Don was never considered a sweeping classic like Deewar. But it significantly represented the masala trend of the swinging 1970s.
Remember how it used to be? When the lead actor wasn't playing just a central character, he was the 'hero'. When the heroine, even the tough ones, would coyly melt into the charms/arms of this hero/anti hero. When the policemen spoke like gentlemen but always arrived late on the scene of crime. When supporting actors were caught in a web of misunderstandings and household burdens. When jacket-sporting villains drank whisky and examined the hero with scowls and heroine with lecherous looks.
So when filmmaker Farhan Akhtar decided to remake Chandra Barot's 1978 Don, what exactly was he trying to establish?
The new Don neither offers masala nor sets any trend. He doesn't recreate a bygone phase or create a new territory. He never stresses on the heroism factor or stay faithful to the story co-written by dad Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan. If he wanted to make his own point, he misses it completely in this retake.
What he does is take a fairly simple but engaging storyline, strangles it mercilessly and leaves you with a shockingly unimaginative adaptation.
Switching the venue from congested Mumbai to glossy Malaysia and casual clothing to Aki Narula's designer wardrobe hardly qualifies as revolution.
Everyone knows how it goes, but for the ignorant, this is what Don is all about. There is an evil Don (Shah Rukh Khan), a kingpin drug trafficker who bumps every Tom, Dick and Ramesh in his path and hangs out with stuffy goons (Pawan Malhotra, Rajesh Khattar) and sizzling beauties (Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Isha Koppikar). Two of these ladies are secretly after Don's blood because of this rather popular Ramesh guy.
There is also the look-alike Vijay (SRK again, duh!) working as a small-time musical artist to make a living. He also takes care of a lost kid Deepu, son of the limping Jasjeet (Arjun Rampal, looking as if he's dropped his contact lenses throughout the film) serving time for a framed case of robbery. The connecting factor between Don and his face double is DCP D'Silva (Boman Irani).
After a couple of disastrous attempts to catch hold of Don, D'Silva finally pins him down and clandestinely replaces him with Vijay. After doing ample Don-giri, Vijay finds himself in a no-win situation. Apparently, D'Silva dies in a car explosion and now the cops and crooks are both after him for being and not being Don. Roma (Chopra) discovers Vijay's true identity and joins him in the struggle to prove his innocence.
The basic blunder Farhan commits is to add con elements in an on-the-run thriller in a manner so bizarre that it makes you scream in condemnation. What a suicidal move!
Also if you are remaking Don, remake Don. Why add pointless twists for the heck of it? There is no way the audience will want to return to figure this one out.
Elements of Kill Bill and Con Air make their tacky presence felt too. And in the scene inspired by Con Air, the set design of a prison flight looks like a Rajdhani chair coach with mini bars thrown in. Also, you just can't miss a straight lift of the legendary mid-air action sequence from the 007 flick, Moonraker. Technically, some sepia-toned car chases have the potential to be interesting if they weren't as exhausting as getting stuck in the traffic of Mumbai.
What can I say about the acting? The inconsistency is so precise. At first, SRK delivers the Don punches with the air of Prithviraj Kapoor in Mughal-E-Azam. Then he decides to go for the loud paan-chewing Uttar Pradesh dweller (This one he does best). Then it's back to the oh-yeah-growl-I-am-Shah-Rukh-Khan routine. Finally, he delivers a vintage Baazigar day SRK with amazing amount of blood splattered on his face. It's rather refreshing to see SRK don (pun unintended) the ketchup after years of squeaky clean roles.
The seriousness with which Priyanka Chopra plays Roma is rather notable. She is a picture of restrained toughness and bubbling seduction.
Isha Koppikar, surprisingly, has no spice to her character. Considering the kind of projection the publicity gave her, in the actual film, she is relegated to the post of smiling stunner. Boman Irani stands conspicuously subdued and underplayed. It's quite a relief to see him so calm.
Kareena Kapoor's much-awaited portrayal of Helen's groovy number, Yeh mera dil is hot but not blazing. Bebo looks super sexy in gold but the hyper dance movements don't do her any justice.
It's seriously not funny how none of the characters have any background or arrangement in the new script. They aimlessly show up, show off their guns, mouth some threats, dance in jazzy discotheques and confuse each other and the viewer. The film operates like a moody person that takes off on whim and dawdles in long pauses.
Ironically, for a project that had everyone's curious side up, quite early into the film you realise it doesn't take much to lose interest in this Don Donny Donadhan whatever!