Happy Easter! I am going to cut up cardboard in the basement with my Sunday School class, and then maybe have brunch with Grandpa afterwards to celebrate. Oh, and eat the chocolate bunny that my parents gave me. And also, think about the most Easter-y of all Indian films, Amar Akbar Anthony!
To get us all in the holiday mood:
(See that giant egg he pops out of? And how everyone is wearing western wear? That’s because it’s an Easter party!)
Okay, that’s why it is it is an Easter movie, now, why is it prime to be remade? Well, because Amar Akbar Anthony is the Greatest Multi-Starrer of All Time!!!! If you’ve already seen it, you are just nodding along going “yes, of course, that is correct”. But in case you haven’t seen it, let me just give you the plot so you have an idea of the magnificence of this film:
Pran, a poor but honest driver, has a wife (Nirupa Roy) and three sons, a responsible oldest son, a naughty middle son, and a cute baby son. He takes the blame for a car accident instead of his boss, big mobster Jeevan, with the understanding that his boss will look after his family while he is in jail. Jeevan does not live up to this promise, Pran is released from jail to find his wife dying of Movie Disease and his children starving. He goes to confront Jeevan, accidentally stealing a load of smuggled gold at the same time, and returns to find a note from his wife saying she has gone to kill herself rather than be a burden. Pran takes the 3 boys and leaves them at the foot of a statue of Gandhi (this is all taking place on Independence Day, by the way), while he searches for Nirupa. He returns to find all 3 boys gone, and in his despair, breaks into Jeevan’s house and steals Jeevan’s daughter for revenge.
The responsible oldest son (Amar, Vinod Khanna) has been adopted by a noble police officer. Anthony (Amitabh), the naughty middle son, has been taken in by a priest. And Akbar (Rishi Kapoor), the baby, has been adopted by a Muslim tailor. Both oldest sons are also sick, Amar having been hit by a car and Anthony fighting off a cold, and therefore can’t remember enough details to get back to their family. 20 years later, Amar is a police officer like his adopted father, Anthony runs an illegal bar on the bad side of town but has his own code of ethics, Akbar is a rising Qawwali superstar. Pran, using the gold he stole, has become the new gangleader in town and protective father to his adoptive daughter Parveen Babi. And Nirupa Roy is still alive, but blind. She was hit by a tree while on the way to kill herself, and apparently it knocked the fatal Movie Disease right out of her, but also blinded her.
Naturally, Anthony falls in love with Parveen Babi, against the objections of her protective father Pran. Akbar is already in love with doctor Neetu Singh, and Amar falls for Shabana Azmi, a poor girl he rescues from prostitution. After many many many miss-communications and missed opportunities, all 3 boys one by one recognize their mother, and then each other, and then their father. But in the meantime, Jeevan has resurfaced and kidnapped Parveen thinking to torment his old enemy Pran (not realizing she is actually his own daughter). Oh, and Shabana has also been kidnapped by the same gang she was trying to escape, who are now working for Jeevan. The 3 brothers plus Neetu separately arrive to help rescue Parveen and have a tearful reunion in the midst of a fight scene/comic song. In the end, Pran willingly goes to jail for his crimes, now that he has finally been reunited with his wife and 3 sons, and his 3 new daughter-in-laws.
And if that didn’t convince you this is the greatest film of all time, here is the title song with all three brothers, and wives, reunited:
Obviously, the basic plot is perfect and requires no updates. But I think we can add some interesting frills onto it, just to shake things up a little. And since this film should have been remade multiple times already, I’m also going to have multiple casting/era options.
Mid-90s Era Three Khans Version:
Akbar: Salman (I’m just going with their real life birth order)
Father: Anupum Kher
Mother: Reema Lagoo
Villain: Danny Danzongpa
Amar love interest: Sonali Bendre (Aamir is going to be in Sarfarosh cop mode, so why not?)
Anthony love interest: Manisha Koirala (She’s Nepali like Danny, and I like her with Shahrukh)
Akbar love interest: Madhuri! (we need dance numbers!)
In this version, Anupum is still a driver (because we need the whole Karna charioteer callbacks). Danny is a multi-national globalized villain, like his character in the original Agneepath. Sometimes he makes Anupum travel with him as driver/servant. And when Anupum chases him down after returning from jail, instead of leaving the 3 boys under a statue of Gandhi in a park, he leaves them under a picture of Gandhi in the international terminal of the airport. So they are not only raised different religions, but in different countries!!!!
(Danny like this!)
