Sunday, December 2, 2007

Where Sanni learns a lesson about remakes. Don (1978) and Don (2007).

WARNING: Contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for both films & rude language. Not recommended reading for those not familiar with BOTH films!

My Don reviews will be intertwined as I watched them nearly back-to-back, first the original and then rushing to my showing of the remake. But first, let's talk about me and Don. I'm a Leo and he likes wild cats but did I like him back? Not to begin with, no. See, I hadn't seen the original when the remake came out. However, I was uncomfortable with the premise of remaking a 70's masala classic and I couldn't care less about the movie itself, since it didn't star anybody I was nuts about (my favourite people in the cast to begin with were Boman and Kareena, and seeing it for just them didn't seem very clever). I was all, “Sure, director of DCH but Shahrukh, what are you doing yaar? Let's leave Amitabh roles where they belong – to Amitji, thik hai?”. So when it came time to choose in Diwali 2006, I chose Jaaneman (and haven't regretted, I loved JEM!). Don could go back to Malaysia for all I cared. As for the original? Well, I'd see it eventually, I figured. I wasn't the biggest Amitabh fangirl so all his 70's movies weren't on the top of my oldies to-see list.

So then the time came when I was forced to make an unpleasant choice between going to see Don or not seeing any Bollywood films on the big screen this year (seeing KANK again? Not an option!). I chose Don, and in retrospect, I'm so bloody glad I did.

I rushed to see the original first but thanks to circumstances, I was able to watch it only on the same day as the remake. This coloured my viewing a lot, in both good and bad. See, when you ignore a movie's existence for about a year, two things happen. One, you forget all those spoilers you read back when you didn't care. Two, you accept the fact the film has been made, released, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. Whether Farhan raped this or that about the original no longer seems like an issue – what's done is done. Now, I'll gladly save my rants for rumored remakes or ones that seem like very very bad ideas. This one exists, so be it.

So when I sat down with the original 70's funfest, I had this mental soundtrack of “I'm seeing the remake and they'll be doing this and that in it” running throughout the film. In a way it made me lose focus in the original. I was mostly watching it so I could aptly compare, and while it entertained me greatly whilst watching, I didn't ever fully submerge myself into its world. A lot of things about it were fabulous – the fact that the item number had a story behind it, everything with Zeenat and kung fu moves, the hilarious 70's masala features, everything with Pran's character, suitcases that explode, Amitabh's fashion... I thought the plot was overall awesome. It had a typically twisty 70's masala plot, full of evil guys and full of surprises along the way. But even that, the plot, couldn't save me from the inevitable thought pattern - “This is so awesome, no wonder they remade it!”.

I guess a part of why this otherwise fantastic movie didn't make its way into my heart was Amitabh. Don't get me wrong, he was great in the original but much like Shahrukh, he's not a favourite and he doesn't make my heart burst with joy to watch him on-screen. He was fun and cool, but just not to the extent that I'd absolutely adore him.

My favourite scene oddly enough – and one I'm weirdly sad about not being in the remake – is the one where Roma goes to seek martial arts training. It's so hilarious in its ridiculousness but at the same time, it's a very character defining moment and I like the part the teacher played in her revenge overall. I felt like maybe Priyanka's Roma could've used this type of a silly moment. The moment when Zeenat walks out, hair short and fully martial arts trained? Pure awesome. Made of awesome.

Then onto the remake, and whoever genius thought it'd be fantastic to run an outdoor theater in Finland in September, I must congratulate you. Thank god they'd at least set up warmers and things as a roof so we didnt have to sit in the rain. Anyway, the film starts rolling and I know what to expect – sleek look, high budget, professionally choreographed martial arts (not exactly Hong Kong but hey, they're trying!). Now, the look and feel of the movie was pretty top-notch maybe apart from a couple of things. Like I don't understand why the last fight needed to be partly slow-mo, it looked somehow vapid. Not that I wasn't having a ball, but regardless.

I'm quite fond of the soundtracks of both films, but don't absolutely love either. I love the catchy Khaike Paan in both movies, and the picturizations were a blast as well (for some reason the remake one reminded me of the good old goofy!Shahrukh who I haven't seen since I last watched Duplicate – I miss goofy!Shahrukh and the song was an awesome reminder), and Main Hoon Don by Shaan (in the remake, of course) makes me swoon (the picturization makes me LOL and not much else). Yeh Mera Dil in the original form as a song, is awesome, but Helen's scary contact lense eyes and all that shaking did not really give me the ultimate seduction song feel. Mind you, neither did Kareena's performance, but she was way hotter and I liked the moments when she looks uncomfortable, showing her true feelings. Now if only Shahrukh hadn't done his dirty old man face at her, I could've really enjoyed the picturization.

