Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation


A Bollywood blockbuster when it was released in 1977, Amar Akbar Anthony has become a classic of Hindi cinema and a touchstone of Indian popular culture. Delighting audiences with its songs and madcap adventures, the film follows the heroics of three Bombay brothers separated in childhood from their parents and one another. Beyond the freewheeling comedy and camp, however, is a potent vision of social harmony, as the three protagonists, each raised in a different religion, discover they are true brothers in the end. William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman offer a sympathetic and layered interpretation of the film’s deeper symbolism, seeing it as a lens for understanding modern India’s experience with secular democracy.

Amar Akbar Anthony’s celebration of an India built on pluralism and religious tolerance continues to resonate with audiences today. But it also invites a critique of modernity’s mixed blessings. As the authors show, the film’s sunny exterior only partially conceals darker elements: the shadow of Partition, the crisis of Emergency Rule, and the vexed implications of the metaphor of the family for the nation. The lessons viewers draw from the film depend largely on which brother they recognize as its hero. Is it Amar, the straight-edge Hindu policeman? Is it Akbar, the romantic Muslim singer? Or is it Anthony, the Christian outlaw with a heart of gold? In this book’s innovative and multi-perspectival approach, each brother makes his case for himself (although the last word belongs to their mother).

for table of contents and blurbs follow the Harvard link..


54 Responses to “Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation”

  1. omrocky786 Says:

    Thanks for the link…should be an interesting read, although $45 is way too high Price tag IMO.


    • you may want to check your local library….if they offer something called inter library loans, there are a few in the US that carry copies and you could ask for it. I have done this successfully for many books that wasnt available locally but I wanted to check out before purchasing myself. Including an unavailable copy of POLYESTER PRINCE(loosely based on which Mani Rathnam’s GURU was scripted from).


  2. charan raj Says:

    This was really a nice movie, a typical Manmohan Desai masala brand of 70’s. But, terming it as an all time classic is a bit hard to digest for normal souls. There were many technical flaws in the film which are okay with a commercial film but once the word “classic”comes to surface then cinematic liberties shouldn’t exist.
    The main three leads had acted nicely but there was a unsolved mystery which still exists and that’s, why Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor had moustaches? Since both were better looking guys of that era and without moustaches would have added more charm to the film.


  3. Charan you make a lot of sense on the ‘moustaches’ angle and your deep observation / awareness of Bollywood communique is commendable. A lot of egos were pampered those days and this makes all the more sense after Bihari Babu’s revelation on Bachchan in the biography ‘Anything But Khamosh’ . There are chapters dedicated to this stuff esp during Kala Pathar time.


    • charan raj Says:

      Thanks MsDhoni for compliments. Had Bachchan not been there as third lead actor, you would have seen lot of essays here on the subject matter.


      • India is one of those societies (not that it’s the only one but it’s one that I know a bit more than most others!) where an educated class (and I stress the word ‘educated’ here though I should perhaps only use the word ‘literate’.. since functional literacy is a different thing from education!) wallows in its ignorance to an extraordinary degree. People simply don’t know what they’re talking about and say ridiculous things. They look utterly foolish but without the benefit of greater education they don’t realize exactly how much. This is not even about questions of taste or about partisanship. It is about simply saying stuff that reveals one as totally, utterly, incredibly and irretrievably ignorant. When one points out the obvious one can seem condescending but things have to be called by their proper names. This isn’t about one specific example or the other. It’s about a larger attitude in these matters. This has always seemed to me far more dismaying than particular preferences or whatever. It’s not just on blogs, this attitude is reflected everywhere in the culture. Of course every society has Philistines and utterly ignorant people who wallow in this to the same degree but not every society empowers these attitudes in the same way. And that’s a very big difference. The almost total absence of a genuine critical culture in India in these matters (restricting myself to cinema for the moment), the degree to which hacks call the shots one way or the other, all of this once again fosters the same ignorance and viewers then take their cues from the same. Frogs in ponds often have more awareness of the world outside than do evidently many who put up comments here!

        Liked by 4 people

        • Great response to those atrocious posts. Poor Indian skipper- absolute morons using his name as a handle!


          • omrocky786 Says:

            Rajen, I think MS Dhoni is a very sensible and balanced member, do not confuse him with SRKCharan..


          • Thanks omrocky786 for the kind words and your support ‘again’. Much, much appreciated and truly humbled !