Amar is taken in by a Bombay cop who finds him knocked out and trapped under a plane. Anthony is taken in by a wealthy British NRI. And Akbar is taken in by a poor baggage handler who brings him back to Bangladesh when his Visa expires.
20 years later, Anthony/Shahrukh arrives back in Bombay, a bit of a party boy but a charmer, with his wealthy father. At the same time, Akbar, who has become a superstar singer, is arriving to perform at a concert in the city. They land on the same day, and as they are leaving the airport, a car speeds out of control and hits a blind flower seller. They both rush to her assistance, as does a police officer (Amar) who is passing. All three help carry her to a hospital, and then donate blood to her.
The next day, Amar and Anthony meet again when Amar is brought in to provide security for Anthony/Shahrukh. He immediately has a run in with Anthony when he tries to stop him from slumming in the bad area of town and they end up fighting to see who is stronger.
Meanwhile, Anupum and his adopted daughter Manisha are staying at the same hotel. Manisha escapes from her bodyguard and sees Anthony/Shahrukh all dirty and bruised in the bad area of town, and falls in love with him. Anthony/Shahrukh plays up the bad boy image, making her think that’s who he really is.
Akbar/Anthony secretly meets with Madhuri backstage, we find out that they fell in love when she was visiting her aunt in Bangladesh last summer, but her conservative father doesn’t want her to marry an entertainer. Salman has come all the way to Bombay to find her again, and sent tickets for her entire family and declares that he isn’t afraid to show his love before them all. And, of course, during the show Madhuri ends up leaving her front row seat and coming up to join him on stage in a big dance number, before being dragged away by her father.
And Amar/Aamir, while driving home from his fight with Shahrukh still in plain clothes, is stopped when Sonali faints in front of his car. He helps her and offers to give her a ride home, but she takes him to a deserted area where a gang of thugs attack him, and he fights them off, revealing himself as a police officer. Sonali collapses in tears and begs for mercy, saying that her cousin has forced her to work with his gang or else he will beat her and her poor old grandmother. Amar/Aamir immediately takes pity on her and invites her and her mother to move in with him and keep house. And, love song.
Meanwhile, Anthony/Shahrukh has invited sheltered Manisha to a high class Easter party, where he puts on a big song and dance. But it ends in tears when Manisha’s bodyguard gets too possessive and starts a fight. Shahrukh tries to fight back, and Akbar/Salman (passing by on the way to a performance) joins in, as does Amar/Aamir when the police are called. In the end, the other two are mad at Amar/Aamir for breaking up the fight, and he is mad at them for being trouble makers.
But Anthony/Shahrukh and Akbar/Salman are friends now, and agree to help each other with their respective romantic issues. Anthony/Shahrukh helps Akbar/Salman steal Madhuri away from her home for the night. And then Madhuri goes in to trick Anupum Kher into allowing Madhuri out, and there is a great song with all 4 of them.
But, danger threatens! Danny Danzongpa has arrived back in town and is looking for revenge. He knows that Anupum Kher regularly deals with a businessman in London and orders his men to kill this businessman if he won’t tell them the truth. Not knowing that the businessman is Shahrukh’s own father! And as he was dying, he called Shahrukh in Bombay, leaving a message indicating that a Bombay gangster killed him. But Shahrukh misunderstands, and thinks it was Anupum Kher (his own biological father although he doesn’t know that yet!), not Danny.
Meanwhile, poor blind Reema Lagoo has been going in and out of their lives, for instance bumping into the two couples on their night out and giving them their blessing when they pretend they are wearing wedding clothes and just coming from a wedding. She is selling flowers on the street when she hears music and follows it. Eventually coming to a Masjid, where Salman is giving a charity concert of a traditional Sufi hymn. She is overcome by the beauty of the music, and enters the Masjid, eventually stumbling all the way up to the stage, where she falls and hits her head underneath the Koran, and then looks up, sight cured!!!! And immediately recognizes Salman as her son.
Amar/Aamir is on his own journey, investigating the Indian side of Shahrukh’s father’s murder. He tracks it all the way to the humble neighborhood where Anupum lived before he was a crime boss. And then starts to remember things, eventually finding the toy gun he buried as a child, at which point it all comes back to him in a blinding flash.
Shahrukh has now gone broken arrow and tracked Anupum down to his lair, preparing to kill him. But before he can do so, he sees a photo of Manisha and softens. Which gives Anupum enough time to capture him. It looks like Anupum is about to kill his own son without knowing it, when the gang bursts in to tell him that Manisha was kidnapped and then need someone to go undercover and rescue her. Shahrukh instantly volunteers, and Anupum lets him go, with a warning that he will be killed if he fails.
