Friday, October 27, 2006

Don-Old and New: A Belated Appraisal

I watched the new Don on the second day of release. It is a long film but it was a thoroughly invigorating experience for me. Remakes in my view takes us beyond the superficial experience of merely watching a film and making stand alone judgements. A remake by its nature is post-modern and seeks to question or at least engage with the earlier film and try to infuse new elements or seeks to re narrate it with some unique (to the film maker) changes. Remakes also compels us to debate, argue and analyse the merits of a film and at the same time have an earlier product to judge it.

Don was very special to me for that reason. To watch SRK say the same lines with AB said in the old Don. There is a world of difference in the approach of both the actors and for me they come from two different schools of acting. AB is more internal, an actor who wont be able to tell you why he did something and why it clicked while SRK has all the justifications and AB and Dilip Kumar are his crucial justifications. AB has been known to experience stage fright before each day's shoot as he has stated in many interviews.

The new Don is pretty faithful to the old one except there is one final twist which to me was interesting looking at how Hindi films has evolved or more specifically how the current crop of film makers deal with good/evil and in a larger context where triumph of good over evil is no longer guranteed,not even in hindi films.

SRK has to my mind has done a good job. It was a very challenging thing to do for an actor of his status with everything to lose. I wish he would do such interesting roles more often, this film was so refershing especially in light of SRK's typecast Yash Chopra-Karan Johar flicks. So refreshing, its almost like re discovering the old SRK of Darr and Bazzigar.

The film has a strong cast of supporting actors. Boman Irani fills in for Iftikar's role, Kareena for Helen's, Priyanka Chopra for Zeenat Aman and Om Puri for Om SHiv Puri's role of the Interpol agent. Arjun Rampal for Pran's Jasjit (JJ). Pavan Malhotra is playing the role of Narang, Don's associate. The guy in the old Don was an actor Kamal Kapoor (Shiny eyes with a glint) and in that age such guys were villains and due to their other screen roles, their roles across movies reiterated themselves. Now this is not the case now. Most actors had their fixed slots in movies, Helen did her item numbers, Mehmood made you laugh and McMohan was the side kick and this was a huge advantage for old Don and movies of that era. Our times and the films of this age do not have such fall back options.

I also watched the old Don after I watched the SRK one. Some basic facts. Kareena is fatter than Helen, no I am not complaining. Helen has far more oomph than Kareena's can convey despite the dance movements. Isha Khoppikar is the new moll of Don and to me she looks lovely except the role is as good ans short as the old one. Priyanka Chopra is someone I find very distasteful though she does convey a sense of control and while she cant compare to Zeenat's looks (now she was a hottie), she does a good job but then thats not saying much if one does look at the old Don. Zeenat just looks so good. She doesnt need to do anything not even dance well.

The new Don is also a hi tech remake. The simplistic settings of the 1970's is needlessly converted into Malayasia. Mumbai is a far better setting and it would fit in perfectly with Vijay, the Awadhi accent and speech and the perfect setting for Khaike Paan Banaraswala. And thus, the old Don's characters do have social roots which are strangely lacking in the new one. For instance, it would be easy to map Vijay's character into the mumbai immigrant world in the 1970's and his discovery of his 'mulk' ke log, making him flippant enough to feel safe and to drink so much Bhang and paan while being chased by the police.

Arjun Rampal is JJ, a role that Pran did in the older Don is well a classic case of miscasting or let's assume Rampal fucks up again despite his consistent big banner soft backing. Pran had a life to him, lighting up the screen with his gutso or the mean-ness in his villainy. But to match upto Pran's cameo and especially in Don is asking for too much from anyone, and so Rampal is lost yet again. This was a sub plot, I think the new Don could have done without. I do not suggest it due to merely Rampal's failure but also cause it is quiet redundant.

The old Don has a kind of James Bond feel to it, with the theme track and the starting credits. The Don's scenes and his no nonsense statements are captured very well in the seriousness and coldness that AB conveys. The Vijay sections of the old Don are played in a manner similar to the character with a little frivolity and exaggeration. However, after Vijay becomes Don the movie works more with his light hearted character and thereby losing that really refreshing coldness.

The new Don is well shot in a similar way. But given memory and nostalgia and the Association of AB and his Khaike Paan banaras wala avatar, it is sometimes a tad diffcult to see SRK do it. For instance some of the amazing lines of Don are also seen as AB's and when such strong identification exists, SRK was pitted against not only a giant but also a whole older world which our generation has only seen through movies. That was a tough task and to his credit, SRk doesnt do too bad. Its a highly commendable performance. In fact in his avtar as Don the real Don, SRK infuses some nice nuances and mannerism, nothing to take the focus away, just his own theatrical inputs.

It is important to judge Farhan Akhtar and his new Don in the proper context. Don is a celeberation of Hindi films, its our generation's tribute to an actor, a script team Salim-Javed and the old world films and more specifically the Bachchan magic in the 1970's. Don is also worthy of a remake for its great script, definetly far ahead of its times.A comparison with the old Don is inevitable but to judge the movie solely on that criteria is missing the point.

For those who wish to see the old Don, go ahead see it, buy it and rent it, its easily available in the market. Just dont torture your self watching the new one and expect to see the old product. The point of the remake was to see things in a new light, whether someone could work the magic in roles that AB played in his hey days.

It is a great effort, it is commendable and its highly educative. The movie of course could have done more, much much more. I think the editing is jerky and at crucial times, something new could have been thought upon rather than sticking to the old cuts. I think SRK should do more such roles. I dont think SRK can work the AB magic, some lines from Don and some mannerisms have been so well done by AB, that we cannot think of them without him. There are a lot of things worthy in Don and there are a lot of them we will disagree with. But in the final anaylsis, I would prefer good effort even if they translate into bad films,we atleast have someone thinking out of the box but within the hindi film genre!

1. Farhan Akhtar's verstality is quiet breath taking. From Dil Chahta hai to Lakshay to is someone who is catching the bull by its horns......

2. I watched the movie again for the Main Hoon Don song. Main Hoon Don in the movie is opulent, its great style, its wonderful use of enclosed space and the most sophisticated picturisation maybe ever.

3. I missed mentioning the climax of the film and watching it again, I realize that the resolution of the new Don is very good, a lot better than we have seen in thrillers in recent times. Technically, the particular locale as well as the drama being etched was top class. The old Don's climax is well rather spoofy and was a joke to me especially considering the nature of the film. In the Old Don, Pran, Zeenat and AB battle the gang of villains while at the same time saving the crucial Red Diary .

4. I dont write much about Boman Irani but its a pleasure to watch such an actor. His body language is so compelling.


svety said...

Oky Satya let me do the needful...Boman rocks. In this movie and so many others.Its amazing, the kind of screen space he manages to garner, in such a big film, with such big stars and manages to completely justify it.
I completely agree with u when u say that such efforts should be seen in the context of a new wonderful evolving world of indian cinema....hope the sequel is made

satya said...

Thanks Svety...But if you mean the sequel, are you referring to the SRK interview...

I think SRK bluff's as a strategy and it was a reaction to the crtics panning the movie so hard.....I doubt SRK would push his luck so far....

Sanjukta said...

i'm going to see this movie then... will drag raj along too...