Amar Akbar Anthony remains, 42 years down, a “complete, total, family ENTERTAINER”—we spell the last word in capitals, simply because the word “entertainment”, as in a 2011 movie, did not have to be repeated thrice, so potent was its quotient. Here are 42 facts about the blockbuster.
* Amar Akbar Anthony was released on May 27, 1977.
* It was the first film of Manmohan Desai as a producer, under the now-legendary MKD Films banner.
* It was his 13th directorial since Chhalia (1960).
* Till date, in terms of footfalls, return on investments, repeat value and cult quotient, it remains his biggest hit, though his next productions Naseeb, Coolie and Mard earned more actual money due to inflations in the next few years.
* The film was released weeks after the Emergency was lifted and a new government sworn in, and Amitabh Bachchan’s classic drunken scene was made possible.
* This scene, which had many tamer rip-offs later, including Amitabh’s in Satte Pe Satta, was, however, shot in Manmohan Desai’s absence, as the director was busy shooting Parvarish!
* In the best old Hindi film tradition, the director insisted that the photography be always bright. This was also with a purpose: Indian villages and small-towns then had movie-halls with poor projectors!
* In a barely noticed error in the film, Akbar grabs Dr. Salma (Neetu Singh)’s arm in their first scene and shouts, “Neetu!” instead of her screen name!
* In Desai’s films, writing credits were always divided between the collaborators, and family names were important for financial reasons. Thus Jeevanprabha Desai (Manmohan Desai’s wife) and Pushpa Sharma (wife of writer Prayag Raj) were credited for story, Prayag Raj for screenplay, K.K. Shukla for ‘scenario’ and Kader Khan for dialogues.
* The story revolved around three sons of an honest chauffeur (Pran) who are separated from father, mother (Nirupa Roy) and each other. Otherwise, Amar Akbar Anthony was completely original.
* Manmohan Desai believed in entertainment with a purpose, and so these three children were adopted by a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian, who named them Amar (Vinod Khanna), Akbar (Rishi Kapoor) and Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan).
* Like many a blockbuster, it led to the “birth” of other iconic characters apart from the three leads, like Taiyab Ali (Mukri), Zebisko (Yusuf) and Salma (Neetu Singh), Taiyyab’s rebellious doctor-daughter.
* The script was as meticulous as clever. Kader Khan, for example, used Mumbai street lingo tinged with a Goan influence for Anthony, normal Hindi for Amar and a chaste Urdu flavour for Akbar.* In what is perhaps Hindi cinema’s most illogical sequence accepted by the masses, packing a not-so-subtle emotional wallop, we saw a blood transfusion sequence from the three heroes simultaneously to the mother!
* In the background here, the song ‘Khoon Khoon Hota Hai Paani Nahin’ was added after the album came out as an all-hit score by composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyricist Anand Bakshi.* With this film, a revolution came into Manmohan Desai’s career. From here on, he began to believe in entertainment made up of highlight items—every song, fight sequence, comic scene and emotional situation was designed as a part of a tightly-knit mega-package of manoranjan. He followed this pattern o till it got worn out by the late 1980s.
* Amitabh Bachchan officially became the trade’s Numero Uno with this film.
* Simultaneously, his Angry Young Man persona was slowly replaced by a “One-Man Entertainer” who did everything from songs, dances, fights, comedy and drama to romance.
* The over-emphasis on Anthony did the film a world of good. The people simply loved his character and the movie topped 1977.
* The film completed a 25-week run in a record 9 cinema halls in Mumbai, the first to do so. It completed 75 weeks in the city and, reportedly, ran for even longer in other centers.
* This was Manmohan Desai’s third blockbuster in that year. Dharam-Veer and Chacha Bhatija had released two months earlier, and Parvarish came in the last quarter of the year. With this rare and unparalleled feat, Desai set a world record of directing four of the top five hits in a single year. Dharam-Veer at 2nd position, Parvarish at 4th, and Chacha Bhatija at no. 5. The third position was occupied by Nasir Husain’s Hum Kisise Kum Naheen.
* The clashes between Amitabh and Vinod became a talking-point, including for some comic touches and slow-motion shots.
* In the first Rishi Kapoor qawwali, ‘Parda Hai Parda’, by Mohammed Rafi, the on-screen version had Amit Kumar punching in a line at the end of every antara for Amitabh, while the album version had only Rafi. This was an afterthought, so Bachchan came to shoot for two hours in a break from the sets of another film!
* After the song ‘Shirdiwale Sai Baba’ (Rafi), the mother miraculously regains her eyesight, which she had lost when attempting suicide when the family was separated. By a coincidence, another hit film, Shirdi Ke Sai Baba, which also had two popular Rafi devotionals to the Shirdi saint, released later that year.
* ‘Taiyyab Ali Pyar Ka Dushmun’ (Rafi), a comedy number, was the second Rafi comic song to use the choral voices of transgenders after the chartbuster ‘Saj Rahi Gali Meri Maa’ in Kunwara Baap in 1974.
* ‘My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves’ was sung by Kishore Kumar and composed as a tribute to a real musical genius of that name from Goa, who had taught music to Pyarelal. This Easter song featuring Amitabh also had him spouting deliberately nonsensical lines in between the main song, which he himself wrote.
* However, the line “You are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated with the exuberance of your own verbosity” was inspired from a speech by British politician Benjamin Disraeli in 1878.
* Uniquely, the four biggest ever playback singers in cinema—Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore and Lata Mangeshkar, came together for the ingeniously constructed ‘Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyar’. The three antaras were written and composed with different lingos, metres and tunes suiting the leading men and their girls.
* The title-song, sung by Kishore Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor and Shailendra Singh, took over a month to film as the combination star-dates were difficult: all six stars were heavily busy!
* The music not only boosted the film and topped charts but won the Filmfare Best Music award for Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Rafi and Anand Bakshi were nominated for different songs and the music was also awarded a Gold Disc for outstanding sales on Universal Music, then known as Polydor.
* In a technological breakthrough, the initial records came out on red-coloured vinyl, a first in India.
* Mohammed Rafi, under a cloud in the Kishore Kumar onslaught from 1969-1970, was deemed to have made a whopper return to center-stage. He soon became one of Rishi Kapoor’s most favoured voices.
* The hit score spawned titles for future films like Parda Hai Parda (1992) and My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves (2008).
* In 2018, a Telugu Amar Akbar Anthony has been made, while the original AAA itself was remade in Tamil (Shankar Salim Simon) in 1978, in Telugu (Ram Robert Rahim) in 1980 and even in Malayalam as John Jaffer Janardhanan (1982).
* Many years later, there were plans to have a remake of the film by David Dhawan, a Desai devotee. It never happened.
* Amitabh Bachchan also won the Filmfare for Best Actor and Kamalakar for Best Editing for this breeze-fest of entertainment.
* Despite its mass-oriented entertainment—or perhaps because of its lasting and cult popularity—the film became the subject for several intellectual studies overseas, with metaphors and allegories attributed to its narrative!
* Besides posters and pictures, multiple consumer products were also manufactured and sold with the film’s logo, a first since Sholay.
* For Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, already linked off-screen romantically, it remains the biggest hit of the 11 romantic films they did.
* For some reasons, Manmohan Desai never cast the Amitabh-Parveen team together again, though they both starred in his films Suhaag and Desh Premee!
* Amar Akbar Anthony was one of five films released in the same year starring Vinod Khanna and Shabana Azmi romantically, one of which was his Parvarish.
* The film is estimated to have made Rs 7.25 crore in those days. Inflation-adjusted, it crosses the collections of Bahubali 2—The Conclusion today!