Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Farhan Akhtar’s Don saved my Eid

Festivals in a foreign country are a little disorienting. Though my mother is with us these days in Singapore and the nearest mosque is just two minutes walk from my apartment block, Eid came and went like a strange day, sans any halo or glamour.

The taste of festivals grows stale with adulthood, I guess.

And Eid was a little strange here because people don’t even embrace each other like back home; a handshake is all you may get, if you are lucky or imposingly enterprising.

This was my third Eid in Singapore. The only difference in the day was in the form of our sartorial newness and some culinary extravagance for the palate. The occasion was sweetened by the visit of some very dear friends.

Like back home, we decided to mark the departure of Ramazan by paying a visit to the Iblees House (read cinema hall), for verily Iblees (the devil) is freed by Allah the day Ramazan ends.

I remember, as kids, we used to necessarily go to a cinema hall to watch a movie on Eid every year. Theatres always had high-profile films up for release on the ‘holy occasion of Eid’ in India. And getting a ticket was always a battle. We never had enough money to buy tickets in black. So it always meant blood and gore (literally) at the box office of old style cavernous theatres. And we somehow always managed to get the tickets. Otherwise we would watch the film standing near the gate after bribing our way to the doorman or usher.

And in a sort of déjà vu, the theatre nearest to my house was showing Farhan Akhtar’s Don. We were overjoyed to see a Hindi film being exhibited in a mainstream theatre (which mostly showed Hollywood fare, sometimes Hong Kong, Chinese and Japanese films too) in Singapore, that too, in our neighbourhood. Thank you Shaw Brothers.

Now, Don has been an eagerly awaited film. From the start, as if, people were expecting Farhan Akhtar to trip over this project. There was excitement for the project but I sensed that it was a negative kind of excitement. People have been getting tired of watching Shahrukh Khan. Farhan’s last movie, Lakshya was a dud. You get the picture?

And some even expressed their dismay at Farhan’s selection of Don for a remake. It was no Deewar or Kaala Pathar. Why remake Don? It was made in 1978 by Chardra Barot, and I never saw even the b of his biography in the umpteenth articles written on this remake.

The hidden idea behind the sneer was this—Farhan was making a big mistake. Half written by his father (a Salim-Javed script), many said it was a mediocre film. It might be a mediocre film but it was hugely popular in its time.

But Farhan knew what he was doing. He was always confident about this project. And if you have seen the movie you’d know why.

I have a special attachment with Don. I was barely in my teens when I first saw this movie. I saw it in a rundown, bamboo and tin theatre, sitting on hard wooden benches, without any food or drink. I saw it seven times in seven days, falling in love with the pan chewing Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) from Allahabad putting on the Don’s garb, and mouthing those manly dialogues—impervious to the sunrays peeping through the holes in the theatre’s tin roof.

And here was this Don shot in Malaysia and being shown in a Singapore multiplex—this time the metrosexual SRK putting on the post-millennium clever role of a legendary character. The first few scenes are like typical Bond films—with gadgets, explosives and all.

SRK for AB. Bebo for Helen. Priyanka for Zeenat. Om Puri for Om Shivpuri, Arjun Rampal for Pran, and Boman Irani for Iftekhar. That is the cast for you.

I had read the film’s review on, and both reviewers thought poorly of the film.

I think that did a good thing for me. It lowered my expectations.

From the first frame itself, the film had a sleek look, and a definitive style. If you remove the songs, it is like any other commercial Hollywood thriller, with double climax, and the wailing police and ambulance siren at the end of the film, the hero being put on a stretcher to be taken to the hospital. End of story. But that is where you get the edge of the seat jolt. The film ends and you wish it had just started. Clever Farhan. Watch out for Don 2. Folks, mark my words—there are enough motivations to chase Don and finish him off.

Unlike Gary Oldman in the Nokia phone ads, some old Hollywood soul has said that for a film to be successful, you just need a good first reel and a good last reel. I guess Farhan has stuck to that principle and come out a winner. Don’t mind all the garbage between the first and last reel. Most of it, if not all, was fun.

I guess when Farhan thought of re-making this film, he considered this angle—what if Don, who dies in the early part of the original film, saw Chandra Barot’s Don, and decided to restart his life. What changes would he make in the narrative? I think, with that, Farhan turned the story on its head—he has in fact tweaked the basic premise of the film and what fun it was to realise that clever twist by the end of the film.

Farhan has literally translated “Don to pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai” into the film’s theme and has carved out a new age James Bond type Indian anti-hero out of the original character. Farhan’s re-imaging of this role is worth applauding, and more than that, I salute his confidence to carry it off. SRK has done it with panache, without hamming a bit.

Yes, some characters seem to be miscast. Pawan Varma as Narang and Boman Irani as DCP De Silva could have been played well by someone else? Who? No idea. And what is Om Puri doing in this film? Nothing but he is there to dodge the viewer’s suspicion. Arjun Rampal in Pran’s role is lost in the woodwork. But then all these character hardly matter much—it is all in all SRK who dominates every frame. And believe me it is quite believable. After all movies are about suspension of belief.

I have only one complaint against Farhan. Dude, in the credits, you should have given ‘Re-written and Re-directed by Farhan Akhtar’ instead of an insipid Written and Directed by Farhan Akhtar. But is that much of a complaint?

Thanks for saving my Eid, the cast and crew of Don.


Manzoor Khan said...

Very nicely written Zafar bhai. I really enjoyed reading your Don's Eid -:). Hope u had a nice time celebrating Eid, though away from home. But then I believe that home is where your mother is -:)

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Manzoor. Well said: home is where your mother is):

desichiqa said...

nicely written. nice to know ur in the media industry. im a media student here in singapore. Bolly-addict, i definitely am =)

Zafar Anjum said...

Welcome to this blog desichiqa. Hope to see your blog too.