Sunday, September 17, 2006
The remake of 'Don' starring Shah Rukh Khan releases in exactly one month from today. My 1st reaction to hearing that news was... Why? Why remake the 1978 classic starring none other than Amitabh Bachchan? Could Farhan Akhtar (whose father co-wrote the original) really direct this movie any better than what it was? I thought about the remake of 'Charlie & The Chocolate Factory' and the similiar feelings of contempt I had before watching it. Gene Wilder was brilliant in the original - there was no chance of Johnny Depp improving on perfection. And Depp didn't - but he was still brilliant in the remake without spoiling our memory because he made the role his own. Plus, millions of kids got to see the movie for the 1st time for no other reason except that it was 'new' and the original enjoyed a whole new audience as well. So to that end I wish Shah Rukh the best of luck & hope he tries to do the same - and not try to improve on the genius of Amitji.
I recently saw the original 'Don' on the big screen with my buddy Gurmanjit in Austin, TX. It was playing at the Alamo Drafthouse as the opener to their 'Tribute to Bollywood' week. The theater was housefull & as the lights dimmed on the audience (90% non-Desi), the palpable anticipation in the air gave way to the psychedelic opening. At that point everyone realized they were in store for something very special indeed. Sure, the audience had to be goaded into the fun by the both of us talking back to the screen (ala 'Rocky Horror Picture Show') during certain scenes. But we knew they got it when the movie received a standing ovation as the end credits rolled.
'Don' was born of concentrated 1970's extract... as one critic put it "it's cheesier than a McDonald's cheeseburger where they forgot to give you everything but the cheese - and when you go up to the counter to complain, they just give you more cheese . But even though you know it's probably going to make you fat and give you spots, you can't help going back for more. 'Don' just happens to be the rarest of substances - nothing but pure entertainment." It is so over the top that you have no choice but to sit back & just enjoy the ride. The plot is just an excuse to give the audience: Amitabh in one of the best double roles ever with dialogue only he could pull off, the gorgeous Zeenat Aman in green pant-suits doing spectacular kung fu, goondas with wide lapels in polka-dot suits, crazy camera angles, incredible car chases and last but not least - the tunes. 'Don' has it all & more - did it really need to be remade? See the trailer for the remake, watch the original & then judge for yourself. Next thing you know they will be remaking 'Umrao Jaan' & 'Sholay'...
Khaike Paan is a bonafide classic still lovingly overplayed at any Desi wedding reception to this day (including mine where my friends did a dance to it as well). The dapper Don hanging out with his village kinfolk while extolling the pleasures of paan AND bhang can be seen here. The Kishore/Lata duet, Jiska Mujhe, is the other great song from the movie. See Zeenat Aman looking simply breathtaking, Amitabh being seduced by her while drinking a martini & a scorned extra with the most unfortunate hairdo I have ever seen here. The original 'Don' - guilty pleasures never felt quite this good.