Book Review: Amar Akbar Anthony by Siddharth Bhatia

A few years back, Harper COllins India commissioned a Film Series, the first few of which included Jaane  Bhi Do Yaaron, Deewar, etc. These books were envisaged to be a throwback to some of the absolute cult movies of Bollywood from the yesteryears – movies that command a huge fan base, had some expected or unexpected things going in their favor, and a lot of interesting back-stories.

Somewhere, I feel the inspiration for this series must have been Anupama Chopra’s Sholay, a fantastic book that goes behind the making of Sholay and is a delightful read. The book from HC’s Film Series that stays closest to that exercise is Jai Arjun’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.

I picked Amar Akbar Anthony in the hope of killing a couple of hours in a mall, as I waited for a movie show to start. Having read a few pages, I knew that this one doesn’t fit my expectations.

To set the record straight, the expectation I have from this series are – a lot of history, dollops of behind the scenes, a lot of trivia, and the process of making this film, which, by design or by accident, ended up becoming such a craze.

The book starts off well with a few nuggets and anecdotes, some soundbytes from those associated with the film, and some stories. However, it does two things which make it a rather boring read less than halfway through the reading – a) it starts dissecting the social construct around the times the movie was made, and gets into a critique of Manji’s movie making, and b) it wastes a lot of real estate by either repeating the same things over and over again (secular undertones of the movie, for instance), or by narrating scenes from the movie (the entire movie is narrated, and then some scenes are talked about over and over again – like the meeting between Vinood Khanna and Pran, or the mirror scene). I always thought the audience of this book is not someone who has not even seen the movie or has no idea about it, but rather one who is in love with it, and just can’t get enough of it.

After a while, I could start skimming paragraphs after paragraphs because there was hardly anything new. Worse still, it isn’t a heavy book. It almost feels like that research worth two chapters has been extended to fill a book by giving overemphasis to the author’s opinions on Manmohan Desai and his brand of film-making. The book is near pedantic, and seems severely out of water when the author is dissecting a movie and a director who’s absolute control on Box Office was undisputed, and who could be credited with a major part of the cult of Amitabh Bachchan. As Siddharth right points out, AAA was the turning point of Bachchan’s stardom, as it helped him move away from his angry-young-man image. 

The one place where the book deserves its due is in its understanding of Kader Khan’s contribution to the movie as a dialogue writer. Also, some of the incidents, like the filming of the mirror scene in Desai’s absence, or “I am not Satyajt Ray”, do help you recover some of the investment!

However, in summary, I would not recommended this book, as it fails to deliver the promise of the series.


About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

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