            As for the rest, I am bit taken aback by the stinging response to my fairly innocuous comment. I can’t pinpoint the reason for these unsavory remarks except for the fact that it may be accumulated frustrations of the past bloviation / spinning which has not led to any change to ground realities. All I can say in my defense, it is totally misdirected and these lighthearted postings, blogs, twitter, social media do not define us and our personalities… and I think I speak for everyone here when I say most are matured enough to differentiate between the ‘virtual’ and the ‘real’ world.

            And Satyam it is commendable that once again you have allowed this old fart to get personal and indulge in name calling. I will plead you though to give others the same leniency if [edited] get personal again. I have tremendous respect for your blog and hold your ‘virtual world’ personality even in higher esteem. I do hold back otherwise my vocabulary for choice words belongs to KRK beti….d school of thoughts !

            Good Luck.


          • “and I think I speak for everyone here when I say most are matured enough to differentiate between the ‘virtual’ and the ‘real’ world.”

            I somehow doubt that very much! But it could be that in one’s off-line life one does a fair impersonation of an adult.


          • omrocky786 Says:

            Dhoni bhai Dhoni bhai- control yaar.
            Rajen may be brusque but means no harm and has no agenda.
            I am sure he read the thread in a hurry and posted.


        • Apt response, although I doubt the comment above has anything to do with education or literacy. I offer my commiserations to SRK fans who have to stoop this low to prop up their favorite star. Having said that, if one is an SRK fan, one is most probably also a philistine!


        • omrocky786 Says:

          LMAO- The last line is so apt …..


        • its interesting that you use both ignorant and philistine as synonyms. Ignorance is one thing and uninformed in special area of knowledge is another. Not knowing Bachchan phenomenon (having grown up in that era) would be ignorance.
          As defined by urban dicionary, a philistine is a person who is conformist and does what everyone else is doing…so in that sense, phillistine should be watching Bachchan movies like everyone else…no?
          If you take it as “aesthetic refinement” than not every one is into cinema (local or world).
          A quote:
          I’m a philistine, and not ashamed; so was Molière—so was Cervantes.


          • In essence philistine is one who is part of single screen audience or masala film lover.


          • Well the single screen audience at least at one point in time was associated with some of the finest films so I’d always respect them more!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Not using the words as synonyms though one is sometimes linked to the other. I am relying on this sort of typical dictionary definition:

            “a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.”

            So this isn’t just about not understanding the finer points or art or whatever but also having a certain attitude about the same. The reason ignorance is a part of the deal quite often is that if one has that understanding presumably one doesn’t maintain the same attitude. For instance if one doesn’t know what defines a quality film one might dismiss it the moment one doesn’t ‘enjoy’ it at some level. The corollary here is that if the opposite were true one would perhaps be able to ‘enjoy’ the craft of that film or whatever even if one didn’t like it. There are many fine films I don’t like at a personal level but I don’t consider them worthless. However if I did I would be betraying my own ignorance. But I might go beyond this and wallow in the same and that would make me a kind of Philistine.

            Now everyone doesn’t have to be into this stuff. Much as no one needs to have a finer appreciation of football (soccer) to enjoy a number of games. However to truly appreciate Messi’s skills one might need that deeper sense. The problem arises if I don’t have it and nonetheless keep arguing with others on the merits or demerits of different football players when I clearly don’t have that sort of understanding and they do. In other words the debate isn’t about enjoyment of the game but about the finer aspects of the game and for that a certain understanding is required.

            On the Moliere reference don’t take too seriously this sort of example. First of all a guy who’s one of history’s great playwrights hasn’t done too badly for himself in this area! But secondly his is a polemical statement that comes about within certain contexts. he is taking a position in a debate that was ongoing at the time. I don’t know the Cervantes reference but again the writer of one of the most influential works of all time surely knows his craft!


          • Once it was only single screen. Now they are coexisting with multiplexes. There is no big difference as most films play in both the screens. The big stars fight as ferociously for single screens as they do for multiplexes. It is nothing but snobbery to attribute who watches where. But in interiors, the audience reject niche films and go for solid entertainers. They prefer Singh is King to Baby or Tamasha.


          • of course, and anyone who’s followed my comments for sometime if not longer knows this, but I sneer at multiplex audiences (for more than one reason) almost exclusively. I never have an issue with single screen audiences.


