Don (2006)


Normally I’m not a fan of remakes since they are generally nowhere near as good as the original, but Farhan Akhtar’s Don is the exception that proves the rule – at least for me. As much as I love the original Don with Amitabh Bachchan, Iftekhar, Helen and co, the remake slickly updates the story and adds a few new twists that make the end at least just that little bit better. I love Shahrukh Khan when he’s in anti-hero mode, and this is an excellent example of how good SRK can be when he’s being bad. There are a few misses, but overall good casting, clever writing and an excellent soundtrack make Don one of my favourite SRK films.

The remake follows the original 1978 Don fairly closely in terms of the screenplay but sets most of the story in Malaysia where Don (Shahrukh Khan) is the ‘most dangerous and cunning criminal’ in an organisation than spans the globe smuggling drugs. Don heads up the Malaysian arm of the gang and works for Singhania ( Rajesh Khattar), the rival of fellow ultra-elusive gang member Vardhaan. DCP DiSilva (Boman Irani) is on the trail of the criminals along with his colleague Inspector Verma (Sidharth  Jyoti) and Interpol Officer Vishal Malik (Om Puri).

Shahrukh appears to enjoy playing the utterly ruthless and callous Don and he seems to slip effortlessly into evil mode when required. His Don is perhaps a little too flamboyant and his fashion sense is rather quirky (those terrible ties-inside-the shirt!), but his panache and flair in the opening scenes when he imitates some ballet dancers and then a few moments later causes carnage and mayhem during a drug deal gone wrong is superb. He’s cool, collected and practical when it comes to getting rid of police informers and in dealing with recalcitrant gang members, but does show his softer side to Anita (Isha Koppikar) and a little more uncertainty with fellow gang member Narang (Pawan Malhotra). This shading makes Don more interesting and generates some empathy for what is really quite an unpleasant character at the start of the film.

One of the misses is the remake of the classic Helen number Yeh Mera Dil. Kareena Kapoor takes on the role of Kamini, the revenge seeking fiancé of gang member Ramesh (Diwaker Pundir), killed by Don for his disloyalty. Kareena just doesn’t have the vibrancy or class of Helen, and her seduction routine is clinical and passionless as a result. There’s no rage, no thirst for revenge or abhorrence at getting close to the man who murdered her fiancé and it ends up as nothing more than a lot of shimmying in a gold lamé dress.  It’s not surprising Don looks somewhat disdainful and fairly unimpressed throughout.

Priyanka Chopra is much better as Roma and at least looks as if she is capable of murder. At least up until she actually tries to kill Don at which point she seems to lose her mojo. Still, it’s a good effort and she does well in the songs too, although I think Isha Koppikar takes the honours here – plus who doesn’t love a giant disco mirror ball. Both Priyanka and Isha  look stunning and are obviously included to up the glamour quotient, but both do a good job in their roles and appear as strong and confident characters throughout.

Don is seriously injured and captured by the police during a chase in India which gives DCP DiSilva the opportunity to replace Don with a local entertainer Vijay (also SRK) who is the spitting image of the gangster. SRK’s Vijay is a tad more sensible than in the original, and Shahrukh makes him a very different character to Don. He even looks quite different, using facial expressions and body movement to emphasize the difference between the two characters – at least up until the surgery to make them both the same.

However, since only DiSilva and the fake Don know about the impersonation, when DiSilva is killed during an operation to catch Singhania it all starts to go pear-shaped for Vijay. As well as dodging the police and fooling the gang into believing he is Don, Vijay has to deal with Roma’s attempts at revenge and somehow get a disc with information about the gang to Malik to prove his innocence.   Meanwhile Jasjit (Arjun Rampal) is also out for revenge after DiSilva caused the death of his wife, adding more layers to the plot and a means to bring it all to a satisfactory conclusion.

