A feel-good flick with a fresh take on contemporary Britain
You know you’ve got your money’s worth, when you leave the cinema screen with a massive smile on your face because you’ve witnessed something a little bit special. That’s the reaction you can expect after watching the year’s most anticipated Brit Flick: Amar Akbar & Tony. Yes…the name does sound ‘familiar’… Set in Hounslow, Amar Akbar & Tony (AAT) is the tale of three friends; one is Muslim, one is Sikh and one is Irish-Catholic, but other than the references to three men of different religions forming a bond, there is in fact no other comparison between this and the Hindi film that inspired the title: Amar Akbar Anthony. (Other than they are both really good!)
The story focuses on friendship, family and finding love but far from being a fairytale romance, AAT keeps you on your toes; if there’s one thing Writer/Producer/Director/Distributor Atul Malhotra has mastered with his debut movie, it’s originality. You can’t beat a good twist but more than that, it’s fate that defines the plot: that one unexpected, out of the blue, all encompassing OMG moment that takes the story and turns what you think you’re watching on its head: BAM: ‘everything in life has suddenly changed’ moment, that defines the movie.
The film's leading lads: Rez Kempton (Amar), Sam Vincenti (Akbar) & Martin Delaney (Tony)
Atul’s vision for AAT is of a film that represents Asians in Britain today. There’s no ridiculous accents, arranged marriages or religious fanaticism, instead we’re given representations of everyday people with real stories. Amar (played by Rez Kempton) is a super cool, likeable lad who it turns out is playing the first ever turban wearing Sikh protagonist there’s ever been in a Western movie (placing the film firmly in movie history books), Akbar (Sam Vincenti) is perfectly cast as the slick, smarmy but sweet estate agent, while Tony (Martin Delaney) adds charm to the line up with his fascination with all things Asian, even though he’s clearly not one himself.
Leading lasses Goldy Notay, Karen David & Laura Aikmen
Surprises in the film include the presence of Nepalese/Ukrainian actress Amrita Acharia, who play’s Amar’s love interest (prepare to develop an instant crush on her), seeing Shide Boss make his movie debut (fans will probably find this quite surreal and to be fair, we did), but thankfully he nails the part of playing Akbar’s dim younger brother, and of course, the icing on the cake; being hypnotised by the beauty that is Manrina, the gorgeous wife of Music Producer Rishi Rich who compiled and scored the soundtrack, also making her Brit acting debut. In fact the music alone is a work of art, so don’t be thinking this is simply a movie you’re going to catch on the big screen…you need to buy the soundtrack too!
Familiar faces like Meera Syal, Nina Wadia, Karen David and Goldy Notay add to the film’s appeal but what sets the film apart and makes it such an essential watch is that it’s a bit like a really amazing photograph – it captures a moment in time, a segment of the lives of ordinary people whom every viewer, Asian or non, will be able to relate.
It’s refreshing to watch a dual-religion wedding taking place without anyone batting an eyelid, to witness a conservative father figure become one of the most open-minded and generous characters in the film and to see London captured as a place where celebrating difference is the norm.
Amar Akbar & Tony is a feel-good flick that breaks the boundaries of South Asian representation in contemporary Britain, which is both welcomed and necessary. It’s about time someone dived in and made a film as brave as this; yes it’s low- budget, and yes people will tar it with the same brush as its Brit Asian predecessors East Is East and Bend It Like Beckham but both of those films are now over a decade old. Making AAT was a labour of love and the result is a piece of independent cinema that was made against the odds and has fought its place into being screened at multiplexes. It’s a fun, fresh and engaging slice of British life today, making it an essential must-watch.