          • “The problem arises if I don’t have it and nonetheless keep arguing with others on the merits or demerits of different football players when I clearly don’t have that sort of understanding and they do”. Don’t disagree with much of what you said (and yes you are quite consistent on single-screen audience, I can vouch for that Sanjana), seems like you have mellowed down with age 😉 🙂
            On Bachchan phenomenon: He is the bullet that people came to admire forgeting the gun, the shooter, the war itself.
            P.S. There was a Smita Patil movie where she is living in slums and bathing out in open…usual art cinema stuff. You should have seen/known what kind of audience came out to see that movie! I would use the word phillistine more deliberately, carefully.


  4. It was a fully paisa vasool fun movie. Who can forget those famous songs?


    • I liked MkS and its songs better. On a separate note, possibly three religion and three heros from different religion was relevant then. Maybe today it is not that big deal. India is tolerant and religious backgrounds are non-issue in mordern india. Movie like this won’t work today.


  5. I had never seen this movie on the big screen, when one day on a visit to Mumbai, we ran across a cinema playing it for just that day. Cudnt resist so we all bought balcony tickets and to our amazement, it turned out to be a housefull show. By the time Rafi croons “Khoon Khoon hota hai Paani nahi”, and the Brothers (unknown to each other) give blood to their blind mother, not a single set of eyes in the audience remained dry. And this was in 1991, a full 14 years after the movie had released.
    The symbolism of this movie will always escape ignorants, or philistines. And it is odd that SRKians would have a problem with Desai’s ode to Nehruvianism. This perhaps was the high point of Desai’s absolute hold over the Indian cultural ethos. It cannot just be called a Classic of Indian Cinema, for given the times we are now in globally, it should be annointed a classic of world cinema.


  6. Notably, from 1970s till 2000 the Indian Hindi Cinema was literally focused on masala movies like family drama, romance, tragedy, action, underworld, crime etc. Superstar like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, followed by present starts like Amir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan achieved stardom from these movies, which entertained Indian audiences for decades.

    The credit may be given to Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Lagaan movie, which after being nominated for Oscar set a trend for already established and new directors to think out of leak. The trend continued with Swades once again by Ashutosh, Rang De Basanti by Rakeyesh Omprakash Mehra, Tare Zameen Par by Aamir Khan, Chak De India, Dev D, Dirty Picture, Fashion, Peepli Live etc. This trend led another established director Sanjay Leela Bhansali to come up with Black, which gained huge critics worldwide. R Balki’s Paa was another masterpiece of modern Hindi Cinema.


    • “Superstar like Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna”

      the moment one reads this second line one should save oneself the trouble and avoid the rest! Because this writer clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Only someone who knows nothing about that period would put Vinod Khanna in that sequence. Of course he is in good company because plenty of people who do know precisely ‘nothing’ keep indulging in similar comments all the time.


      • charan raj Says:

        MsDhoni, my sincere request to you will be just ignore these people and move on. These people are still in comma since Wazir debacle and hardly can understant any logic.


  7. There was one CharanRaj who raped Sujata Mehta; & there’s one who rapes faculty and facts…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charan raj Says:

      One of the characteristics loosers are when they can’t defend ,they get personal.


    • “CharanRaj who raped Sujata Mehta”
      Correction. Not Sujata Mehta. But the character she was playing. And not in real but reel life.
      In case people get confused 😉


  8. Charan raj Says:

    I mean one of the characteristics of loosers are


  9. watched this film god knows how mant times but this particular scene was simply awesome,some might say that amitabh got battered in this fight and being a main cast but to me vinod khanna was as popular as amitabh was,vinod khanna left for rajnees in 1980 after quarbai which become the higest earner with dostan in 1980…had vinod khanna stayed in the film industry would amitabh had become what we know him as ” superstar ” ,hec vinod khanna was just as good as amitabh….” we will never know”..


    • omrocky786 Says:

      actually even in AAA it was very clear who was the Superstar material and who was the Supporting Hero material.
      Khanna aaj bhee Dabang kar raha hai and Bachchan Piku.


    • actually Qurbani grossed less than Dostana which itself was hardly the biggest Bachchan hit in those days. Ram Balram grossed way more the same year. Yaarana also did a lot more a year later. And so on.

      “but to me vinod khanna was as popular as amitabh was”

      yes you were probably the one Indian for whom this was true..


