Manmohan Desai’s ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ is one of the very few films in the history of Bollywood that not only had a good storyline but also depicted the religious diversity of our nation, and the family values that exists. The current crop of films is a far cry from it.
Most veteran actors & filmmakers in Bollywood rue the fact that more and more Bollywood films are getting influenced by the West. Om puri, who has acted in several foreign films, had said that for foreign filmmakers, making a film is a social responsibility whereas for Bollywood filmmakers, its only about making money.
And that is why you would see most Bollywood movies nowadays that would be heavily inspired by western films. Even the attire, makeup and the look of the movie is such that you get a sense that the filmmaker is trying to ape some Hollywood film.
But then Bollywood films across the world, and even in India, were liked because it portrayed the cultural values and ethnic diversity of India.
Landmark movie depicting religious tolerance
Manmohan Desai’s ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (1970) is one such example. Although its a typical Manmohan Desai masala film, where members of the family are lost and found in the end, the movie had a strong storyline but more importantly, it clearly depicted the religious diversity of our nation.
The film about religious tolerance can be considered to be a landmark in the history of Bollywood masala films.
Whats the story of the movie?
For those who have not seen the movie (particularly the younger lot), here’s the storyline in short. “Three children are separated from their father on the Independence Day (15 August) who leaves them in a park under a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. These kids are subsequently found and raised by different parents (of different religions).
One grows up to become Anthony Gonsalves (Amitabh Bachchan), who is shown as a Goan Christian. Another becomes Amar Khanna (played by Vinod Khanna), who plays the role of a Hindu police officer. The third and youngest child is raised by Muslim parents, and is named Akbar Allahabadi (played by Rishi Kapoor), who is shown as a Qawwali-singer.
Their reunion in the end, completes the vision of a united India.
The famous drunken scene by Amitabh Bachchan in the movie. Could anybody have done it better?
Crucial scenes that depict tie to the country
Youngsters (from all over the world), who are Bollywood fans, may have heard of ‘Yash Chopra’ but Manmohan Desai was also one of the more influential filmmakers in India cinema. Though there are many, who probably laugh at his ‘lost & found’ formula used in most of his films, you can clearly see how smartly he has tied up the pieces in the movie to his overall nationalistic idea of the film.
The scene where Vinod Khanna bashes up Amitabh Bachchan. Die-hard fans of Bachchan however hated this scene where he gets bashed up, but then the movie was about good triumphing the bad, and here Vinod Khanna plays a cop.
There are few more examples that will convince you about his brilliance, which was clearly demonstrated in this film.
In the beginning of the movie, there’s a crucial scene where the three brothers of different religions, unknowingly donate blood to a blind woman (who eventually turns out to be their mother) and are all united in the end. Can you see the connection? Different religions serving their country? The scene suggested that what was lost during independence (secularism) can be gained.
In the climax, the entire family is shown at the villain’s den. The scene highlighted that the three religions are “pillars of the nation” and when they work together, they can beat any evil and overcome any challenge.
In the seventies, Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna literally ruled Bollywood. Vinod Khanna was extremely popular because of his dashing looks and macho image. No doubt Big B is a legend today, but industry insiders say that Vinod was the only actor who came close to threatening Amitabh’s position and could have outrun him had he not left the industry.
Current Bollywood films happy to make ‘Money’
Movies like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ make the audience realize that the various religious groups that exist in India, such as Hindus, Muslims and Christians do manage to live side-by-side happily. Sadly, such movies are hardly seen nowadays, though most of them do manage to garner a few hundred crores of rupees at the box-office.
Watch the movie ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ here. The mother is played by Nirupa Roy and Pran played the role of their father. Shabana Azmi, Neetu Singh and Parveen Babi played the female leads. Jeevan and Ranjeet are the villains. This Manmohan Desai classic is actually a comedy/action/drama film.