Remembering Anthony Gonsalves- Naresh Fernandes on the ‘original’ Anthony




MIDWAY through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated at birth, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves.’

The significance of the announcement was lost under the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s sartorial exuberance. But decades later, the memory of that moment still sends shivers down the spines of scores of ageing men scattered across Bombay and Goa. By invoking the name of his violin teacher in that tune in Amar Akbar Anthony, the composer Pyarelal had finally validated the lives of scores of Goan Catholic musicians whose working years had been illuminated by the flicker of images dancing across white screens in airless sound studios, even as acknowledgement of their talent whizzed by in the flash of small-type credit titles.

The arc of their stories – determined by the intersection of passion and pragmatism, of empire and exigency – originated in church-run schools in Portuguese Goa and darted through royal courts in Rajasthan, jazz clubs in Calcutta and army cantonments in Muree. Those lines eventually converged on Bombay’s film studios, where the Goan Catholic arrangers worked with Hindu music composers and Muslim lyricists in an era of intense creativity that would soon come to be recognised as the golden age of Hindi film song.

The Nehruvian dream could not have found a more appropriate harmonic expression.

A few months back, a friend called to tell me about a new character he’d discovered in a story published by Delhi-based Raj Comics: Anthony Gonsalves. On the page (and accessible only if you read Hindi), Anthony Gonsalves is part of the great Undead, the tribe doomed to live between the worlds. It wasn’t always like this. In his prime, Anthony Gonsalves was a mild-mannered guitar player who had devised a magical new sound known as ‘crownmusic’. But his jealous rivals tortured him to death so that they could steal his work. Now, the magnificently muscled superhero emerges from the grave each night to prevent the desperate from committing suicide and to rid the world of evil, informed of imminent misfortune by his pet crow….


4 comments on “Remembering Anthony Gonsalves- Naresh Fernandes on the ‘original’ Anthony

    • Glad that you liked it. I was actually reading Fernandes’ ‘Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Night’ last night and this entire passage came across. So I did a search for this bit on the net and there it was. And btw if you noticed in the above extract there is a mention of the comic character Anthony- but what the author does not mention and what only I can tell you abt is this. The first comic edition of that character has a scene where a crow is singing these lines-

      “Kaav-Kaav hai shor machata, kisike man ko nahi hai bhata, jiske ghar mai baith ke bole, uske ghar mein maut bulata”- seems to have come straight out of those Ramsay flicks right. Pardon me for indulgence but only i can enlighten you with such pearls of wisdom 🙂

    • You might find these 2 comments from SS abt the ‘original’ Anthony Gonsaalves’ very interesting-

      bachchan1 to 10 Says:
      June 7, 2012 at 2:03 PM

      NP Om anytime brother. Yeah I enjoyed this as well. Also, There is a part where Desai mentions about a guy in his neigbourhood speaking like Anthony. I actually vouch for that, because my father knew both of them. Dasai and Satto (the guy Anthony was modelled on). We used to have a restaurant in Kethvadi area where Desai lived and grew up, My grandpa actually saw him since he was a kid. Back to the story. The Satto guy was a local hoodlum guy, Guy with heart of gold (he actually dressed like that character of Johny Lever in Narsimha). White shirt, White Pants and White shoes and behaved somewhat like Anthony and Johnny’s character. (More of a body language of Johnnys character – Like fixing his inner wear by bending down..a la sachin when batting). So, satto used to run a matka house in and around kethwadi, my father tells me he was a very good looking guy. Had many gf’s, but at a very young age he died by falling off from a train around VT or something (dad cant recall that). That’s all i know about that, I remember my dad telling me, Desai often ordered chai from out Tea house restaurant. Dont want to give out my fathers name here but he is the one who gave my father his nick name. PK bhai, He loved the Khari biscuits and chai, that was his BF lunch and dinner, he hardly ate like full meal always munching on Khari and biscuits. We left india few years before desai committed suicide. Dad was really sad to hear that news. Will tell you guys other stories from desai from time to time. Too many my dad have mentioned to me. This is just one of them. I have personally met him only a few times. But i was realy very little to remember any of it. we closed out our hotel from that area before i grew up, so didn’t really get a chance to meet him when i was older.

      bachchan1 to 10 Says:
      June 7, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      One more thing to add, Many people dont believe me when I tell em this. But the kid that was in Aa Gale Lag Jaa was to be played by my brother (older than me). He was a really good looking kid and desai was on ahunt and one of the days he was sitting at our hotel and my mother went to our restaurant with my bro (I was not born yet). Desai like my brother instantly but fate would have it another way and my brother got chicken pox so he couldnt be in the movie. Desaid even paid my father some 5000 rupees, which my father tried to return but desai being desai told my father in his exact words “Ha khaber che bau paisa valo thai gayo che tu, beeche 2 dukan kholi ne tu mane paisa paisa ne hoshiyari dekhade che” tranlation – Yeah yeah i see that you have become rich now that you own 2 more restaurants you want to show of your money to me and return it’ he said it was a gift to my brother and to keep the money..Believe it if you will. Like i said, Late 80s we migrated to US and dad lost touch with him and few years later he died.

      bachchan1 to 10 Says:
      June 7, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Satyam Sir, he mentions it here in the docu as well for the Anthony character. That guy satto was really loved by one and all from the kethvadi area. They had a office and home in kethvadi (the desais). Desai’s father was my grandpa’s acquintance. He actually helped my grandpa get all the paper work etc done to get the hotel. Then they lost touch, we didn’t live in kethvadi but when my father got older and helped my grandpa out, he kind of became friends with desai. He was like one of the coworker friends types for my father. He would hardly mention his work stuff at home, so we didn’t knwo much then, Only now in the past few years dad has been coming out with all these stories. But, yeah mother does tell me that yeah dad used to come home late during Diwali time cause of desai, cause desai loved playing cards with money during diwali and all the “dhanda wala” or store owners or “pedhi” owners who were in the same age group in that area, woudl get together and play cards with money till late night. My father tells me that whatever money desai won he would distribute that to the local “bhikari’s” in that area by adding the same amount from his pocket and doubling up the money for them. Sometimes, he even used to bring them to my fathers restaurant and feed them (diwali or no diwali). At times, if our business was good, my father would refuse to take money from desai but then again desai would be to my father “Arre yaar, manne to thodu punya karva de, film industry ma keva keva logon sathe maline, aapdo aatma kharaab thai jaye, manne pann upar jawab aapvano che” Translation – Buddy let me get some benefit too out of the good deeds (punya -cant recall an english word for it). working in the film industry we meet such corrupt peope that our souls too get corrupted, I too have to face god some day” . Dude, Sorry man I am kind of getting emotional like my father. need to stop. My father still gets teary eyed when he sees his movie on tv or we talk about him. Sorry if I touched a little too sensitive a subject here. Will share after asking my dad some more stuff, He told me many jsut dont recall them now.

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