I went to see Don with in-built prejudice. I was convinced that (director) Farhan Akhtar was making a mistake attempting the remake of a classic. How do you make a great film's remake even better? At best, you could improve on it minutely, and then, let's face it, who'd notice ? At worst, you could crash and burn -- and the whole world would know.
And while I can't say that Akhtar has achieved the impossible, I must say that he's tried. The film starts off slow. The first half follows in the original's footsteps, with Shah Rukh Khan attempting an emulation of Amitabh Bachchan's Don, and the film seemingly content to wallow in pre-delivered and well-remembered punch-lines. And while the movie pre-interval clearly smacks of adulation for the original, in the second half, Akhtar comes into his own, putting a new, cerebral spin on an old tale.
You may remember the story scene for scene. Still, here's the gist: Don -- dashing kingpin of the underworld -- wreaks havoc, and has DCP D'Silva hot on his trail. Don dies unexpectedly. Enter Vijay -- a Don look-alike, a bumpkin, tutored by D'Silva to infiltrate Don's gang by impersonating him. That done, D'Silva dies. Don, aka Vijay, is now pursued by police who think him Don, and gang members who now know he's not.
There are two ways to look at this film -- one by making the obvious comparison, and the second to judge it a a stand alone. The first way, Don 2006 may come out the loser because Shah Rukh is Shah Rukh, and while I do like the guy, he is no Amitabh. It makes you realise just how much Bachhan was responsible for the original's magic. Also, the 1978 Don was a tight, simple script held together by cinematic muscle. The new film, while stylised and 'brainier', and presenting to us a new improved, cutting edge Don forgets to imbue him with anything more substantial than a frivolous personality and zany neck-ties.
But I find much to applaud when I look at Don 2006 as a stand alone. The film has style. It takes a while to get the pace up, but when it does, it diverges from the known rut, to travel a slightly different path. The characters in the film, although bearing the same names as the original, are a newer, cooler, funkier set. They jetset around the world, displaying their snazzy outfits and trendy Moto Razors. The film has a modern feel to it, and the characters translate accordingly.
Actors like Priyanka Chopra (looking gorgeous and very Zeenat-esque with those signature neck-scarves) and Arjun Rampal do better than expected. The music borrows from the original songs but the newer interpretations are picturised well. The fight sequences are done beautifully. It's not the usual dhishum-dhishum anymore; these are well-crafted, sinuous, lethal-looking moves, enacted by fighting-fit actors.
As expected, there are problems also. To me, the film did not flow as engrossing films should. Acting wise, SRK's stylised rendition of the Don didn't feel like The Real Thing. Also, Shah Rukh as a country bumpkin was hard to swallow since he exudes urban yuppie-ness from every pore. I thought Isha Koppikar as Anita looked rather faded, and Kareena Kapoor as Kamini appeared much too naive.
I did notice that the cast at times reverted to vintage, 1970's clothing. The women display ample cleavage and leg, and look good doing it. Still, what's with SRK's neckties? Ties worn under the shirt do not make you look cool; they make you look like you have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).
My reaction to the film, thus, is mixed. It is clear that Akhtar, like the rest of us, suffers from a huge Don hangover. However, he does manage to breathe some of his own magic into it; original, new-fangled shards of brilliance which translate into unexpected twists in a worn story. The film is definitely worth a dekho; just don't go in expecting too much. You might not get it.
Amodini is based in Houston, Texas, USA, and works as a programmer. Married with two children, she is an avid movie-watcher.