Shahrukh Khan has been waiting for this showdown his whole life. Ever since his metamorphosis from the Delhi dude with a cute dimple into "King" Khan, he has been often likened to, and not infrequently compared with, Amitabh Bachchan, and it has always been unfair. These are two different actors doing entirely different roles, after all, they would say.
On the other hand, Khan has been trying to walk the talk for a long time now. He has unknowingly ventured into Bachchan territory with a lot of his non-Rahul performances, and all that preparation has come to a head with this week's release of Don, where he takes a shot at the immortality of the Mujhe Pehchaano
Comparisons will be justifiably, and heatedly, be made all across coffee shops and Internet forums, but no one can take away what Khan has pulled off in this film – this is the first time in many, many years that I have seen him have so much fun.
His glee at playing a role that was immortalized by someone he admittedly idolizes is apparent in his winning portrayal, and the perfect balance of cockiness and awe that he infuses into his performance. The Maurya Re
song, essentially this film's Bambai Nagariya
moment, has Khan dancing away with unconcealed delight and high-spirited chuckles, and serves as the prime example of the fun he is having throughout. He may have done KANK
for his friend, and Hum Hai Lajawaab for his son, but this is totally for himself.
That is not to say that his portrayal as Don is entirely self-indulgent. Quite opposite, in fact, as his performance always tries to balance the awe he has of the 1978 film, and the self-assuredness that comes with being Don. He mouths totemic dialogs like "Mujhe uske jootey pasand nahin they
" after killing an informer, and then goes ahead and does something completely Shahrukh.
Indeed, and that is what the first half usually consists of, making the assumption that everyone must have seen the original, and cruising along the linearly strung together sequences from the original, with the brilliance of SRK's portrayal and some deftly-handled action scenes dotting the narrative landscape.
Although the first half leaves room for exposition for people who don't remember the original, there is a certain earnestness in the way the plot is dexterously laid out with sophisticated visuals, plush guns and shiny gadgets, that I wasn't complaining. Instead, I found myself wishing I could whistle in certain moments.
It's the second half that brings with itself the heaviest baggage of all – that of the maverick director trying to surprise the audience with twist after twist. The original Don was a strongly penned film that took pride in the lean, un-melodramatic way it told its story, with rocking music and a straightforward narrative pace that needed no cheap twists to keep itself going.
Farhan's attempt shows his dry hands in the action genre, with the cops and robbers game becoming inundated with too many plot contrivances, and twists that keep on piling up without paying heed to the loopholes they leave in their wake. Worse still, you can see the plot twists coming, and they leave no impact, emotional or otherwise, on the film. They simply exist to pull the wafer-thin plot – now that Farhan has decided to deviate from the original – to its soggy, strangely bookended climax.
Farhan is an intelligent director – the Maurya Re
song punctuates the completely de-saturated gangster world the film inhabits, and shows off what I love most about India: the fact that progress or high-tech has not taken a toll on its exuberance, its color, and most importantly its unique celebratory fervor. Coming in the wake of Diwali and Eid as this film does, the whole indulgent Mumbai sequence seems intelligently crafted. The fast-cars-cool-gadgets-dangerous-gangsters-sexy-babes world that the film portrays is slick, and despite the gaudy knock off action sequences from Hollywood, feels harmonious.
What lets the film down is the second half of the film with a silly script, and the director's inability to infuse any real charm in the narrative that keeps getting slower and slower till the end. Even the expository flashbacks tend to go on and on, well after the point has been made. There are some odd moments that have a touch of exquisite finish to them, but remain few and far between. The action film is not what is used to be, folks.
Priyanka Chopra is a surprise package out and out. Zeenat Aman was the embodiment of the term movie magic in the original. She was a Bond girl before the Bond girls could kick ass, and matched Bachchan seeti
moment to seeti
moment. Priyanka, then, had her work cut out for her filling in the shoes of Roma. Which she gracefully, and winningly does. Matching Zeenat, she brings her own charm and polished, urbane sensibilities to the role, and proves to be the Don girl that the film required.
Boman Irani, after brilliant performances in the past few months, comes up with a cocksure, yet under-developed performance as DCP De Silva. His part in the mentioned twists and turns require him to be alternatively gritty and ruthless. He just appears plain bored. When his moment does come, you have had to stifle quite a few yawns yourself.
Arjun Rampal is not only given the least plausible role – he is a computer network security geek who is made to do a daring cat-burglary on a well protected safe housing diamonds worth Rs. 50 crores – he is given the only emotional angle in the film's proceedings, at which he falters badly. He is good as a menacing dude with a gun in his hand, but the man can't act. The kid playing Deepu does a better job.
If you love the original, this film will break your heart, after giving you enough promise in the beginning. If you haven't seen the original, the film will make sure it confuses you with its undeveloped characters relying on the memory of the 1978 film to do its job. Not to mention that you really should watch the original.
This is not a good start, with the remake frenzy beginning to take feverish proportions. This is SRK at his most flamboyant and merry yet, and his raw exuberance will carry you through the first half, so a dekko is warranted. Just don't expect this one to be as much of a classic as the original.