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Film Review - Don

Simran Thadani

Movie Review
Simran Thadani


Dir: Farhan Akhtar
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan (times 2!), Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Arjun Rampal, Kareena Kapoor
Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy

By now, anyone who wanted to watch Don during the initial frenzy of a new SRK release has done so. Now it remains to be seen whether this “new” version – replete with Kuala Lumpur cliffhangers, classy cell phones, metrosexual shirt-with-tie-tucked-in wardrobe innovations, and disco-dancing divas – will live on in the minds of the viewers just as the “old” version (Chandra Barot’s 1978 Amitabh Bachchan cult classic) has done.

My guess – and I have not even seen the original – is that it will not.

Certainly Don has all the makings of a masala potboiler, the kind 2006 audiences have come to expect. Who needs more than one “making”, one might ask? Shah Rukh Khan can, as we all know, carry a film on his own. As the smooth-talking, fast-on-his-feet, jetsetting drug peddler and title character of the film, he looms large on the screen right from the first few shots. (Cue thousands of girls and women swooning at the sight of the famous eyebrows, here). A bonus for the swooners is that Mr. Khan has a double role in the film: the second avatar is that of Vijay, a typical Bombay dweller, a street-smart, sandal-wearing singer/dancer with a heart of gold.  

But that’s not all. Priyanka Chopra, introduced in a slick martial arts workout scene, looks appropriately attractive and annoyed at all the right times as Roma, the vengeful sister of one of Don’s former (now dead) henchmen. (Ditto: cue several thousand drooling men here). Boman Irani, who, it seems, is now a staple requirement in every hit Bollywood film, is eloquent, expressive and quick on his feet as DeSilva, the police officer; he is an arresting presence on the screen right up to the explosive moment of his death, midway through the movie.

Even beyond the star cast, one would think Don has all the elements of a hit lined right up. The reprised classic hits, “Yeh Mera Dil” and “Khaike Paan Banaraswala”; the spectacularly picturized “Morya Re”; the lavish sets… Even the opening credits (cue flashbacks to the Matrix and other top-class international thrillers here) are fast and furious, prepping you for the breakneck pace at which the complicated storyline unravels.

And thus Don has rightly attracted some amount of attention in the last few months. With all the “dhoom-dhaam”, who even needs a plot?! (OK, perhaps you do. Here it is: Don is the acting head of one branch of a drug syndicate; the unseen Vardhaan is the other. The police have been trying without success to catch Don for years now, and finally come upon the brilliant idea of using a double – with a convenient bout of “amnesia” – to infiltrate the evil camp and nail the heads of the drug ring. Here the mixups begin, and a couple of hours later, when the film ends, the viewer’s head is positively reeling from all the plot twists.)

But sadly, it’s not enough. There are a few too many plot twists; the original film was not as long, and director Farhan Akhtar has gone a bit too far in building on the old premise. In every element of the film, something is either missing – or messed up. Poor Kareena Kapoor’s character, Kamini, is a microcosm for what goes wrong in Don. Her character appears, pouts, tries to nab Don (lekin… lekin… “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, naamumkin hai!”), and meets a grisly end early on in the film, courtesy an empty gun and an automatic elevator. Kareena plays her part well enough, but she doesn’t measure up to the vamp of yesteryear. And even if one abstains from comparisons, she’s just… not right.

And if in Kareena’s case it is probably the awkward choreography or the gold dress (or the fact that she’s pretty unidimensional in all the rush about getting it all right and adding a cherry on top), in the rest too something is off. Shah Rukh Khan’s bevy of extras is unintelligible in the chorus of the title song. Ishaa Koppikar, who does matter to the film, really has nothing to do except sit around and look pretty. Boman Irani is overexposed, Shah Rukh’s Vijay too well-spoken for his type, and since when does muscled, long-haired Arjun Rampal play innocent tech-support office worker characterss?

Then there is the completely absurd chase through the streets of Kuala Lumpur in the second half, when Don and Roma randomly chance upon an all-desi party somewhere in the back alleys… But I’ll leave you all to form your own opinions about that. Because no matter what, you will watch Don. I’d bet money that it won’t be canonized anytime soon – Shah Rukh is better off playing Raj’s and Rahul’s than blood-spattered villains – but you know you want to go check it out, if just for the rollercoaster ride.

Simran Thadani, 23, hails from Bombay, India. She graduated from Wellesley College in 2005, and is a budding but evidently indecisive journalist/academic/librarian.

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