Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Arjun Rampal, Om Puri, Kareena Kapoor
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Storyline: A simpleton who resembles a drug don is sent to infiltrate the group after a police officer nabs the dreaded criminal.
Bottomline: A fine shocking tribute
“All characters in this film are ridiculous. Any resemblance to the original is purely co-incidental and unintentional.”
That’s what you think after watching the new Don the first time.
But for a fair assessment, Farhan Akhtar’s reworking of the classic, deserves another watch. Exactly for the same reasons why you had to watch Sixth Sense the second time. You watch it again to see if the revelation in the end really made sense: To see if someone else apart from the boy actually interacts with the ghost in the film.
At the surface, Don appears to be extremely flawed, and more, once the suspense unfolds in the end.
That’s because Farhan Akhtar has made huge changes to the plot, bordering on blasphemy.
When Ramayana was rewritten, the subsequent authors stuck largely to the original. Now, imagine if one of them had introduced a big twist to the tale. Like, revealing at the end of the war with Ravana, that the abduction of Sita was masterminded by Ram himself. Blasphemy, right? And it’s not just about the politics of good and bad, you wonder why the war happened in the first place? It’s flawed you think. But what if he had dropped hints all along the film? Things you hadn’t noticed or discarded as insignificant.
‘Don’ shocks you to those levels, having at least two twists of that magnitude.
But then, full points to Farhan for trying.
How else are you supposed to remake a suspense thriller that almost everyone has seen? Right from scene one, you know who the bad guy is. So how is it a thriller when you remake it?
For that reason alone, it is only fair that Farhan got the liberty to toy around with the characters and deviate from the original setting.
The new Don works in a different context. He has a boss, he has internal politics to deal with, he has cops behind him, he has his professional adversaries and he has those waiting to avenge the death of their loved ones. The old Don had a bunch of loyal men at least and no boss to report to.
The new DCP De Silva (Boman Irani) is not the honest cop prototype. He’s much more complex, dark and carries a secret or two.
So when DCP plants Vijay as Don back into his gang, there’s more than one conspiracy in the making.
The first half of the film stays close to the original, with the new Don getting a few more smart one-liners that stay faithful to the spirit of the Chandra Barot film. It is the second half where Farhan strays far away from the original and brings in his own Hollywood-inspired twists and stunt sequences, to probably cater to a generation that’s grown up on a staple of John Woo and Jerry Bruckheimer films.
The new Don is more Ethan Hunt (from the Mission Impossible franchise) than James Bond.
The old Don made his women work hard for his attention (Helen as Kamini trying to seduce Amitabh in ‘Yeh Mera Dil’) and the new one is only eager to seduce them (look at SRK and Kareena as Kamini). The old Don was invincible (It was not the cops who found Don, it was Don who had the DCP with a gun to his head before his death), the new one is vulnerable (here, the DCP has him with a gun to his head).
A film like Don requires able shoulders of the leading star to carry it through. Shah Rukh Khan delivers Don with much style and Vijay with the required simplicity, having a field day with all the new smart lines, sparkling with screen presence with his star badge shining all through the film. There are a lot of variations needed for the roles he plays in the new Don: the dreaded Don, the simpleton Vijay, the simpleton Vijay as Don and as the man in trouble in the end.
Towards the second half, the job becomes increasingly complex for Vijay as Don himself has a few secrets to hide. So what appears as an inconsistent performance is justified after the major revelation in the end. Which is why Don merits a second watch.
You blink and you miss something that might be significant later.
The problem with the new Don is exactly that. It is too sophisticated for the common man and too complex for the layman’s understanding of good and bad. The urban sensibility, sprinkling of English one-liners, the underplayed drama and sync-sound don’t seem to match the mood of the original but Farhan tries to balance that out by sticking to the modern-day equivalents of the old-school settings. Also, by trying to use as many scenes as possible that refer to the original, Farhan appears to have come up with a contrived screenplay. But on closer examination, you realise that his characters were never the same as the ones in the original and hence comparisons with the original are rendered irrelevant.
The film does have at least a couple of huge plot-holes but so did the original. Let’s not forget the cheesy tightrope walk escape staged by Pran as Jasjit, the corny premise of a red diary (which could be photocopied) having all contact numbers of gang members being the most wanted commodity and the possibility of a bad guy walking around as an Interpol officer.
The tribute retains equivalents of all these: a really lame escape atop the Petronas tower with the limping Jasjit carrying a perfectly healthy kid on a roof which has the width of a corridor, a disc (the data from which can be put up even on the internet) containing bank account details and passwords of all gang members and a druglord who’s infiltrated the police department to become one of its top most officers.
Priyanka Chopra surprisingly makes for a pretty decent Roma with her restrained performance, Boman Irani brings alive all the shades his character is burdened with and Arjun Rampal as Jasjit fits into Pran’s shoes quite comfortably underplaying the role to match the Farhan Akhtar sensibility.
It’s easy to criticise Farhan saying that masala is not his cup of chai but shouldn’t a tribute be paid by who YOU really are than by trying to be someone else?
It’s only when Farhan tries to be who he is not, that he fails. Like, the ‘Khaike Paan Banaraswala’ song tribute. It shocks you to see a fun song turn into a soulless remix. The choreography is typical Saroj Khan (a little too effeminate for SRK) and the dancers behind him, clearly dance master associates, coming up with perfectly co-ordinated stage show performance.
Music directors Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy rock their original compositions and cinematographer Mohanan ensures that the film is gorgeously shot.
The ‘Main Hoon Don’ song represents everything that the new Don is about. Slick, stylish, urban, metrosexual to the point of being effeminate, funny and contemporary. Now THAT is the Farhan Akhtar cinema we know.