Director: Atul Malhotra
Cast: Rez Kempton, Sam Vincenti, Martin Delaney
Watch Amar, Akbar & Tony online in the UK: Netflix UK / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Inspired by 1977’s Amar Akbar Anthony, Amar, Akbar & Tony takes the masala genre into the 21st century with an update that lands somewhere between East Is East and The Inbetweeners. The film follows three boys who have grown up together in London’s Hounslow: Amar (Kempton), whose dad opened a local Indian restaurant, wide-boy Akbar (Vincenti) and the kind-hearted Tony (Delaney). We meet them as Tony finds himself falling for the unobtainable Nita (Manrina Rekhi), a quest of love in which he’s given advice from his mates, who joke about having followed her to deduce her daily routine.
Later, the scheming Akbar, who works as an estate agent, starts hitting on a client, proudly declaring that “persistence overcomes resistance”. It’s an uncomfortable motto that could easily encourage dangerous behaviour – even as his date rebuffs him with a retort about stalkers, the story worryingly rewards this most male of attitudes. But if that laddish culture marks a step back for this indie effort, it’s also a bizarre step forward for South Asian-infused cinema in the UK: such films have traditionally focused on issues of integration and tolerance surrounding immigration, but Amar, Akbar & Tony’s blend of Bollywood past and the blokey humour of the present sees writer-director Atul Malhotra taking these stock types out of that box and commendably moving them into other genres. The taste left in the mouth may not always be pleasant for those outside of its young target audience – “No spray, no lay”, declares one character on a night out – but it’s at least a change in recipe.
Indeed, that multi-cultural mixing extends throughout the script: of our main trio, one’s a Sikh, one’s a Muslim and the other’s an Irish Catholic, a fact that’s part of their identities, but isn’t the sole extent of the narrative. A subplot involving a closet homosexual is similarly welcome, and the cast are all likeable. A couple of cameos from Nina Wadia and Meera Syal, meanwhile, bring the biggest laughs and stop the pace from flagging. The result is a well-intentioned call for tolerance within the London community, even if it requires some tolerance from those watching too.
Amar, Akbar & Tony is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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