The updated film has plenty of high powered car chases and some cool fight scenes which all work pretty well. There are a couple of escapes too – the first is rather unnecessarily convoluted, but the second is fun as it involves Don wrestling one of his gang members for a parachute while plunging to the ground after jumping out of a plane. Now if this had been a Southern Indian film, Don would have had a handy gun and some explosive to deal with the problem, but here he just has to fight it out while the ground spins giddily below and rushes every closer.

The film has a great soundtrack from Shankar-Ehsan-Loy which uses two songs and the general theme from the original film. The second remix is Khaike Paan Banaraswala which fares much better than the Helen remake number, and is a lot of fun – I suspect most of the direction here was asking SRK to act goofy and he manages to do so repeatedly!

Overall the casting is excellent and the support actors all seem to fit their parts well. Boman Irani is in sensible mode as DiSilva and he makes a good world-weary cop. I find he can be erratic, depending on the director and is often better in comedic rather than straight roles, but he does an excellent job here and suits the role. Om Puri is a little under used in a role that doesn’t give him much scope, but has a couple of good scenes with DiSilva where he is suspicious of absolutely everyone and he fits that character style perfectly. Perhaps most surprising is Arjun Rampal who I remember thinking was much better here than in any of his films I’d seen previously, and puts in an emotionally mature performance as a devastated man out for blood.

I went to the cinema prepared to be disappointed in Don and was instead surprised by how much I enjoyed the film, and still love watching the DVD. Expensive production makes the stunts work well and lifts the thrill factor, but none of that would matter without good performances and a well thought out rewrite of the story. The film works for me because of SRK and Boman Irani, but everyone has their part to play in making Don such an entertaining film. The Malaysian backdrop looks amazing, the soundtrack is great and the dialogue and stunts are brilliant. It may be a remake but it’s a great film in its own right and I love this version just as much as the original. 5 stars!


Ra.One seems predominantly aimed at older kids, so I fall well outside the target demographic. But it was interesting to contemplate Shah Rukh, the father, as I watched him play a nerdy dad who wanted to do something his son would find really cool. And I think perhaps, Ra One is the thing he made for his own kids. As with almost all things parents do to try and impress their kids, it doesn’t entirely succeed and despite being well intended, can be cheesy and embarrassing. There are daft antics, crotch kicking jokes, bad hair and the occasional detour into gross humour or sleaze that – I know this will shock you – didn’t always entertain me. But a few things were just delightful and hit the spot.  

I avoided most of the pre-film promotion as I thought low expectations would be the key to enjoying it. Those expectations were raised almost immediately by the opening sequence – a very amusing filmi pastiche set inside a computer game. Priyanka Chopra (as Desi Girl) and Sanjay Dutt (as Khalnayak) were excellent at what I hope was intentionally bad acting, and SRK was very funny as a kind of Goth styled sword wielding Fabio. It was tongue-in-cheek, with lots of action and stunts, plus silly puns and recycled film dialogue. Sadly my hopes were dashed almost as quickly when the comedy began.

Shekhar Subramanium (SRK) is a Mr Bean type fool in a dodgy wig who creates havoc everywhere he goes. His son Prateek (Armaan Verma) – a child in desperate need of a decent haircut and a swift boot up the backside – is embarrassed by his loser dad. Shekhar is a successful (based on real estate as the family home is lovely) game designer and tries to make a game that his son will like. This section draaaaaaaaags on. It is clear that the son is a brat and the dad is sweet but misses the point. Kareena Kapoor as wife Sonia tries to keep the peace but the first half is more about the father son dynamic.

Prateek tells his dad to make a game where the villain can never lose, because villains are cooler than heroes. And so we come to the action at last. The science behind how the villain Ra One can escape his game is explained by a bit of hand waving and muttering of ‘digital rays’. That didn’t bother me as I think had there been a more rigorous scientific basis for the story it would have been even longer and even more plot holes would have emerged. Once Ra One emerges in the real world, the film becomes an action superhero flick and I was much happier.

