To coincide with the biennial symposium of the American Council for Southern Asian Art at Harvard’s South Asia Institute, the Harvard Art Museums are screening two landmark Bollywood films, Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Chak De! India (2007). The screening is timed also with the centennial of when Ananda K. Coomaraswamy became the first curator of Indian art in North America (at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), an appointment that set in motion the collecting and study of South Asian art at Harvard. Today, the Harvard Art Museums hold a world-renowned collection of Rajput and Mughal paintings from South Asia, a selection of which is currently on view in the installation “Women in South Asian Art.”
Presented by: Harvard Art Museums
Admission: Free admission. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway.
Museum Hours: Open daily 10am–5pm
About today’s films
Chak de! India (2007)
153 min., color; Hindi
Directed by Shimit Amin and Rob Miller
In 2002, India’s women’s hockey team took Gold at the Commonwealth Games. Taking its inspiration from that event, Chak de! India, the third-highest-grossing Indian film of 2007, tells the fictional story of the women’s hockey team’s attempt at the World Cup. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan departs from his usual role as the romantic lead to play the team’s coach. The team consists of 16 women, each hailing from a different Indian state. The film follows the tensions that result from this intercultural mix, as well as the harassment and discrimination that the women regularly face. Such frank address of intercultural and religious conflicts and anti-women sentiment perhaps marks this film as unusual within the Bollywood canon—but the popularity of its songs (the song “Chak de! India” has since become an unofficial sports anthem in the country) and its triumphal story locate it squarely within India’s mainstream cinema.
Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
183 min., color; Hindi
Directed by Manmohan Desai
The biggest hit of 1977 in India, Amar Akbar Anthony is a beloved entry in Bollywood’s history. Director Manmohan Desai was responsible for a string of massive Bollywood blockbusters stretching from the 1970s through the ’80s—hits that would eventually help cement Amitabh Bachchan’s status as the best-known actor in the history of Bollywood. In Amar Akbar Anthony, Bachchan stars as Anthony Gonsalves, one of three brothers separated at a young age and raised by parents of India’s three main religions. As the plot follows the brothers who unwittingly reunite as adults to defeat a common foe, Amar Akbar Anthony works on one level as an allegory for a secular India, showing individuals of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian backgrounds working together as a unit. On another level, though, this film is pure fun. An early example of the “masala” film, in which genres like action, comedy, and romance are combined, the film hones Desai’s hit-making formula to a fine point. Bachchan’s Anthony and his one-liners quickly entered the popular consciousness, as did the film’s soundtrack. In the decade after its release, the film would be remade in the Tamil, Teluga, and Malayam languages. The fact that it was remade again last year testifies to its enduring fame.
This screening is offered in conjunction with the installation “Women in South Asian Art,” on view in the University Teaching Gallery at the Harvard Art Museums through January 7, 2018. This installation complements Professor Jinah Kim’s undergraduate course in Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture.