I just saw Farhan Akhtar's much ballyhooed Don: The Chase Begins Again at the multiplex. Only the prospect of - how do they say it in Hollywood - "reimagining" my favorite movie could draw me out to the theaters to sit amidst the catcalls, mobile phone ringtones and tiny Indian kids cringing at the sight of blood and gore.
First, I have always been a huge fan of the old Don. Was it a classic? Certainly for me it was. It the first Bollywood movie I watched more than once (yes, I didn't do it for even Hera Pheri, Muqaddar ka Sikandar or AAA or Sholay). As a ruthless and fairly sadistic head of a crime cartel populated with legendary baddies such as Macmohan and Shetty, Amitabh dispatched good and bad people with the same efficiency. He killed for purpose but always mixed it with pleasure. Amitabh's slaying of Rajesh remains one of my most disturbingly enduring teenage film memories. And of course as Roma, the wronged sister of Rajesh out for vengeance, Zeenat Aman climbed dizzying heights of strategically placed glamor quotients.
SRK's Don achieves the considerable feat of walking its own path and paying copious tribute to the original simultaneously. Plot holes abound. Often characters do complicated things when simpler, easier ways present themselves. The story is held together by SRK's most excellent performance. He plays Don as a psychopath, imbibing his playfulness with a creepiness that keeps us fascinated.
As Roma, Priyanka uses the dark tones of her character to do a much better job than she does in most films. She is not a naturally bubbly types. So the quiet of this role suits her well. A couple of misguided belts aside, her wardrobe is impeccable. And she does let it hang out in the "Khaike Paan Banaras walla" where one must congratulate both Farhan Akhtar, for having the chutzpah to keep the song in the film because it is so strongly tied to the film's identity and SRK, who is not afraid to take the song by the scruff of its neck and own it.
Of the remaining people in the supporting cast, Boman Irani plays DSP DeSilva with a veiled caginess. Its a performance meant to keep us off balance for good measure. For those who remember Don's plot twists, you'll have a lot of fun with his character. Boman Irani, however, is much like Bill Murray these days. Fine actor that he is, he now does the same shtick in the movies over and over again.
A lot has been said about them so I'll stay away from the fairly massive and creepy plot twists in the movie. The film is slick, if not always tightly edited. Some of Don's more iconic scenes have been redone really well. There is one terrific car chase through the narrow gulleys of a coastal Indian village. Sparks fly during a stunt laden scene in which Roma tries to kill Don. And there is a cracking execution that involves a golf drive to the head. However, the madcap energy of the graveyard fight sequence during the climax in the original has been replaced with a kung fu laced one-on-one. Besides being a bit of a disappointment this also does us the disservice of disenfranchising Roma's butt kicking and cartwheels, which was so much fun to watch in the original.
A number of chuckle-worthy lines from the old Don have been retained. Often the older people in the audience (like me) would clap when they recognized them. Go see the flick if you get a chance. You'll be very well entertained.