Ra One is an evil entity and determined to finish off his first opponent from the game – Prateek – for good. Shekhar sacrifices himself to save his son, but he doesn’t exactly disappear from the film. Every villain needs a hero in opposition and G One represents the life force in the game. Shekhar programmed G One with his own values and equipped him with some favourite proverbs, part of his gift to Prateek. G One bears a physical resemblance to his creator but has much sleeker hair, blue contact lenses and a flash rubbery suit.

Ra One eventually settles into the form of a bare chested Arjun Rampal and the final showdown is inevitable. Arjun Rampal just has to posture and flex, which he does well, and he was certainly menacing. Ra One’s arrival in India was brilliant and loaded with symbolism, but that wasn’t carried through.

Evil versus good, death or life, emptiness versus selflessness. As with the science, Anubhav Sinha shies away from delving into those concepts. I’m not sure that would have made this a much better film, but I do think there was room to expand on some of the ideas and give a heightened sense of consequence when Ra One faced G One.

G One’s relationship with Sonia and Prateek is mostly played for laughs but there are some moments of ‘what if’ as the grieving family look for Shekhar in his creation. The film effectively navigated the relationship between the boy and his father/hero and wasn’t too syrupy. Shekhar’s death was discussed in plain terms, and while G One was comfortingly familiar (and kind of cool) he wasn’t just a vessel for the return of Shekhar.

Kareena was most effective in he second half, especially in her scenes with Shah Rukh and seemed more real when relating to him rather than the child. It says something that a scene involving nasal contents and ending with SRK saying ‘Like it? Keep it!’ could also have some underlying sexual tension. And be funny. The role was a mix of filmi Ma and minx that let her look glam and show some dramatic range. This was a solid performance that showed her off to good advantage.

Shah Rukh is more effective as the slightly robotic G One than as the exuberant Shekhar but that may just be my prejudice against the comedy wig talking. His acting was sometimes surprisingly restrained for a broad action entertainment like this. The scene where Shekhar sacrifices himself was quite moving, and all due to the change of expression in Shah Rukh’s eyes. He covers the gamut from slapstick to deadpan comedy and gave G One a slightly off tempo rhythm to his speech and movements. SRK seems to delight in uncle dancing or cheesy retro dance moves, and there are some excellent bad dance moments, including a Michael Jackson tribute. The pleather pants in that scene made me wish that he would get back on the carbs – he’s looking very thin, maybe as a result of wearing the rubber G One suit for months.

The Vishal-Shekhar music is pretty forgettable, although the picturisations looked OK. The choreography tended towards the inappropriate but I guess if you’re a 13 year old boy it would be just dandy. And I appreciated the shiny underpants on the girls in Chammak Challo as attention to detail is always a good thing, especially when there is so little fabric to go round.

While I found the choreography for ‘Criminal’ skanky (although par for the MTV course), there was something endearing about SRK trying to pop his non-existent booty. I was a bit distracted by the triangular slit cut into Kareena’s miniscule skirt that made me hope she had also been allocated appropriate underwear.

Tom Wu was a stand out in the supporting cast. I am not sure why a Chinese character had a Japanese name (Akashi) but whatever. Just don’t call him Jackie Chan! I loved his flubbed lip synch in ‘Criminal’, and he got to show off a bit more than just being a sidekick. Satish Shah was his usual ebullient comedy uncle type. The special appearance that got the biggest cheer was of course Rajnikanth! He did look a little frail and I hope he is resting up and getting ready for his next film.

The VFX are good and are well integrated into the action.  The gaming style is maintained in the way the characters move, their fights and the fast edits. It’s certainly a quality film in terms of production values. The fight scenes are excellent, my favourite being the South style showdown with machete wielding rowdies. The script could have used some work, and the first half could easily lose 30 minutes. The wardrobe department were clearly in control of a reasonable budget, but sometimes had no idea how to use it other than by throwing more stuff into the mix. This will give you a  sample of the visual delights that await.

Expect a mass entertainment aimed at adolescent boys and you’ll be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this for what it is. Yes it takes the shallow option on many questions, but it’s a superhero genre film. Would I really take life advice from men in rubber suits? 3 stars!