Akbar/Salman and Madhuri while eating sweets on the beach witnessed Manisha’s kidnapping and were the ones to call the police, and of course Amar/Aamir ended up taking the case. Manisha, in an attempt to save herself, declares that she will happily agree to the forced marriage that Danny is trying to put her into (to his adopted son, not realizing she is his real daughter), but only if they get Akbar/Salman to perform at the wedding. Oh, and Sonali is also there, having been spotted on the street by a gang member who recognized her from the olden days and brought in to do the make-up for the wedding. Akbar/Salman comes at gunpoint along with Madhuri as his “back-up dancer” and Amar/Aamir as his “one-man-band”. Meeting them at the house is Shahrukh, in disguise as a priest. Massive dance number, in the middle of which the brothers share a furtive embrace having finally all learned the truth.
And, happy ending! Anupum and Reema Lagoo are united, then Anupum is taken off to jail. And all three brothers say good-bye at the airport again, Shahrukh and Manisha are off to London, Salman and Madhuri are off to Bangladesh, and Aamir and Sonali are staying in Bombay with Reema Lagoo.
Present Day Version:
Father: Rishi Kapoor
Villain: Vinod Khanna
Amar’s love interest: Deepika
Anthony’s love interest: Anushka
Akbar’s love interest: Alia
Anthony adoptive father in a special cameo: Amitabh!
We are all about meta and remixes and nostalgia now, right? So the 2010s version would be all self-aware and self-reflexive. And all the original songs, but remixed and Badshah’d up and all.
You ready to have your mind blown? Opening of the movie, Neetu with her three little boys, watching the original title song on TV and singing along. When Rishi, her husband, walks through the door at the exact moment she pauses the TV on Rishi-as-Akbar in the past. He is private pilot for millionaire and his old friend Vinod. Meta comment about how of course he can trust Vinod, “he’s like a brother to me”.
Next day at work, Rishi is arriving at the airport with Vinod, when they bump into Amitabh, new priest recently arrived in Bombay, who asks them for directions. And then there is a brief freeze-frame as all 3 stand together, with a little sample of the original theme song, and then the movie moves on.
On the way back from the airport that night, Vinod is driving his sportscar and speeding with Rishi in the passenger seat, when he hits a pedestrian. He convinces Rishi to take the rap, banking on their friendship and because he promises to look after Rishi’s family while he serves his short jail term. Only, of course, Rishi comes out to find that Neetu is sick, his sons are hungry, and worst of all, the satellite TV has been turned off in their apartment.
(No B4U!!! A fate worse than death!)
And then, like in every other version, Rishi goes rushing off to confront Vinod, is thrown out, ends up stealing a car which he doesn’t realize has gold in the back of it. Goes home, finds Neetu’s suicide note, takes the kids to the airport for safe-keeping, can’t find Neetu, returns and can’t find the kids, goes over to Vinod’s house and kidnaps his daughter, and then starts a new criminal empire with the adopted daughter and the gold.
Now, the question is where the kids should grow up! I feel like Hindi film is swinging back towards the hyper-local now. Everyone is staying in India, and like really distinctive regional variations of India. Amar/Ranbir can be the cool sort of Bandra/South Bombay local boy. A cop, but a cop who is almost too cool to be a cop. Like, his intro is at a club, where he is saying he has to get up early for work the next day, and the girl with him is asking “Where do you work? An NGO, an MNC?” And he puts on his sunglasses and smiles and says “MP-Mumbai Police.”
For Anthony/Ranveer, I am tempted to make him Malayalam Christian. But let’s go with Goan. And all the way Goan, flowered shirts and laid back attitude. Kind of a hippy. Long Hair, guitar. He can be introduced on a beach, dumping his latest vacation girl fling.
And for Akbar/Varun, can we make him a Hyderabadi (Hydro?)? We can even go meta, he can get the full own Telugu hero action scene intro, and then it can pull back to reveal a soundstage and turn out to just be the cool opening for his song video, because he is a rockstar.
And this time, they are brought together by their blood before they meet! Neetu is hit by a car, and needs a blood transfusion of a rare type. An eager young med student (Alia) sends out an alert asking for donations from around India. Separately, each of the boys see the alert and donate, and then we get a nice travelogue watching the blood be transported by truck and train and plane to the Bombay hospital.
