(Caution: Loooong post. Plus potential spoilers ahead.)
Once upon a time, long long ago, when childhood was all about scraped knees and snot-covered handkerchiefs pinned to your chest, TV meant Doordarshan and a choice in what you watched was between On and Off .. in such difficult days of yore, there existed a loser, paradoxically named Jeet. Jeet Upendra. He had no talent to boast of except his pelvic thrusts, which were rumored to defy gravity. But this is not his story. (Although for those of you who are really interested, he went on to marry blink-and-you’ll-think-I’m-Parveen Babi starlet Deepshikha. And then got dumped by her. And got back together. And got dumped again. Must be fun being him, no?)
Around the same time, a fine gentleman named Hasan born to a Mr Jehangir across the border, became a singing sensation. He had bad hair and many years later became Altaf Raja’s singing idol. But this is not about him either.
Kipling said in The Ballad of East and West, not knowing that he’d be quoted in this unfortunate context —
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at Godâ€™s great Judgment Seat;
And one fateful Wednesday evening, that did happen. Jeet Upendra and his band of sideys burst onto screen shaking their booties while Hasan Jehangir’s hawa hawa ae hawa khushboo lutaa de bellowed in the background. And an entire generation of innocent Chitrahaar-watching children discovered Don 2. And were left with a Voldemort-sized scar on their childhood. But this is not their story either.
Then what is the darn post about, you ask? It is about the two Dons on both sides of Don 2. Yes, this is somewhat of a teetar ke do aage teetar, teetar ke do peeche teetar, aage teetar, peeche teetar, bolo kitne teetar scenario, but without an annoying Raj Kapoor. (I’ll get on a trip some other day about why I hate that slimy-looking lafanga who pretends to act all bhola-bhala. Oh, I guess I just did.)
So, as I was saying, the Farhan Akhtar remake of Don (1978), aka Don – The Chase Begins Again (2006), has finally been seen, and seeing as I have an opinion about everything, I have one on this too and I’m naturally going to share it with you. Oh and just FYI, in the rest of this post, the original Don is referred to as the original Don and the new Don will cleverly be called the new Don, to save everyone from further confusion and to show-off my keen teetar-referencing skills.
Now, since no review of Don is complete without throwing in the statutory — ‘I usually have my apprehensions about remakes, but I still decided to give Don a chance, because ..’ bit, let’s start with that. I usually have my apprehensions about remakes, but I (a) like what Farhan Akhtar has done so far (b) love the original Don (c) am a sucker for style and coolness (d) thought the music of the new Don captures the spirit of the original nicely, especially the signature toooooooo-teee-tooo-tooo-teee-tooo-tee-doo-dooo bit from the original’s background score.
When you attempt to remake a movie that almost everyone is fond of, you have a high likelihood of being looked at as ‘messing with a good thing’ and a low chance of being given credit for your efforts. To make things more difficult, this is the movie that starred Amitabh in his first ever ‘In and As’ role. And worst of all, most people know the story, even the folks who haven’t seen the original. The twists and plot points are all familiar. Given this, the odds of getting it wrong are fairly high.
But Farhan is smart. He knows he doesn’t have an Amitabh. So he makes sure he takes the most bankable actor around — Shahrukh. He adds generous gobs of thrills and chills, villains that make being bad look good, cool cars, stunning locales, more hunk value (A younger Arjun Rampal in place of the older, grouchier Pran), double the babe value (Priyanka is back to looking deliciously sultry, so much better than she did in Krrish) And finally, he smartly modifies the characterizations (giving Boman Irani a chance that Iftikhar never had) resulting in two very important twists — one around the intermission and one at the end. (Both of which I figured out pre-intermission, so major preen moment for me.)
And does it work? Yes it does, it surely does. The new Don is slick, fast and snazzy-looking, and entertains you for its two-and-a-half-hours. Sure, it has its weaknesses, but there’s never a dull moment, never a point when you check the time. (As someone who has suffered KANK, the not-looking-at-your-watch qualification is an important one.) Now one could say, that the pace of the script works because the original Don is in the back of your head, providing the needed cohesion. But it is to Farhan’s credit that he used that fact to his advantage rather than disadvantage.
Now, for some minor whines (no really, don’t be fooled by the length), since no review is complete without them.
