Amar Akbar Anthony: Masala, Madness and Manmohan Desai

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As I am an avid reader and reviewer of books, I am always in hunt for good books and reading challenges, this is when I came across The Sunday Book Club’s challenge on their blog via twitter. Being my first literary challenge 2014, I excitedly showed my interest in it and got Sidharth Bhatia’s Amar Akbar Anthony: Masala, Madness and Manmohan Desai from them.

I am sure almost everyone has watched the movie Amar Akbar Anthony (A-A-A) at least once in their life. Like the movie Yaadon ki Baarat, A-A-A has a much known theme of lost and found siblings and parents. The story goes like -Pran and Nirupa Roy are parents of 3 boys, Pran gets involved in an accident and is alleged dead and Nirupa Roy ends up blind and alone selling flowers on the streets. The 3 boys are broken up from their parents and each other. Eldest (Amar) is brought up by a Hindu cop, next one (Akbar) by a Muslim tailor and last boy (Anthony) is raised by a Christian cleric. 22 years (the much-loved year gap of 70’s lost and found theme) later the boys (now grown up men) and their parents cross roads many a times and in the course of time they learn about each other.

The book does not deal with the story but with different prospects of it such as its making, plot, message, and providers. Manmohan Desai was inspired by real life news about a man who left his 3 sons in a park and committed suicide which led him make this movie as a debutant director and producer. To one side from anecdotes and quick looks from the movie, the author highlighted what made the movie very special from the other same theme movies of that era. He described Manmohan Desai as  ‘The Masala Maestro, The Maharaja of Madness’ who gave viewers mega cast, hit music, romance, comedy, tragedy, vengeance, apart from some appreciably scenes.

Sidharth Bhatia quoted a few citations from interviews story writer, cinematographer, lead actors and dialogue writer, which he pooled with his comments and insights.

The book has 5 chapters—

  • Making the Film
  • Spicing it Up: The Masala Film
  • The Manmohan Desai School of Secularism; Cosmopolitan Capers
  • The Mumbai Film
  • The Last Word in Entertainment

The best part of the book is that though author talks about film and its making, ins and outs, in-depth investigation, characterisation, and narrative, he also points out the errors in the movie such as Nirupa Roy gets hit on the head by a tree branch, turns blind, loses her sons and husband, gets hit, kidnapped and by the miracle of Shirdiwale Sai baba she gets her eyes, sons and husband back. These scenes are amusing in nature for me because such things happen only in movies, in reality it’s unattainable.

Despite not being a regular non-fiction reader, I do suggest this book as it’s a short book and can be easily read in a couple of hours. These days no one actually likes to read bulky books. This book was not a researched paper on Manmohan Desai’s cinema, but a fast, appealing, amusing work. If you have seen the movie before you will get to enjoy the book more if not grab the DVD first and then the book.

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