In the original, I really loved the song picturization where Zeenat looked gorgeous and danced in a blue dress. I somehow saw Aaj Ki Raat as its equivalent, and while AKR was lovely, I still prefer Zeenat looking gorgeous. I'm biased but forgive me that. Unpopular opinion? Amitabh with eyeliner in the Bombay song was just creepy.

Now, to me the remake performances aren't really about replacing anybody. Though if we were going to think about replacements, I would give the honor to Arjun, who actually made me tear up in his little backstory section. He owned Pran's role and with no offence to Pran, whose antics are classic in any role he played, Arjun just did fantastic in here. Priyanka is okay but I'm not really moved by her in here. Mind you, even in the original I thought the whole Roma-Vijay romance was feeble.

Shahrukh is being Don, is being Vijay but Shahrukh is also being Shahrukh. Being because Shahrukh's one of those stars who's perhaps a bit above acting, I realized. Shahrukh does a great job being Shahrukh. It doesn't always work for me, unfortunately, but when it does, it's a joy. In here, it was sort of half and half. Half was me loving the insane act that was Shahrukh, every mannerism, every look, every part of the act. The other half was me giggling at the ridiculousness of the act that is Shahrukh Khan, rolling my eyes and thinking, “Okay, yeah, Amitabh did that better.”

Boman's character brings me to the changes they made. I was initially looking forward to Om Puri turning out this nasty guy all of the sudden but I was confused about lack of Vardhaan. When the pieces finally came together, my jaw nearly fell on the ground. I say nearly because it wasn't that surprising, I did remember there being something fishy about Boman. He did a great job, naturally. He's Boman – do we ever expect less? Nah, didn't think so. I thought a lot of the changes were quite frankly unnecessary. Like, it seemed like they were stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring it. Of course, the fight on the mountain bridge is a handsome visual compared to the all-over-the-place cheesefest cemetary fight at the end of the original, but surely they didn't make all those plot changes just to have that scene? Hmm.

Somewhere in the back of my head I recalled a spoiler about them not killing off somebody. I thought it was De Silva, and I was like “Okay, Boman lives, rock on!”. When it turns out it's actually been Don all along, saving his own skin with the mask of Vijay, I'm sorry – my mind was blown. And right there I forgave them for stirring the pot unnecessarily earlier, and I finally understood why they'd cut what was Anita's character's most crucial moment in the original – the dialogue where she's miffed about post-accident Don preferring Roma to her, and somebody tells her, “Face it, Don didn't change – his girlfriend did.”

As weird and cop-out like (space for a sequel, isn't it, you greedy bastards?) as the twist seemed, to me it sort of crowned the otherwise entertaining movie experience of BOTH films. I loved the plot of the original – it didn't really need any changes – but for the remake, that was the kicker, the thing that sort of spices the whole thing up and brings it to the new millennium. A little bit unfair to the viewer, a bit of a 'fuck you' to anybody who didn't even consider the possibility of it (I did always find it fishy that Don didn't die right away, BEFORE they got in contact with Vijay) but it's what made me leave the theater with a huge grin on my face.

I still don't think we need to catch the motherfucker in a sequel, though.

(This post was shamelessly copied from my original livejournal post - I decided I liked it so much it didn't need much editing.)


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I love that you said all this! I'm a fan of both Dons and I love reading people who seem to be able to think rationally about the second version.

I actually liked the "f you" moment - I thought it was a clever way to keep the story surprising for the eight bazillion people who had seen the original.

And I'm with you on Helen and Kareena. And now we must duck for cover.

veracious said...

Ah, Bebo rocked it. Then again, I have been thinking very fondly of her as of late. The original item number was more or less awkward.. But I'm not huge on Helen anyways, I like her but am no fan.

It seems okay that they remade it because Don is more a cult film than a classic.

Ramsu said...

I quite liked the remake, and the ending really made it worthwhile, but when I spent some time thinking through the plot to see if it still held together, I found one major problem:

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.

Still, it was a pretty good trick, all things considered. I especially loved how he lured us into concentrating on the Boman vs Iftikhar change, while this was brewing in the background. I wrote a blog post about it a while ago -- you can find it here.