Remaking a yesteryear hit can be an arduous task. Especially if it happens to be the Amitabh Bachchan starrer DON. One film people remember vividly for various reasons, right from Big B's towering performance to the popular tracks to its gripping story and sharp execution.
A remake comes with its share of plusses and minuses, advantages and disadvantages. The advantages first.
- Perhaps, the new generation might not have watched the classic starring Bachchan. That makes the 2006 adaptation a novel cinematic experience. The present version also arouses tremendous interest since SRK steps into Bachchan's shoes.
- DON was made in the 1970s and a new version, with appropriate updates, is always welcome.
- Most importantly, every director has his/her style of interpreting a story. Chandra Barot had his way of narrating a story, Farhan Akhtar has his own unique style.
Now, the sole disadvantage.
- Since the Bachchan starrer remains etched in the memory of a section of moviegoers, the SRK starrer carries a massive responsibility on its shoulders. The comparisons, therefore, are inevitable. Every character, song and the impact of several vital portions will be viewed minutely.
Unfortunately, the new DON fails on several counts.
- The original script [Salim-Javed] had the power to keep you involved and mesmerized for the next 2.30 hours. The new version lacks it.
- The sequence of events in the earlier DON unraveled at a feverish pace, which the entertainment-hungry viewer lapped up with glee and excitement. The new version moves at a sluggish pace at regular intervals and that indeed is bad news for a thriller. In fact, boredom sets in after a point and it also gets difficult to comprehend what's going on. Things could have been simpler for sure.
- Every character in the earlier DON was well etched out. That's not the case with the new version. Barring SRK and to an extent Priyanka, the remaining characters appear as mere caricatures.
- The songs in the first version were merged beautifully with the script. Somehow, in the new version, barring the Kareena track, the songs don't take the story forward. Even the terrific 'Khaike Paan Banaraswala' comes across as an unwanted guest.
Any area where the new version works? Of course, it's far more glossy, far more stylish and far more visually appealing. Let's just say, the new DON is body beautiful, minus soul. The original version had simplistic execution, but it hit you like a ton of bricks. The new version is a hundred times more stylish, but how about a riveting script, Mr. Director?
The one question you want to ask Farhan Akhtar is, What happened? His directorial debut DIL CHAHTA HAI told a novel story. His second attempt, LAKSHYA, stood on a slippery wicket. But DON, his new endeavor, is his weakest attempt as a storyteller. Agreed, Farhan has climbed the ladder as far as craftsmanship is concerned [every frame is well decorated and makes a spellbinding impact], but, despite a readymade classic at his disposal, the storyteller just doesn't get it right this time.
Farhan makes a sincere effort to shock the viewer in the end and you are startled for a minute, but the moment the focus shifts to the flashback and how he managed to pull a fast one, the impact evaporates into thin air. Farhan also ends the film with some scope for a sequel. Nothing wrong with that, but how one wishes Farhan had a hit a boundary in this interpretation of the classic first.
Now, the storyline:
The drug trade is booming. Trafficking between Asia and Europe is at an all-time high. There are rumors that a dreaded gang has moved their operational headquarters to Kuala Lumpur. The cartel is headed by Singhania [Rajesh Khattar], but the business is managed by his lieutenant Don [Shah Rukh Khan].
An Indian officer Desilva [Boman Irani] has sworn to put an end to the nexus. He knows that in capturing Don lies the key to unlock this puzzle. And he succeeds one day. Don is captured and Desilva puts his plan into action. Unknown to even his own department, Desilva recruits and trains a man who is a splitting image of Don. His name is Vijay.
Vijay infiltrates the cartel and manages to give Desilva all the information he needs to bring it down. But in a bizarre twist of fate, Desilva is killed during a raid and the secret that Don is in fact Vijay is buried with him. The only people who realize that he's an imposter are the members of Don's cartel [Pawan Malhotra and Shakeel Khan] and they want their revenge.
Vijay manages to escape and is now on the lookout for the one last piece of evidence that can get him out of the mess. Helping him on this quest are two people: Roma [Priyanka Chopra] and Jasjit [Arjun Rampal].
There are glaring loopholes in the screenplay and you just can't overlook them. Like, for instance, how does SRK kill Kareena when the fact remains that he himself admits that there aren't any bullets in his gun? Here's another one: SRK, the Don, arrives in India for a major drug deal, but why isn't he arrested by Boman Irani and his team of cops when he must've presumably boarded an aircraft from KL? Why chase him on a secluded beach somewhere near Mumbai?
In the second hour, the murder of Rajesh Khattar [Don's boss] gives an impression that it's child's play to eliminate a drug baron. Moreover, what happens to Don's gang, also being held captive and being chartered to another destination [just before Don escapes from the aircraft]? Also, Arjun Rampal's exit from the story could've been properly defined. Also, where does his kid disappear suddenly? And what is Om Puri doing in this film? A junior police officer [aiding Boman Irani] has a meatier role than Puri here. It's a screenplay of convenience. Frankly, this looks like a desi James Bond saga, with the protagonist behaving like one mighty guy who can outsmart just about anyone and everyone.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music is strictly functional. The only track that's worth a mention is 'Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Diwana' and S-E-L cannot get credit for it because it's not their composition. Mohanan's cinematography is of international quality. The opulent look and sets are well captured by the lensman and so are the eye-catching locations of Malaysia.
Action scenes are superb. Take the fight between SRK and Chunkey Pandey at the very start of the film or the chase on a secluded beach and the lanes of a town before Don is captured by the cops -- it's jaw-dropping. The sync sound is not coherent at times and this will pose a major problem, especially at single screens where the sound system isn't of standard.
SRK carries a massive responsibility on his shoulders since direct comparisons with Bachchan are foreseeable. SRK does very well as Don. He enacts the evil character with flourish. But he fails to carry off the other role [Vijay] with conviction. It looks made up, it doesn't come natural to him at all. Priyanka Chopra carries off her part with 'lan. The stunt [when she rescues SRK] is bound to win her laurels.
Arjun Rampal's character could've been better developed. Despite the shortcomings, he makes a sincere attempt. Kareena Kapoor looks alluring in a miniscule role. Isha Koppikar is alright. Boman Irani is fantastic yet again. He enacts the conniving and calculating villain with gusto. A remarkable actor like Om Puri is completely wasted here. Pawan Malhotra does very well. Why doesn't one see more of his talented actor in films?
Diwakar Pundir [as Kareena's fianc'], Shakeel Khan and Rajesh Khattar are adequate.
On the whole, DON does not meet the expectations as a film. BUT the film will be a different story altogether at the box-office. The tremendous craze for the film, the fabulous hype of the film, the presence of SRK in the central role and also the credibility of its makers [Farhan Akhtar] will ensure a fabulous start at the ticket window. The Diwali and Idd period will only give a big boost to the business, making its distributors jump with joy.
In short, sometimes a weak film weaves magic at the box-office. DON is one of those!