  10. satyam,
    ” yes you were probably the one Indian for whom this was true..”

    if you look at amitabh and vinod khanna films together ,hera pheri,khoon pasina,parvaarish,AAA,mks,he contributed equally with amitabh,not saying that vinod was superior to amitabh nut equal.

    amitabh was offered quarbani but somehow amitabh could not accomodate dates to feroz khan..

    dostana vs quarbani both were huge grosser but the latter just edged it..if vinod would have remained in the films then amitabh would have had stiff competiton,others like jeetendra,dharmendra or shatru were never in the race and it would have been 2 horse race but surely and convinced that amitabh would had come top and vinod khanna in second…besides prakash mehra and man mohan desai did like vinod khanna..

    definately sure that feroz khan would have made films with vinod khanna,jaanbaaz would have been vinod in it instead of anil kapoor


  11. Vinod was the only actor who came close to threatening Amitabh’s position! Vinod was even pitched as Amitabh’s contender for the top spot after he fuelled successes on his own like Raj Sippy’s Inkaar (1977)… Amitabh was undoubtedly at the peak of his career and definitely a bigger star that played the lead every time. However, Vinod Khanna managed to charm the audiences more than Big B at times.The media built up Vinod Khanna as the Bachchan alternative… He was the only actor who ever came close to Amitabh Bachchan’s top position and, at one point, people were almost certain that he would replace Big B. Vinod had four major hits in 1977 and despite the fact that three of them starred Amitji,


    • omrocky786 Says:

      Re.-The media built up Vinod Khanna as the Bachchan alternative

      haan…abhee sahee and sach bola !! with Bachcham Boycotting the media- they had to prop someone as his alternative.


      • Baap logo kaa toh malum nahi par, Vinod’s son is awesome-awesome actor par pata nahi kaha gayab ho gaya. Both of Vinod’s sons are gay. THere was a news item about how they were going to certain ‘places’ in rickshaw at night and after that, akshay disappeared from the scene.
        I kinda liked Vinod myself…he had a raw male magnetism like Dharam, coupled with good acting..can’t think of such actors in present times. I particularly remember him in Mira. In Mira with Hema as Rajasthani prince…he played it well.


        • He has one more son who is trying to enter bollywood.


          • Both his sons are not straight. The other one was trying out in hollywood. I believe he was dj-ing or vj-ing…Rahul khanna. Not sure abt his acting prowess…


          • I am talking about Sakshi, the son of Kavita, VK’s second wife.


          • ohhh…I C. He was in “news” too…many moons ago for being in a rave party. I am not up and up on current stuff, so I didn’t know abt hollywood. Pehle bollywood toh conquer karo…nepotism makes it easier here no?


          • In 1990, he married Kavita. They have a son, Sakshi (born 12 May 1991),[7] and a daughter, Shraddha. I think Parameshwar Godrej played cupid . And VK also did ad for that soap Cinthol riding on a horse.


          • VK was close to Godrejs, especially Parameshwar. It was written that she was instrumental in getting Kavita married to him.


    • Except for Khoon Pasina and to a certain extent in Parvarish, VK was no-where on an equal footing with Amitabh in any film that they starred together. He was well-known to be egotistical and quite jealous of BigB, so much that he had to seek solace with Rajneesh for his life’s issues. If he indeed had been that popular, he wouldve soared as soon as he came back to bwood in the mid 80s. But he hardly made a dent anywhere, whereas BigB continued being numero uno till early 90s. VK’s ego also got him into trouble with Dharmendra, with whom he came to blows on the sets of Batwara. JP Dutta was left in tears trying to control both the hot-headed Punjus. In fact, Dharam was the only #2 contender after Amitabh, and his record vs Khanna is ample proof. VK with his good looks and boxer physique did leave countless gals weak-kneed, but hardly generated moolah for his producers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ” Except for Khoon Pasina and to a certain extent in Parvarish, VK was no-where on an equal footing with Amitabh in any film that they starred ”

        ” but hardly generated moolah for his producers.”

        vinod khanna comeback films were insaaf and satyamev vijeyta and both become money spinner,prakash mehra was touched with his performance and tried to sign him but vonod khanna already signed for feroz khan “dayawan ” which was expected to wonders at the boxoffice,his second term was threatened and quickly amitabh started signing films and those panic signs cost amitabh dearly,i,e. toofan and jaadugar…he also signed for shubash ghais ” deva” which was shelved after few months,

        not saying that vinod khanna was ever going to replace but he had something in it that clicked with the public and hence threatened aimitabh position,dharmendea and jeetendra were saleble actors but not superstars,i think you lot not giving enough credit what he deserved…
        vinod walked away with most of the accolades,vinod was much better the amitabh in khoon pasina,infact it was one of his better movies and made him a star.He also did stunning job in mera gaon mera desh even though he played a villian.It was his acting and persona on the screen that mattered.Vinod khanna performance really stands out was his act in quarbani,physically and otherwise and critics and audience alike concurred that no one could have done ehat vonod khanna did in the movie.Additionally he was incredible in action.

