Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thoughts on 'Umrao Jaan' and 'Don'

I was very apprehensive about seeing both of these movies having such strong affection to their respective originals. There are two prevailing schools of thought on remaking classics - one says to leave well enough alone & one says that it will help the original gain a whole new audience. I used to be in the latter group until I realized that most Desis in college today had never seen the original to either of the remakes being discussed today.

Watching 'Umrao Jaan' was like seeing a painting come to life. The cinematography and colors captured India circa 1850 like few other movies before. Aishwarya Rai (looking ethereal) proved to be a formidable Amiran and despite mixed critical reviews of the film, her acting was universally praised. Abhishek Bachchan holds his own against his future bride to be as the Nawab (prince) and gives one of his strongest performances to date. The costumes & dialogue were said to be painstakingly done to recreate Lucknow of that era. Especially lauded was Ash's command of the Urdu language - not bad for a girl from the South who grew up speaking Tamil! The song from the movie is 'Salaam' - see it here. Official movie website here

'Don' on the other hand was something that didn't need to be remade. It's not that the movie was that bad (it wasn't) or that SRK didn't do an adequate job of playing Don (he did). It's that Amitabh so made this role his that no one could do it better and if anyone tried he would just be compared to AB - an unfair thing to say the least. The remake was quite faithful - not only copying the story, but also some of the most famous dialogues and in the ultimate homage, remaking two of the original songs. But while watching it I found myself remembering the way AB said the line or acted the scene - and wishing I was watching the original instead. The movie had some substance - but unlike the remake of 'Umrao Jaan' - it had no heart. The song from the movie is Maurya Re - see it here. Official movie website here.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering about both of them especially Don. Now that you've weighed in, I'll try to catch Umrao on the big screen and steal the DVD of Don from my brother.
As usual, insightful and enlightening, my dear!

Sakarteti said...

Yeah, so I tried to watch Don, was forced to turn off due to Shah Rukh Khan's over-acting and just horrendous overall performance. I don't know how y'all feel about it, but i'm in the "should've been left alone" camp as far as the remake's concerned. I have Umrao Jaan, plan on watchin it sometime this wknd...saw the original when i was about 5 so don't remember much.

Anonymous said...

Sankz~ I agree, they should've left both of these alone. But, I enjoyed the new Don more than the new Umrao. The latter was just made to make Ash look 'ethereal', and that she did! But, she doesn't come close to Rekha as Umrao. I mean, how can you feel bad for someone who looks THAT amazing ;-)
I thought Don showed us a hip side of B'wood (also see Dhoom2 for some uber-hip scenes), liked the semi-surprising ending (our own version of Bond, MI series). Or, maybe I can't get past my SRK fever, it's been love since '95! Liked Don music overall... why didn't they keep the original songs from Umrao??? But, if anyone had to pick one to see on big screen, see Umrao. It's worth seeing Ash in those costumes/jewelery and the colors are awesome.

ps. tip: do NOT see Salame Ishq on the big screen. But, the title song is THE jam!

Sanket Vyas said...

Good points all. I agree that Ash can't compare to Rekha in the original but the fact that I DID feel sorry for her despite her beauty tells volumes about her acting. Agree about 'Don' - I did think it was a good movie on it's own and I liked the twist as well. But more than Ash being overshadowed by the memory of Rekha - SRK did a fine job in 'Don'. But I watched the whole movie just imagining Amitji in each and every scene - too much of a distraction at least for me.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I realized I needed to think of the two Dons as very different and basically unrelated movies - otherwise my head was going to explode, trying to figure out if I thought it was useful to compare them.

Sanket Vyas said...

Very good point Beth. I think if I had just seen it as it's own entity I would have enjoyed it much more. I guess the lead has to make the role his own instead of merely trying to copy the original. Something that worked much better when Johnny Depp did it in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Loved Gene Wilder in the original - loved Johnny Depp in the sequel as well.