On the new Don

Note: This isn’t really a review. In fact, if you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you don’t read this post, coz there be spoilers!

You have been warned. Now, on with the post.

Generally, when I review or rate a movie, I do it on the basis of the following question: Did it achieve what it set out to achieve? Not that asking this question makes my review any less subjective. It just allows me to love both Citizen Kane and Main Hoon Na without feeling all conflicted about it.

With remakes, there’s an additional layer to that: How does the movie rate, if you did not know that it is a remake? And, how did the maker of this movie view it, in the context of the original? I’m distinguishing here between remakes and rip-offs – this post is about movies where the maker acknowledges what inspired him/her.

But with Don, despite the fact that it shares some major plot points and dialogue with the Amitabh starrer, I’m not entirely sure I could call it a remake. It’s more like, Farhan Akhtar has taken some of the original movie’s ingredients and added things of his own to the mix. And since what he has added is significant, you can no longer look at it as the same dish.

SPOILER ALERT!!

For one thing, the Iftikhar role is redefined. Boman Irani seems to be rehashing the same role up to a point, and then it is revealed that he has his own agenda. That he is not really a conscientious cop but a drug lord in hiding, using Vijay to eliminate his arch enemy in the business.

It adds an interesting layer to Vijay’s struggle to prove his innocence, until we realize, right at the end, that it’s not Vijay at all – there’s been a double switcheroo, and we’ve been watching Don playing Vijay playing Don all this time. Nice little trick, that.

The surprise ending now makes you wonder: since the movie more or less followed the same broad outline as far as SRK’s charcter was concerned, is it still consistent given the final twist? As in, is every one of SRK’s actions justifiable, given that he is actually Don playing Vijay playing Don? I can think of only one weak spot: after SRK’s escape from the plane, he goes back to meet Priyanka and tries to prove his innocence. Why woould he want to do that? As far as he is concerned, Boman Irani is dead. And as he mentions right at the end, there was nothing in the disc he gave Boman in the first place. So he might as well just escape.

The plausible explanation for this would be, I guess, that he wanted to get away clean – prove his innocence as Vijay, then stage his own death so that no loose ends are left. The problem with that explanation is simply this: If he wanted to do that, why did he reveal his identity to Priyanka through an oblique clue right at the very end? He was clearly smart enough to know that it would give the game away. Was it just him showing off? Or was it the writer showing off?

Apart from that, I think it’s a good twist. And when you look back on it, you see a lot of scenes where he’s given you little clues to the truth – like when he goes to visit Arjun Rampal’s kid at the school and initially doesn’t seem to recognize him, and so on.

But to me, the more impressive thing is the way Farhan Akhtar recognized a crucial choice in the script and chose wisely. Boman Irani reveals his true identity at the end of the first half. And until the major players (Arjun Rampal and SRK) get to know this, there seems to be no reason for this to be revealed to the audience. It seemed at first as if he had spoiled what could’ve been a major surprise by telling us early.

But here’s why I think he did it: By telling us about Boman, and getting us to focus on that twist, he kept us engaged on that front while quietly preparing us for the surprise ending. The fact that
the man who we thought was Vijay is really Don, is a bigger surprise than the fact that Boman was actually a drug lord. By sacrificing the latter, he made the former more powerful. Smart piece of decision making there, I thought.

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