Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)
Amar, Akbar and Anthony are separated from their family and from each other as small children, and each is raised separately and in a different faith. Amar is raised a Hindu and grows up to become a police officer, Akbar is raised a Muslim and grows up to become a Qawaali singer whilst Anthony is raised Christian and grows up to be a small time hoodlum.
Most of the movie is focussed on the character of Anthony, which is fine by me since he is played by Amitabh Bachchan - surely the most charismatic actor India has ever produced.
As adults, none of the brothers have any idea of their familial origins, but believe their parents to be dead. To make matters worse, each parent thinks the other is dead and both think their children are dead. It must be said that they didn't go to great lengths to discover this, but the film would hardly have worked if they had so that's one piece of disbelief that has to be suspended. It's not the last one, as the film is wholly guided by a series of coincidences that gradually has the various members of the family crossing each others paths. I suppose one is encouraged to believe that these coincidences are orchestrated by the fates or a higher power, but putting it down to dramatic convenience worked just as well for me.
Also brought into the plot are the loves of the three brothers, for the requisite romance and feminine wisdom. The boys are lucky enough to have secured the affections of a bevy of beauties, and the actresses add a nice touch of glamour and colour to the film. In addition to and intersecting with these we have the evil villain of the piece, carrying the terribly intimidating name of "Robert".
At 175 minutes, Amar Akbar Anthony has plenty of time to flesh out its characters and develop the plot in a well paced fashion. The movie goes through many different moods and emotions, but after the first 15 minutes of melodrama the tone is generally kept light and pleasant.
As well as the romance and drama, the movie has a few moments where it shifts into action territory - Anthony especially has a knack for getting into a scuffle. The fights are very imaginatively choreographed but terribly executed, looking very staged and faked. This all adds to the fun of them though. There's also the songs of course, though not too many - especially in the first half of the film. Some of these are very catchy and the dance choreography cheerfully engaging.
Although it has something of an ensemble cast, there is no question that the movie belongs to Amitabh. His character is the most complicated and interesting, and his performance the most subtle and engaging. He gets all the best lines, too. He won the "best actor" award for this role, and it is largely for his performance that the movie is considered an Indian classic.
Like many Indian movies that run in the three hour range, there's something in AAA for everybody, and Amitabh's charisma especially means that it never grows wearisome. Although the first half an hour didn't have me terribly engaged, the film does just keep getting better and better (and more imaginative) as it progresses. I had to constantly keep upgrading my rating for the film as I watched. By the time the movie reaches its climax, it has managed to weave everything together so well that I was thoroughly delighted to be watching it.