They meet for real when Anthony/Ranveer hitches a ride with some tourists to Bombay and lowkey rips them off. Which is when he first comes to the attention of Amar/Ranbir. They have a “cool dude” off, with Ranbir trying to intimidate him into coming to jail, and Ranveer trying to double-talk his way out of it all. Finally, there is a fight, but it uses the same trick as the fight in the original, we don’t see the end of it, they disappear into the back of a truck or something, and when they come out, they are all dirty with torn clothes, but Ranbir has the handcuffs on Ranveer (because The Law/The Big Brother always wins).
Akbar/Varun shows up next, at the same police station, while Ranveer is being processed out the next day. He is looking for information on the eager young medical student who put out the donation request. She is his old girlfriend from college, but her Dad moved her to Bombay and he had lost track of her until he saw her name attached to the donation request. Ranbir is a little rude, pointing out this is a police station, not a lonely hearts column, but Ranveer is immediately sympathetic. And he offers to help Akbar/Varun search, since he doesn’t have anything better to do. They eventually find her at a hospital, but her father (also a doctor) is there too as a teacher. So Anthony/Ranveer helps Akbar/Varun do a dance number to get her attention, and in the end, Alia slips away with them. And Akbar/Varun and Alia politely let Anthony/Ranveer know that he is now a 5th wheel.
Anthony/Ranveer leaves them, to go over to the beach, where he spots Anushka playing her own guitar and is immediately struck by her beauty and bohemian vibe. He invites her to the Easter party his adoptive father is throwing at his church tonight. It’s why Anthony/Ranveer is in town, usually he and his adoptive father live in Goa, but they come for the annual Easter party.
Meanwhile, Amar/Ranbir is at a club again where a beautiful woman (Dips) asks him to dance. But, as the dance ends, she faints! He helps her and then, despite her objections, offers to give her a ride home. On the way, they are stopped by a roadblock, and a bunch of goons drag him away and try to take his car while he fights them. He gets in a big blow to the lead goon, who is infuriated and pulls out a knife to stab him, but Dips cries out “Stop! He’s a cop!” and shows the badge she found in his jacket. The goons take off and Dips stays and helps him into the car, and he passes out. He wakes up in her apartment with an old man looking at him (Prem Chopra! Ranbir’s great-uncle by marriage). Dips comes bopping back into the room, explaining that she gave him medicine and patched up his wounds. And there is some flirty by-play about her seeing him shirtless. And finally he asks why she was part of that gang. Dips is too good to tell the truth, but Prem Chopra leaps in to explain that it is her lousy cousin, he has her going out to clubs every night wearing “short-short” skirts, just because she doesn’t want him to throw them out of the family apartment. Prem is fine! He can take care of himself and his granddaughter, and beat off anyone who comes! Ranbir is, naturally, super charmed by the old guy, and suggests that maybe Prem can protect him as well, and keep his own father company, why don’t Prem and Deepika move into his house with him? Dips tries to quietly abstain, saying he doesn’t want someone he barely knows moving in, and anyway she won’t take charity, but Ranbir gives her the puppy eyes and points out that she saved his life last night, he owes her, and also knows her pretty well now.
Time moves forward. Anushka tells her father, Rishi, about this cool guy she met on the beach. He doesn’t like her meeting guys, and assigns a bodyguard, Rana Daggubatti, to watch her all the time. Varun goes to see Alia at the hospital, and meets Neetu at the same time, and feels an immediate connection to her, and she to him, which they both assume is because of the literal blood bond. Ranveer and Rana get into a fight at the Easter party, and Ranbir has to come break it up, giving Ranbir and Ranveer yet another reason to dislike each other.
And then, Vinod is back! He arrives in town, ready for vengeance. And also to cover his tracks. He realizes that the only person who can tie him to the airport on the day all the gold was stolen (the gold that Rishi ended up with), is the random priest who asked for directions. Special Guest Star/Ranveer’s adoptive father-AMITABH!!!! Vinod and Amitabh have a face off, with many meta in-jokes, and Vinod kills him. Ranveer, arriving moments later, misunderstands what his father is telling him about stolen gold and assumes whoever has the gold now is the killer, not realizing that Rishi ended up with the gold instead of Vinod.
Ranveer, now obsessed with vengeance, has a brutal and dark conversation breaking things off with Anushka. Anushka, heartbroken, gets drunk. Rana takes the opportunity to spike her drink and kidnap her. Turns out Rana has been working for Vinod all this time and Vinod wants to forcibly marry Anushka off to him so they can kill Rishi and then inherit everything through her.