Om Shanti Om

Farah Khan is one of the very few directors currently working in Bollywood who is making our kind of masala movie.  We loved Main Hoon Na and since her next project, Tees Maar Khan, is about to release it seems fitting to start our Christmas silly season with one of the last great masala films we saw in the cinema – Om Shanti Om (OSO).

SRK plays Om Prakash Makhija, a junior artiste who, along with his friend Pappu (Shreyas Talpade), is struggling for work in Hindi films in the seventies. The film opens with a wonderful take on Rishi Kapoor’s Om Shanti Om from Karz which foreshadows the reincarnation romance drama musical about to unfold.  There is some clever use of the original footage and we felt right from the beginning that we were going to love this! The retro setting also lets Farah Khan and Red Chillies show off some fab CGI work in their tribute to past filmi legends.

Om falls in love with one of the big stars of the time, Shantipriya or Shanti, played by Deepika Padukone.  Naturally, since this is after all Bollywood, such a romance is destined to face obstacles, as Shantipriya is a big star and Om is a nobody.

There are some wonderful scenes where Om woos Shanti, both heart-wrenchingly romantic and hilarious, particularly the scenes when he pretends to be a Southern Indian film star breaking into Bollywood. This was fun at the time, but even better now that we have had the opportunity to see where Farah took her inspiration from! Shanti is secretly married to sleazy Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal) and this of course presents both a barrier to Om’s happiness, and a great opportunity for some excellent SRK emoting.

Inevitably, Om discovers Shantipriya’s secret and his heart is broken.  Again Farah Khan manages to take some poignant moments and intersperse them with some classic filmi devices to make the resulting song both sad and funny.

Since Om is the hero, he still fights to save Shanti when Mukesh determines she must die to protect his own career.  Om is badly injured in the confrontation and dies (eventually) in a nearby hospital, at the exact same time as big star Rajesh Kapoor’s wife is delivered of a son. A son who has a mysterious birthmark that looks a lot like a significant tattoo. Yes!

This baby grows into Om Kapoor; a spoilt self-indulgent actor resting on his father’s laurels and a trial to all who know him. Adored by his fans, he feels that he can do no wrong until he remembers his past life, grows up a little and resolves to bring about justice for his lost love, Shantipriya.

There is plenty of comedy, particularly for anyone who knows something about the films, actors and different factions in Bollywood.  There are many sly digs at the industry’s predilection for nepotism, all tongue in cheek and very funny! SRK is not exempt from Farah’s sharp wit: as he arrives for a film shoot, one of the bystanders comments “I thought he’d be taller”. Kirron Kher is in fine form as Om’s ‘filmi’ mother, and she has some fabulous scenery chewing moments. Shreyas Talpade and SRK have some fun scenes together and really seemed to enjoy hamming it up as junior artistes.

Although a lot of the humour is contained in the dialogues, there are plenty of physical gags, and even the sad scenes have an element of comedy.  While Farah Khan is poking fun at the very typical filmi devices, she is also acknowledging these older films that she clearly loves.  OSO is a paean to these masala greats and we were inspired to track down many of the scenes she referenced.

There is also plenty of drama.  While most of the scenes are deliberately over-acted to get as many laughs as possible, there were some genuinely moving moments.  The scenes between Om and his ‘filmi ma’ and his friendship with Pappu were given as much care and emotion as the romantic scenes with Shanti and the confrontations with Mukesh.  The film loses momentum a little towards the end, but only for a moment and it soon picks up the pace with the final Andrew Lloyd-Webber inspired showdown.

The entire film seems to have been written to display SRK at his best.  He brings every nuance of the role to life and manages seemingly effortlessly to turn scenes from happy to sad to totally ridiculous and have us following along accepting every ridiculous turn of the plot.

This was Deepika Padukone’s debut film and Farah Khan seems to have gotten much more out of her than any directors since.  Although she is wooden in her earlier scenes as Shantipriya, she suits her modern day character of Sandy better and she comes to life in the songs.

