name suited the movie as it was. The movie received many awards at the 25th Filmfare Awards including best film, best actor-Amitabh and best Director.
AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY had a very flimsy story and not much scope but it was an out an out entertainer and that is what the audience was thirsting for and Desai had put his hand on the pulse of the young movie going audience.
– EDITOR’S PICKS – Retro Gems revisited by PAWAN GUPTA