Amar Akbar Anthony was a Bollywood blockbuster when it was released in 1977 and has become a classic of Hindi cinema and a touchstone of Indian popular culture. Delighting audiences with its songs and madcap adventures, the film follows the heroics of three Bombay brothers separated in childhood from their parents and one another. Beyond the freewheeling comedy and camp, however, is a potent vision of social harmony, as the three protagonists, each raised in a different religion, discover they are true brothers in the end.
The film screening was followed by a panel discussion with the authors of Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation: William Elison (Religious Studies, UCSB), Christian Lee Novetzke (International Studies, University of Washington) and Andy Rotman (Religion, Smith College). In their co-authored book they offer a sympathetic and layered interpretation of the film’s deeper symbolism, seeing it as a lens for understanding modern India’s experience with secular democracy.
William Elison (Religious Studies, UCSB)
William Elison is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His publications include Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation (2016) and The Neighborhood of Gods: The Sacred and the Visible at the Margins of Mumbai (2018).
Christian Lee Novetzke (International Studies, University of Washington)
Christian Lee Novetzke is Professor of International Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. His publications include Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India (2008), Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation (2016), and The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India (2016).
Andy Rotman (Religion, Smith College)
Andy Rotman is Professor of Religion at Smith College. His publications include Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, Part 1 (2008) and Part 2 (2017); Thus Have I Seen: Visualizing Faith in Early Indian Buddhism (2009); and Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation (2016).
This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center, the IHC South Asian Religions & Cultures Research Focus Group, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Department of Film & Media Studies. Presented in collaboration with Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd.
Media are global by nature; they express culture just as much as they transcend borders. The CWC Global series is dedicated to showcasing media from around the world. This series features screenings and events that place UCSB in conversation with international media makers and global contexts across our deeply connected world.