        Qurbani (1980)

        Bombay 405 Miles (1980)

        Garam Khoon (1980)
        The Burning Train (1980)… Vinod Verma

        Zalim (1980)

        Do Shikari (1979)

        Yuvraaj (1979)

        Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979)… Inspector Raj Singh (Gopi Lathuria

        Meera (1979)… Rana Bhojraj Sesodia

        Daaku Aur Jawan (1978)

        Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)… Vishal Anand

        Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978)… Ajay Chouhan

        Aakhri Daku (1978)

        Khoon Ka Badla Khoon (1978)

        Khoon Ki Pukar (1978)

        Sarkari Mehman (1978)

        Parvarish (1977)… Kishan

        Khoon Pasina (1977)… Aslam Sher Khan (Shera)

        Aap Ki Khatir (1977)

        Adha Din Adhi Raat (1977)

        Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

        Chor Sipahee (1977)
        Hattyara (1977)

        Inkaar (1977)

        Maha Badmaash (1977)

        Hera Pheri (1976)… Ajay (Inspector Pirachand)

        Lagaam (1976)

        Nehle Pe Dehla (1976)

        Shankar Shambu (1976)

        Shaque (1976)

        Qaid (1975)

        Sewak (1975)

        Haath Ki Safai (1974

        some of the above were awesome quarbani if he stayed he would have given stiff competion to amitabh as others like jeetu,shatru,or dharamji were just runners up

        amiatbh occupied 1-10
        others started from 11…

        srk did it from 1998-2008 as undisputed no 1,now all 3 khans are equally as 1,2,3….


  12. Qurbani had Amjad Khan, Feroz Khan, Zeenat aman besides VK who made the movie highly watchable. Not to forget all those hit songs.


  13. Khanna married Geetanjali in 1971 and had two sons with her, Rahul Khanna and Akshaye Khanna. In 1975, Khanna became a disciple of Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh).[1] In the early 1980s, he moved to Rajneeshpuram, Osho’s commune in the United States, for about five years, cleaning dishes and working as Osho’s gardener.[1] His absence from his family, who remained in India, caused friction between the couple, and the marriage ended in divorce.[1]

    In 1990, he married Kavita.[1] They have a son, Sakshi (born 12 May 1991),[7] and a daughter, Shraddha.[1]



  14. @Satyam
    If srk stopped coming in your dreams, you would block my comments. Atleast, you don’t have to block Tera Saroor trailer which is creating quite a buzz.
    This is height of intolerance.


  15. Interesting read-
    Battling the Gods -by
    Rachel Dwyer

    Rachel Dwyer is Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, University of London

    Nastik is the story of Anil (Ajit), a refugee travelling with others on a train, with his sister and little brother, after their parents have been killed in the Partition riots. Kavi Pradeep’s famous song Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan is picturised against a backdrop of actual footage of refugees and also stylised shots of mullahs and priests arguing. His little brother dies while the mahant (priest) refuses to visit poor people. Anil is sent to gaol on false witness for attempting to kill the priest and becomes an atheist. His sister becomes a prostitute and kills herself. The priest realises Anil wants to kill him, so goes on a pilgrimage with his daughter to Dwarka, Rameshwaram, Banaras, Haridwar and Puri, where Anil is shown looking at the deities but not worshipping, except in that this constitutes a form of darshan. Anil decides to take revenge through seducing the priest’s daughter (Nalini Jaywant) by flirting with her, luring her out in a boat in a storm, when the spirit of the river, who appears as a figure with a halo, saves her. They marry in secret, escape by boat on the river Ganga pursued by her father, but fall in the water. Anil thinks she is dead, but her father saves her and she gives birth to a son. When the child becomes sick, she goes to a popular baba (preacher) for healing, who turns out to be Anil, who is just a fake. However, the child’s illness and cure makes him find God once again.

    Although the film was banned, it went on to enjoy a Golden Jubilee (a cinema hall run of 50 weeks), probably because of its success in dealing with the issue of Partition, and the subsequent loss of faith and search for meaning in the world. Although Anil becomes an atheist, his re-finding of faith through love, repentance and his interaction with the deities, even though he has no belief in them, fits into the wider worldview of the Hindi film.


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