There is a generation of Indian filmgoers who have never seen the original Don, and I happen to be part of that generation. I could've easily watched Amitabh Bachchan's Don before the updated version. But, is it necessary? Why spoil a review with unfair comparisons? Let's be fair, remaking a cult classic is no easy task. Whether you have seen the old one or not, go see the new Don with an open mind and be ready to enjoy an entertaining and thrilling ride with the real Don of the Hindi film industry, Shah Rukh Khan.
The Don storyline is complicated, and full of twists and turns. The look of the film from the opening frames to the end is extremely stylish, along the lines of a James Bond film. Setting the film in Malaysia is a nice change (it looks breathtaking), and the cinematography captures it perfectly. The stunts and chases are thrilling in parts, but there are some -- For example, Don's ambulance being airlifted with the help of Priyanka's slowly paced stunts -- that seem quite silly. Why doesn't anyone stop her?
But forget the details; Don's appeal lies in its performances.
Indeed, the entire film rests on Shah Rukh's amazing performance. You can't imagine any one among the current group of actors who would have enough courage to take on this role. The pressure to please the older generation, the film industry, and of course the new generation of fans is immense. But, the way Shah Rukh takes responsibility over the whole film is commendable. If you hated his over-the-top performance in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, then Don is a treat to watch. In a double-role as Don and Vijay, Shah Rukh does a terrific job of creating distinctions between the two characters. Some may find it hard to accept Shah Rukh as the don of a major drug cartel, but he manages to create a new type of Don.
Shah Rukh's Don is sarcastic, confident, witty, and scheming. It's a pleasure to see Shah Rukh in the role of a villain after years. He is one of the few actors of his generation who can play a villain that the audience can't help but love. As Don, you are rooting for Shah Rukh to escape every situation. He shines in every frame, and proves to his detractors that he can be more than just a romantic.
Among the three girls -- Priyanka Chopra, Isha Koppikar, and Kareena Kapoor -- the only one who manages to leave an impact is Kareena. Her screen presence is electrifying throughout, and she does justice to the role of a seductress trying to trap Don. Kareena's version of Yeh Mera Dil stays with you even after the movie is over. Priyanka tries her best to look good, but that's about it. You can't help but wonder: were it not for the genius of makeup, what would she really be left with? She is wooden and artificial. Isha looks beautiful, but you wish she had a larger role. She shines in the scenes she does have, but seems to be the victim of the editing table. Farhan should've toned down on some of the outrageous stunts and invested more in performances, especially Isha's.
Boman Irani's performance as DCP De Silva is a disappointment compared to his other films. He simply does not fit the part no matter how hard he tries. Om Puri does not get enough scope. Arjun Rampal makes an impact in his small but significant role.
The songs and dances in Don make the movie-watching experience even more enjoyable. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have a great original score to garner their inspiration, and the picturizations of all the songs are just as good. Shah Rukh is amazing in the Khaike Paan song. He is more energetic than Bachchan ever was, and you feel like getting up and dancing with him. The Don theme tune fits with the style of the movie and is played in the right parts.
With its performances, cinematography, dances, and contemporary look, the new Don can easily become another cult classic for a new generation. And, you can thank Shah Rukh for that.
Tasneem Karbani, 19, is majoring in religious studies and history at the University of Alberta, Canada.