Meanwhile, Varun is giving a charity concert at the hospital (which is also going to get Anushka’s grumpy father Boman Irani to accept him, since the money raised from the concert will let them build the new wing he wants). He has made sure that his “mother” Neetu is in the front row. And as he sings, a miracle! Suddenly she can see! And she recognizes him as her son! At the same time, Alia has just gotten an odd message about the blood donations for Neetu. Not only where they all of the same super rare type, they were also all close genetic relatives! And so is Neetu! It’s all coming together, THEY ARE BROTHERS!!!!!
(I already used the miracle concert song in the last version, but I haven’t put in the other concert song yet, so here it is!)
Meanwhile, Ranveer is on a vengeance crusade (I like dark angry action Ranveer, so indulge me on this). He has a dark scary confrontation with Rishi about Amitabh’s death (I also like dark angry action Rishi). In the middle of it, Rishi’s gang bursts in to tell him that Anushka has been kidnapped, by Rana. He has her trapped in a remote house, surrounded by guns, they have no hope of getting inside because he can recognize them and knows all their angles. Rishi turns to Ranveer and tells him that if he rescues his beloved daughter, he can have anything he wants from Rishi. Ranveer sneers that all he wants is his life, and Rishi nobly agrees to offer even that, if only Anushka is saved. Ranveer is so dark now, we the audience aren’t even sure if he cares about Anushka any more, if he is just doing this so he can kill Rishi.
Speaking of dark, Ranbir is also discovering that he is related. Because he gets the report back on the DNA found at Amitabh’s murder scene, which shows that there was someone there who touched the blood on the body while it was still fresh. And the DNA is a match to a Goan drug dealer, Ranveer. And also comes up with a close relative match from the police database, Ranbir. And another criminal, arrested for a traffic violation 20 years earlier, Rishi. Suddenly it all comes rushing back! Ranbir, the only son old enough to remember the details, was caught in an accident at the airport when they were children, the reason he came to the notice of the honest cop who adopted him, and has never remembered the details of his past life. But now he does! He knows that Rishi is his father, blind woman Neetu is his mother, Ranveer is his brother! And his brother is about to be arrested for murder, and his father is about to be killed by his archenemy! Which the police know because they have been tapping Vinod’s phones. He has to warn them!
Ranbir can’t trust anyone at the station, but Dips comes in just then to bring him lunch, and he takes her into his confidence. She helps him hide the blood report, and then decides on her own to call her brother and try to sneak in to Vinod’s gang in order to save Rishi. She sends Ranbir a text that she isn’t home, she is going to repay her debt and save his family. Ranbir immediately also leaves the police station to go to the hideout and save her.
Meanwhile, Anushka is no slouch. She may be kidnapped and about to be forcibly married, but she is still thinking. She throws a fit and pretends to be a spoiled crazy rich girl, insisting that she will kill herself unless she gets the big wedding of her dreams. And she demands that Varun perform and that her favorite priest (Amitabh) perform the ceremony. Rana agrees to her demands and sends his goons off to collect both of them.
Meanwhile, Ranveer has stopped off at Amitabh’s church to have a semi-humorous semi-sad scene in which he goes into confession and imagines that Amitabh is taking the confession, and does both halves of the conversation. And this is how the audience learns that he still DOES love Anushka! It’s just that, without Amitabh in his life, he feels like he has nothing and no one and therefore isn’t worthy of her. He can save her life, and avenge Amitabh, but then he will just go back to Goa. But, through this humorous dialogue with his imaginary Amitabh, he comes to realize that he will always have Amitabh with him in his heart, and the best way to honor him is by forgiving Rishi, rescuing Anushka, and living a happy life.
Just as he reaches this realization, the goons storm in demanding Amitabh come with them to perform a ceremony. Naturally, Ranveer decides to pretend to be Amitabh, and thus is on the way to the wedding house as well.
Varun and Alia and Neetu all come as a group, because they are all riding in the same car when it is stopped. And in the end, all 3 brothers arrive at the same time. Ranveer in disguise as a priest, Varun in his stage costume, and Ranbir in his street clothes. Ranbir is the only one with no good “entry”, but when the goons ask why he is there, humorously both Ranveer and Varun say “He’s with me!” at the same time. And then explain that he was a musician, who left music to be a priest, and now he assists them both.
And, SONG! In the middle of which, the brothers have a chance to embrace, Alia sneaks upstairs and explains everything to the other two girls, and Neetu gets to join in and sing with her boys a little too. And it ends with a big fight, in which all the goons are defeated. The women get to join in on that one too.
Happy Ending! Neetu and Rishi are reunited with many tears, and hug their sons and bless their daughters-in-law. And then Ranbir arrests his own father, but it’s okay, because “mere bars won’t be enough to separate this family ever again”.