- I promised myself that I would not compare King Khan to the Big B. It is unfair, especially since SRK wasn’t attempting to be an Amitabh, in the first place. But I cannot resist — Amitabh’s Don had an aloofness, a certain coldness about him. An example — when Amitabh says to Helen (right before ye mera dil yaar ka deewana) — mujhe romantic baatein bore kartii hain, the disinterested look he gives her, conveys the I-have-no-use-for-women-except-for-sex sentiment, effectively. That same line on SRK sounds like a pompous dialogue and nothing else. I almost expect him to go — eyyy KKKamini .. the next instant. Perhaps his romantic image works against him. Or is it the metrosexual one? Either way, it just doesn’t click. Or perhaps, given that Shahrukh’s Don is different from the original (he’s more maniacal than Amitabh’s chilling Don, I think), those dialogues shouldn’t have been re-used.
- I wish Farhan had left the ye meraa dil yaar ka deewaanaa remix on the soundtrack, without including it on screen, and instead did a new version, like with the main hoon Don number. (Which has some spirited singing by Shaan, and has the recurring fundoo Don theme music.) And while on the music of Don, I love the very 80s-ish aaj kii raat, which was dissed for being very Bappi-like. (Since when has that been a bad thing, people?) I also like its picturization, with the continuous-shot sequences, while the singing lines alternate between Isha and Priyanka.
- Having included the remixed song, casting Kareena Kapoor as Kamini was a mistake, and her choreography, an even bigger one. She lacks the sensuality and grace of Helen in the original and turned a classic into something generic that the audience is likely to fast forward during home-viewing.
- In the original Don, there’s this not-very-remembered scene when Amitabh prior to beating up Shetty, politely tells him — maaf karna bhai taklu, main jaantaa hoon ki shaam ko tum kisii se milnaa pasand nahiin karte ho, lekin main tumhaare sirf das minute lene aayaa hoon. Pehle paanch minute main tumhaari pitaayi karoonga, aur doosre paanch minute, tum mere sawaalon kaa jawaab doge. In the middle of action, this scene brings the chuckles. In the new Don the comedy just doesn’t feel right. The Chacha Chaudhary ka dimaag computer se bhi tez moment, the scenes before khaike paan banaraswaala and other such gags barely make you smile. Jokes that should have worked, simply don’t.
- SRK is not good at double roles. Duplicate is the only other time he’s tried it and that was pretty bad as well. Here too, the difference between Vijay and Don is hardly discernable. Beyond the clothes and the token paan, they are the same person, same mannerisms, same brow-furrowing and all.
- I understand that a movie shot in Malaysia, has to have at least one key scene filmed on the connecting skybridge of the Petronas Towers. Admittedly it is a cool-looking structure and I am not complaining about how many scenes it appears as a backdrop in. But how can someone walk across a precarious thing like that without stumbling and falling at least once? I mean c’mon people, I paid good money for my thrills! and I want my moment where Arjun Rampal dangles precariously, while a scared kid goes ‘Day-deeee!’ and screeches to glory. And I was denied my happiness. Bah.
And now, to wrap up this neverending post, some general observations and lessons in film-making, that one has gleaned from the movie —
- Whenever a Russian character is mentioned in a Hindi movie, his name is Boris.
- Nothing denotes a scene shift to India like a bullock cart. Some other movies indicate that a grubby street kid can also work well for the same purpose.
- Reversing the order of characters in unencrypted passwords is what ‘computer experts’ get paid big bucks for. IT professionals across the world should rejoice at this pat on their back.
- Chunkey Pandey has remarkably enough, managed to retain his stupidity from his mera dil totaa ban jaaye, kaise mitthhu mitthhu bole haaye days. As the bard would have said, if he’d been alive — Chunkey is not Chunkey which alters when it alteration finds.
So, bottomline — the new Don is slick, fun, timepass and cool. But the new Don cannot exist without the original. Which, being an acknowledged tribute, makes sense. I guess a truly balanced review of this movie would have to come from someone, who has never seen or heard of the original Don. Heh heh. Aise aadmi ko pakadna .. yes, say it with me folks .. mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai!
(Yes peoples, we are alive and kicking on the blog once again. One shall stop being a lazy bum and start responding to comments. Random disappearances shall also (heh, hopefully) not happen. Apologies and all. And hope the length of this post makes up for our recent absence.)