Amar Akbar & Tony, 2015.
Directed by Atul Malhotra.
Starring Rez Kempton, Sam Vincenti, Martin Delaney, Karen David, Laura Aikman, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia.
Set in present-day London, the story of three friends Amar (Rez Kempton), Akbar (Sam Vincenti) and Tony (Martin Delaney), sees twists and turns as the characters face sudden and unforeseen changes to their idealistic and trouble-free young lives.
The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw a surge in Asian-British comedy-drama films which arguably started with the popular East is East in 1999 and being followed by the equally, if not more popular Bend It Like Beckham in 2002 and Anita and Me in 2003. These films take a soft-hearted but well observed look at the merge of Asian and British cultures in various areas of the United Kingdom. This year director Atul Malhotra revives the sub-genre with his feature film and writing debut, Amar Akbar & Tony.
Loosely based on the popular 1977 Indian film Amar Akbar and Anthony, Malhotra’s film is based in London rather than India and follows three childhood friends Amar (Rez Kempton), Akbar (Sam Vincenti) and Tony (Martin Delaney) as they grow up in very different families. Just as the boys are set to head off into the big bad world, with Amar gaining a sought after job in a London law firm, things go South and life changes. The film follows the three men as they work their way through life’s troubles and tribulations. Their lives intertwine through happiness and sadness, love and grief. There are prison sentences, questionable sexualities, violence and complicated love lives to traverse but will the boy’s friendships see it through?
Amar Akbar & Tony offers a light-hearted, tongue in cheek view of the British-Asian community whilst also touching on some very serious issues. The unfortunate thing is that is all the film does, it touches on those issues. There are a number of subplots to the film that deserve much more screen time and that would have added much more depth to the film. There is a focus on the comedy element of the film which in parts is executed well, but there should have been more focus on the serious social and familial issues within the film to help give it a well-rounded feel. Much like in both East is East and Bend It Like Beckham it is possible to deal effectively with the dramatic elements of the story with depth as well as offer a light-hearted and humorous perspective. In Amar Akbar & Tony it felt like a trick was missed in that regard. Despite this, the film is entertaining. It is laugh out loud funny in parts and there are some observational jokes that work well within the context.
The number of sub-plots do result in the narrative becoming a little convoluted. This isn’t helped by the time line jumping ahead without fully exploring all of the plot points within each timeframe. Just as you feel the film might be settling down it skips forward again which upsets the flow of the film. This said, the narrative is well put together in terms of storyline and the characters do have some depth to them. The film sometimes feels as if it is hopping along the narrative line landing on the plot long enough to get glimpses of the storyline but then taking off again and landing somewhere further along the timeline, never getting enough time in one spot to delve deep enough into the story.
The performances are standard. Delaney is lovably cheeky as the hapless Tony, whilst Sam Vincenti oozes annoying confidence as the self-loving (probably in every sense of the phrase, given how attractive he seems to find himself) Akbar. Rez Kempton has the most emotionally turbulent role as Amar yet his also appears to be the least emotional performance. The lines are delivered, but there is little conviction in them. The supporting cast does just that, they support. Female comedy talent Meera Syal and Nina Wadia of some of the funnier moments in the film, demonstrating their comedy experience. Meera Syal as a dating cougar is an image that will linger.
Amar Akbar & Tony offers an easy watch to audiences. It is not in the same league as East is East, but it brings with it some effective satire moments and some very real observations of the modern British-Asian culture. It is unfortunate that some of the more serious and meaty aspects of the narrative were not developed further however that does not take from the fact that the film will make audiences smile. The film is like a warm chapati, nice on its own but would be tastier with some extra ingredients.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★