Amar Akbar Anthony is a rowdy, absurd 1970s classic farce that featured some of the era's biggest stars, including Amitabh, Rishi Kapoor and beloved Shabana. Wacky hijinks, angry gangsters, half-wit thugs, a blind old woman, car chases, romance, house fires, bar fights, weddings, disguises - in true masala spirit, this energetic film has a little of everything. It's highly recommended, for those who have already developed a taste for Bollywood's unique brand of silly. Just don't expect the plot to make much sense.
The story centers around three brothers, separated as children by a wild series of accidents and misfortunes that left their mother blind (and presumed dead by their father) and their father a millionaire (and presumed dead by their mother).
In the first expression of the film's delightfully unsubtle theme of Indian syncretism and unity, the last time the boys are together they are sitting at the feet of a statue of Gandhi on August 15 - Indian Independence Day. The next expression of the theme is encapsualted in the boys' separate but shared fates.
The eldest is adopted by a Hindu police officer and grows up to be the same, a strong, stand-up guy called Amar (Vinod Khanna). The second is found at the steps of a cathedral and is raised by the priest; he grows up a raucous troublemaker with a heart of gold, Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan). The youngest is raised by a Muslim tailor, growing up to be a successful and sweet qawwal known as Akbar (Rishi Kapoor).
As the story winds toward its inevitable conclusion - the reunion of the three boys, the reversing of the partition and the creation of the ecumenical unity that, three-as-one, defeats the bad guys - each of the guys finds and falls in love with a religiously-appropriate mate. Akbar gets a spunky doctor named Salma (the adorable Neetu Singh); Anthony gets the smoldering Jenny (Parveen Babi), who turns out to be the bad guy's daughter; and Amar nets Laxmi, after saving her from an abusive brother who forced her into using her feminine charm to lure unsuspecting men so that her brother's gang could rob them. Laxmi, of course, is a very young and pouty Shabana Azmi.
One of the best features of Amar Akbar Anthony is its top-notch soundtrack, which is paired with delightful and adorable picturizations, especially Rishi Kapoor's numbers (like "Pardah hai pardah," in which he woos doctor Salma from the stage) and the wildly silly title song "Amar Akbar Anthony," in which the three brothers, finally reunited and absurdly disguised, take on the baddies. You haven't lived until you've seen Amitabh Bachchan leap out of a giant Easter egg!
Also particularly sweet is "Humko tumse," the big love song at the end of the first half in which each of the three couples pair up - one couple rides in a horse-drawn chariot on a beach; another smooches atop a little tourist railroad car and the third enjoys a scene of domestic bliss - Vinod Khanna relaxes in a hammock while Shabana does laundry!
Manmohan Desai brought a classic with this film and this will most likely be the film he is most remembered for.