Stu Greenfield chats with director Atul Malhotra about Amar Akbar and Tony…
This month has seen the VOD release of the latest Asian/British culture fusion on the big screen in the form of comedy drama Amar Akbar and Tony. Bearing only a titular similarity to the popular 1977 Hindi film Amar Akbar and Anthony, Amar Akbar and Tony follows the trials and tribulations of three best friends from very different cultural backgrounds as they traverse the dramas of life in their London borough. Here director Atul Malhotra speaks to Flickering Myth’s Stu Greenfield about inspiration, music and lessons learned.
Stu Greenfield – How much of an influence was the original Amar, Akbar and Anthony film in you developing this film?
Atul Malhotra – The story and characters in our film are completely originaland relate very much to London experiences. Apart from the title of our film there is only really a spiritual connection of sorts with the 70’s Hindi film ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’.
What the two films do have in common is they both highlight that religious or cultural differences can be overcome to create strong bonds of friendship and unity. They don’t have to be divisive.
SG – Was it daunting making the move from TV work to a more mainstream film?
AM – Not at all, my aspirations have always been to make films and I’ve made shorts before which allowed me to switch hats comfortably. In many ways I also found my TV experience helpful on a practical level.
For example, the fast turnaround nature of TV forces you to think on your feet and that proved really useful when shooting Amar Akbar & Tony. Low budget filmmaking throws you so many curveballs on a day-to-day basis from money pulling out, locations dropping out, actors not being available etc. but it was easier to remain unfazed and solution minded because of my TV experience.
SG – This is your only screenwriting credit. Do you feel writing and directing go hand in hand? And is it a path you would take again?
AM – I don’t think it’s a prescriptive thing. It depends on the kind of film you’re looking to make and it obviously helps if you’re telling a personal story. I quite like the process of writing and I would definitely do it again.
There’s also real merit in coming to a script that you haven’t written, that you’re approaching very objectively and collaborating with a writer. Personally, I’d like to be able to do both.
SG – Music and dancing play a significant part in this film, how did you choose the music for the film and did the importance of the music have a particular meaning for you?
AM – I always saw the music as a significant part of the film from the scripting stage. For me it was another character, a driving thrust throughout the film, which provides both a celebratory and an emotional spine.
The music was also important on another level in that I always saw the styling of this film to be a marriage of British Independent film and Hindi cinema. Music had a crucial role to play to help us achieve that cultural mix.
From a very early stage I had Rishi Rich in mind to create the eclectic soundtrack and score, that London yet Asian vibe. I was over the moon when he took it on after reading the script. Rishi has such an amazing range and his passion for music is infectious. I think he’s done a brilliant job and got some great artists on board like Juggy D, Jennie Delaney and The Ferocious Ladoos. You can check out the soundtrack on iTunes.
SG – Is there anything you would do differently in your next project? Any lessons learned?
AM – Ha, ha. Yes. Lots. I’ve taken ‘Amar Akbar & Tony’ from a blank sheet of paper through to playing for 5 weeks in multiplex cinemas and I’m really proud of that. But there are many things I would do differently in the future but you only learn them through experience. It would be indiscreet to mention some of them here but I can’t stress how important preproduction is – even more so when it’s a low budget film.
Amar Akbar and Tony is released on VOD on the 2nd November 2015. For more details visit the Amar Akbar and Tony website.