'Clear your mind of "cannot"' said Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson. And that is what filmmaker Manmohan Desai did on screen repeatedly, but most notably in Amar Akbar Anthony. He got away with it to the merry tune of jingling cash registers.
In the pre-credit sequence of AAA, three brothers Amar, Akbar, Anthony, unaware of each other's identity, offer blood to their mother, simultaneously!
Two sparks of bright light emanate from Sai Baba's statue and restore the sight of a blind woman.
While all hell breaks loose in the climax Akbar plays the accordion while Amar and Anthony toss the villain to a one-storey high ledge as if he were a volleyball.
With its moments of inspired lunacy (running around giant Easter eggs and singing songs), platitudes, miracles, maudlin sentimentality provided by Ma Nirupa Roy and oversimplified secularism -- Amar Akbar Anthony is one multi-starrer spectacle that has a riotous palette.
But most of all Amar Akbar Anthony invokes a sense of infectious, let's-whoop-it-up fun that Manmohan Desai tried to recapture in all his subsequent films but succeeded only intermittently.
AAA begins with the Machiavellian moves of an underworld don Robert (Jeevan at his twangiest best), which results in his chauffeur Kishenlal (Pran)'s life steering out of control.
Kishenlal's family, comprising three sons and his tuberculosis-afflicted wife Bharati (Nirupa Roy), get estranged from each other on Independence Day. On the eve of the separation, two children are shown sitting below a Gandhi statue. You can, if you want, draw deeper inferences from these touches and the fact that the mother is called Bharati. Desai, himself, is too busy rushing through the initial formalities of establishing his characters so that he can plunge neck-deep into his entertainer.
|MKD Films||Manmohan Desai||Laxmikant-Pyarelal||
Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Parveen Babi, Shabana Azmi, Neetu Singh.
An inspector, a tailor and a priest, adopt the three children. Aside: If only adoptions were so commonplace in India, we would not have so many orphan waifs. When the kids grow into strapping youngsters, they are known as Amar (Vinod Khanna), Akbar (Rishi Kapoor) and Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan).
Amar is an upright inspector who offers refuge and his heart to a pickpocket Laxmi (Shabana Azmi). Akbar is a qawwal whose muse is a purdah-clad doctor Salma (Neetu Singh) and Anthony is a hooch-seller who would like to smooch Jenny (Parveen Babi). In one more twist in this jalebi-shaped story, we are told Jenny is Robert's daughter but had been abducted by a vengeful Kishenlal when she was still a baby.
The next few reels are taken up by racy romantic vignettes. Akbar publicly and vociferously woos Salma with a qawwalli, much to her father Taiyab Ali (Mukri)'s discomfort. Anthony serenades Jenny by emerging from an Easter egg during a party with a song on his lips and a cane on his arm. But he has to contend with her hunky bodyguard Zibesco. Amar's romance with Laxmi is restricted to silent but eloquent exchange of looks -- their staid romance is deprived of a special Anand Bakshi penned pulse-racer.
The multi-hued romances are interspersed with Amitabh's 'showcase scenes' that includes his justifiably famous drunken monologue in front of a mirror wherein a bruised and befuddled Anthony sticks Band-Aid on his reflection.
After the tomfoolery, it's time to tie up the loose ends. Amar, Akbar and Anthony, who have been regularly crossing each other's paths, finally hit upon the realisation, "Hey, you know what. We are brothers!"
At this stage, Robert reclaims Jenny and decides to get her married off to Zibesco. But Amar turns up as a one-man musical band, Akbar as a tailor who needs to alter the bride's clothes and Amitabh as the priest who will solemnise the wedding.
The brothers join voices to claim Anhonee ko honee kar de and join hands to demolish the villains.
Desai throws logic to the winds without batting an eyelid but his eye for absurd detail catches one's attention. Fluid editing by Kamlakar and Prayag Raaj's masterful blending of the three brother's individual tracks into a cohesive and combustible central plot enable Desai to tell an incredible but fast-paced story where he succeeds in sending disbelief to a state of eternal suspension.
My name is Anthony Gonsalves
|Parda hai parda||Mohammed Rafi|
|Taiyyeb Ali pyar ka dushman||Mohammed Rafi|
|Shirdi wale Sai Baba aaya hai||Mohammed Rafi|
|Hum ko tumse ho gaya hai pyar||Kishore-Mukesh-Rafi-Lata Mangeshkar|
|Anhonee ko honee kar de|| Kishore-Mahendra Kapoor-Shailendra Singh|
Rishi Kapoor gives a speshial (that's the way he pronounces the word 'special' to bring his character alive in the film) performance that spotlights his unerring comic timing.
Vinod Khanna intelligently prefers to play his role sedately; his sane, sturdy presence counterbalances Amitabh's and Rishi's over-the-top antics.
The three heroines play second fiddle to the heroes and are basically required to sing and dance. Parveen looks the most fetching of the three with a fair display of cleavage and leg. Neetu, as always, enjoys being in front of the camera and in the company of her beau Rishi Kapoor. But Shabana Azmi stands out like a sore thumb.
Ultimately, the show belongs to Amitabh Bachchan. In a tailor-made role, he has the audience in stitches. Despite his playing an implausible character, one quickly surrenders one's reservations in favour of a rollicking romp.
Amitabh (when he sees Jeevan running with a briefcase of gold biscuits): Aisa toh aadmi do hi time bhagta hai. Olympic ka race ho ya police ka case ho. (A man runs only in two situations: when he is running an Olympic race or fleeing from a police case).
*After AAA, Manmohan Desai went on to direct Amitabh in seven other films: Parvarish, Suhaag, Naseeb, Desh Premi, Coolie, Mard and Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. In fact, from AAA onwards, Desai worked exclusively with Bachchan.
*Rishi Kapoor wore a double-knit fabric trouser, a netted see-through shirt, chappals purchased from Mumbai's Linking Road and carried a paan ka dibba to get under the skin of Akbar Ilahbaadi.
*Mohammed Rafi enjoyed a career resurgence after the success of his two robust hits, Taiyyeb Ali pyar ka dushman and Parda hai parda. Rishi's enthusiastic performance to these songs enhanced their appeal tremendously.
*Amitabh's polysyllabic jabbering ('You see the coefficient of the linear is just a position by the haemoglobin of the atmospheric pressure in the country') in the midst of the 'My name is Anthony Gonsalves' song is one of the unforgettable moments of Hindi cinema.