Hi, this is FC Flashback and we are celebrating the films of the great Manmohan Desai. If you’ve never seen a Desai film, the one to start with is Amar Akbar Anthony.
Amar Akbar Anthony is the story of three brothers who are separated in childhood and raised in different faiths – hence the names. Their father is a driver but he becomes a rich smuggler after stealing from his boss – a rich smuggler named Robert Seth. Robert Seth is an instant classic because he is played by Jeevan wearing a red waist coat and bowtie. Meanwhile their mother is a TB patient who wants to kill herself but goes blind instead when a branch randomly falls on her head. And all of this happens before the opening titles.
So here’s the key to enjoying Manmohan Desai’s cinema – don’t demand logic.
Things happen because Manji, as he was fondly called, decided they can. So in Amar Akbar Anthony, a random twin brother shows up, the three brothers simultaneously give blood to their mother, not knowing that they are brothers or that she is their mother, one brother saves the father not knowing that he is the father. And then, there is Zebisko the bodyguard who wears a poncho. Nothing makes sense, not even the songs.
Amar Akbar Anthony has a galaxy of stars, a terrific performance by Amitabh Bachchan and dialogue by Kader Khan that is still quotable. Here’s my favourite – Aisa toh aadmi life mein do heech time bhagta hai – Olympic ka race ho ya police ka case ho.
If you need your cinema to be more than just entertainment, then you can interpret Amar Akbar Anthony as a joyous celebration of a great secular India. Which is a message we need now more than ever.
Manji once said that his cinema was going to be seen not at the Cannes Film Festival but at Chinchpokli. I agree that Amar Akbar Anthony would be a tough sell at Cannes. But its reach is way beyond Chinchpokli.
Check it out. You’ll thank me later!
All this month, Film Companion will celebrate the works of Manmohan Desai. You can follow our series FC Flashback which aims to reintroduce legendary actors, filmmakers and technicians to a young audience.