Every birthday of mine the family gets together and sits around a TV. We pop a DVD in and watch. It’s always a Hindi movie. In fact, it’s the same movie each time. It’s the first one I went back for repeat viewings as a little boy and the most enduring Bollymovie in my life: Don. Not the new Shahrukh Khan starrer, but Amitabh Bachchan’s 1978 thriller Don. In fact, I love Don so much I absolutely adored even the shaky remake.
There are several reasons I like Don so much.
The first one is that Amitabh Bachchan gets to play a badass. Not just any badass – but one who kills for purpose and mixes it with pleasure. He’s ruthless, despicable, unpredictable and magically avoids being mired in the swamp of Bollyvillian templates. He kills inventively (if somewhat unbelievably).
Early on, one of his gang members turns coat and is running away to a life free of crime. No one leaves the Don of course. Don shows up at his doorstep with the intent to kill plainly in view. The trapped man runs – out of his room, onto the streets and hails a cab. The cab takes off but stops suddenly and the driver turns. It’s Don! As a young boy, I remember being jolted out of my seat. How did he do it?
Second, it’s got Zeenat Aman who plays Roma. And if you haven’t watched Zeenie-baby – this is the movie to watch. She’s absolutely dazzling here. Speaking in clipped tones (“Whatt ddo yyou mmean!”), moving way too much like a model and looking too cute for words. She’s surly-gorgeous (she has an axe to grind with Don and has infiltrated his group) and resourceful (she finds Don when the entire Mumbai police force can’t). And best of all, she gets to kick some serious tush.
Speaking of which, another reason to love Don is the madcap, graveyard fight sequence at the climax. Vijay (Amitabh has a double role here), Roma and Jasjit (Pran) fight Narang and his gang with kicks, tumbles, karate chops, kushti and kabaddi. At one point, Jasjit – who has a pronounced limp from an old injury – jumps on a high bar and does a gymnastic routine to send opponents flying around him. There is genius in all of this – you just have to look hard for it.
Wait! There’s more to love! A terrific dance routine from that criminally unacknowledged Bollywood goddess – Helen. She plays Kamini who tries to stall Don by seducing him. And she goes so full tilt with her stuff that she appears to be having far too much fun for a woman who is trying to get in bed with her husband’s murderer. Fascination abounds!
Finally, there is Khaike Paan Banaras Waala. It’s a song about spicy women, love, passion, intoxication, rural displacement, betrayal and a very special river in India.
- Megan loved the old Don but says Muqaddar ka Sikander was Amitabh's best
- Bitterlemons liked geeky Amitabh better (re: Chupke Chupke)
- meena caught up with Yaadon ki Baarat and loved it all over again
- Joules reveals The Making of (old) Don and links to a pic of Zeenie Baby circa 2008
- girlie girl's all-time favorite Bachchan movie is AAA
- Pitu didn't like the new Don but dug Aaj Ki Raat
- Amrita relates the brutal Zeenat episode
- Which really pisses off megan
- And shocks Bitterlemons
- Shobha De once wrote fiction based on this recalls H&R
- Its called Starry Nights says Amrita and the wikipedia entry is better read than the novel