Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The first notable/remembered exposure I had to Shirdi Sai Baba via Amar Akbar Anthony film song

I was born and brought up in Bombay/Mumbai. Hindi films (Bollywood) and songs were an intrinsic part of my youth and adult life, though I was more into listening to Hindi film songs than seeing Hindi films. [In those days, 70s to 90s say, most Hindi songs were part of Hindi films. Separate music albums unconnected to a film were quite rare.]

The themes of 70s & 80s Hindi films were usually very healthy and promoting good values in general. I mean, typically the good guy & gal will win over evil at the end.

Amar Akbar Anthony was a mega starrer and superhit of the late 70s. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amar_Akbar_Anthony:

Amar Akbar Anthony (Hindi: अमर अकबर अन्थोनी) is a 1977 Bollywood action comedy film with a lost and found theme, about three brothers separated during their childhood who grew up in three homes, adopting three religions. They meet in their youth to fight a common villain. It was the biggest blockbuster of 1977, and won several awards at 25th Filmfare Awards including Best Actor, Best Music Director and Best Editing.

The film was directed by Manmohan Desai and starred three actors: Amitabh Bachchan (as Anthony Gonsalves), Vinod Khanna (as Amar Khanna) and Rishi Kapoor (as Akbar Allahabadi). Each of the heroes had an affiliation with a heroine; these women were played by Parveen Babi, Shabana Azmi and Neetu Singh. Nirupa Roy, Pran and Jeevan played supporting roles. The music was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Kishore Kumar sang for Amitabh Bachchan, and Mohammed Rafi sang for Rishi Kapoor. The soundtrack was one of Mukesh's last soundtracks with Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Anand Bakshi was the lyricist. This movie proved to be a golden jubilee at the box office.

The film about religious tolerance became a landmark in Bollywood masala films. It also had a lasting impact of the pop culture, with its catchy songs, one-liners and the character of Anthony Gonsalves played by Amitabh Bachchan. It was later remade in Tamil as Shankar Salim Simon (1978), in Telugu as Ram Robert Rahim (1980) and in Malayalam as John Jaffer Janardhanan (1982).
--- end wiki extract ---

Ravi: Inter-faith harmony was a very important theme of the movie with the name of the movie itself being composed of a popular Hindu (Amar), Muslim (Akbar) and Christian (Anthony) name. I recall that there was great excitement when the movie was released (1977). I would have seen it in that year or next year and so I probably would have been in my ninth or tenth standard in school in Bandra (East), Mumbai at that time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie then and still have fond memories of some parts of it. Amitabh Bachhan did a great role as Anthony Gonsalves. Amitabh sings a humorous song in the movie, 'My name is Anthony Gonsalves'. Some weeks ago I heard a Kashmiri shop guy (named Akbar, if I got that right) in Puttaparthi singing it! That's how popular this movie and its songs were and, to some extent, still are.

Now this film has a song on Shirdi Sai Baba sung in the movie by Rishi Kapoor playing the role of Qawwali singer, Akbar Allahabadi (the playback singer is Mohd. Rafi, another great singer of Hindi filmworld who has given me great joy over the years & decades). I think this film's song was the first big exposure that I had to Shirdi Sai Baba. I mean, I would surely have seen photos of Shirdi Sai Baba earlier somewhere as Bombay/Mumbai has many, many Shirdi Sai devotee families (Shirdi is quite close to Mumbai). But then there are so many Hindu, Muslim & Christian icons that one sees in everyday life in Mumbai, that I don't think any Shirdi Sai photo/icon made such an impact on me at that time, for me to remember it today.

This song became quite a hit. Today, as I look back on my childhood and young adult days, I think it is this movie's song that really made me aware of the figure of Shirdi Sai Baba, a (Muslim) fakir and a miracle man. But I don't think I got into Shirdi Sai Baba devotion then. [Years later in the early 90s I first developed faith in Sathya Sai Baba and had his darshan. It was after Sathya Sai Baba's darshan that I went to have Shirdi Sai Baba darshan! My elder brother used to visit Shirdi with his friends in the 80s itself I think (if not the late 70s itself) but at that time I was not too interested to join him. I guess the divine call had not really come to me, at that time.]

However, I enjoyed this song and it was quite a favourite of mine. The song has the mother of Akbar who is singing, fleeing from villains. The mother had lost her eyesight and the song shows the miracle of her eyesight getting restored (besides the smaller incident/miracle of a snake preventing the villains from pursuing the mother into the temple). Note that Akbar does not know that the lady is his mother (as the children got separated from their parents at a young age due to some treachery; many Hindi films have emotionally very complex plots :-) ).

Do enjoy the song if you have not heard it before, or even if you have heard it before. I think later I will try to either find an English translation of the lyrics or provide my own. 5 min 37 secs, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPwS1UOSSM4.

[I thank Wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]


  1. Brother,I was just calculating your age. You are 53 but on your blog your age shown is 49 (which also shows that you have lot of experience)-but it doesn't make a huge difference...you belong to the age group of my Chachu who is still working by God's grace. Good to read this story...Amar Akbar Anthony is quite popular movie. It was popular when we were kids. I remember my school friends singing the songs from movie when we were in 8th grade, that was in 2001...Thank you and Sai Ram :)

  2. From my Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1942967555919812, dated 23rd Jul 2017:
    The GREAT Mohammad Rafi sahab singing the Shirdi Sai Baba song in the blockbuster multi-starrer hit Hindi film of 1977, Amar Akbar Anthony. I was 15 in 1977, living in Bandra (East), Mumbai, and must have seen the film that year or the next year. I guess it was my first significant exposure to Shirdi Sai Baba - through a Hindi masala film and not a devotional movie or book! I did not develop faith in him then though. That took many years more and that took the path of first developing faith in Sathya Sai Baba in the early 1990s and through him developing faith in Shirdi Sai Baba! Note that Shirdi is quite close to Mumbai and is in the same state of Maharashtra.

    Rishi Kapoor plays the role of Akbar the Muslim and Qawwali singer singing the Shirdi Sai Baba song. I think he too does a great job. To my mind, Mohammad Rafi sahab was the BEST singer suited for this song and he sings it with a lot of devotion. Mohammad Rafi sahab was one of the great Hindu-Muslim faith amity figures of my youth as he would sing Hindu as well as Muslim devotional songs. Rafi sahab was a devout Muslim and renowned for his humble and friendly behaviour. I have not heard of tantrums being thrown by Rafi sahab. He was different. And so I think he was the best guy to sing this great song praising Shirdi Sai Baba. I offer my reverential pranams to Rafi sahab for all the great emotional highs of various shades and types of joy, laughter, and yes sorrow too, that listening to his songs have given me over the years. And as I have became crazy about the Sai Babas, both Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba, I think this is the song I now cherish the most of Mohd. Rafi sahab. May Allah shower His Grace on the soul of (Late) Rafi Sahab, and may Allah shower Grace on his family.

    5 min. 37 secs