The support actors, in particular Shreyas Talpade and Arjun Rampal are well cast in their roles. Being a Farah Khan film, of course the songs are exceptionally well choreographed and filmed.  One of the things we appreciate Farah for is her determination that her leading men should be objectified as much as, if not a little more than, the glamorous heroines. She outdoes herself with Dard-e-Disco which has hilariously bad lyrics (apparently she kept telling Javed Akhtar to make his lyrics worse) and is full of gratuitous shots of SRK in, emerging from, and being doused with, water.

Any good masala film must also have great costumes, and OSO delivers in this regard.  The outfits from the 70’s are thoroughly of their period and stunning in their garishness and we loved them.  Shantipriya wears some beautiful clothes and the depiction of Om as an actor means we get to see him in an array of costumes.  There are plenty of fight scenes too, with the best reserved for the Southern Indian film episode.

Much of the film industry seems to have got behind Farah with her multi-starrer song Deewangi Deewangi.  It was a fantastic feat to get so many actors to take part, and we had great fun spotting some of the stars of yesteryear and their signature moves.  The satire on the Filmfare awards was partly filmed during the actual ceremony and it is very good humoured of both Filmfare and the array of famous actors to take part. We weren’t quite so enamoured of Bappi Lahiri’s singing on the red carpet but he is a legend in his own blinged up disco way.

The story of OSO is perhaps predictable, but the great performances and the exceptional production values more than make up for that.  We are quite sure that there are a lot more jokes in there that we just didn’t get, despite repeated viewings.  At the end of this film, we both looked at each other immediately said  ‘What the fish? Again – we want to watch it again!’

Heather says: I think I saw this film at least 5 times in the cinema. Farah is excellent at showcasing her obvious love of cinema, and while she pokes fun at the entire industry it’s not with any malice. As a director she seems to know exactly what her audience wants and then delivers. Although her story doesn’t make much sense that’s not what I remember from the film. Its much more about the humour, the costumes and the excellent performances on screen. Being a huge SRK fan I can (and have) watched him in really dreadful bad films, but it is so refreshing to watch him where the director knows how to get the very best out of every scene. I totally loved the songs by Vishal-Shekkar, and they still make me smile and dance when I play them to-day. The continual references back to older films were a huge plus, and the clever re-working of old clips in Dhoom Tana was fantastic! Everything works well together; the casting is right, fantastic songs and costumes, great choreography and all tied together by a great script. Om Shanti Om is exactly what masala means for me, including the lack of logic in the plot! Please Farah, can we have some more? 5 stars

Temple says: This film is like the very best kind of Easter Egg hunt. Everywhere you look there are sparkly little treats and jokes, and beautiful tributes to other much-loved films. I really enjoyed the nod to every filmi cliche that could possibly be used, and the cheerful ransacking of seminal images from Hindi films of the past. I also loved seeing Pyarelal back up in the credits and on the red carpet! The performances really were very good, from the headline stars to the smallest special appearance and I felt that all the performers shared a love of the 70s film industry and it’s products, so they seemed to give it their best. For all the cheesy fluff, the film-making team also did a very intelligent thing with the Om Shanti equation in the modern era by not making it a romance. Om had no intention of, um, completing his earlier relationship with the newer model, just of seeing justice done for his past life’s true love. It made me a lot more willing to sit through repeated viewings of the slightly draggy second half as there wasn’t that squick factor. I also enjoyed seeing SRK revel in his ability to portray unpleasant characters – he was cold, calculating and quite repellent as OK in some scenes, and got to use more than his lauded five expressions.

Farah Khan has great attention to detail and everything from the costumes (where on earth did they find all those fabulous fabrics?)  to the music suited her vision perfectly. And the now trademark exuberant closing credits were a perfect finish to a great journey and sent the cinema audience out on a high. I loved being swept up in this, and feeling that little bit clever for recognising some of the references. Would you appreciate this film if you knew nothing about its source materials? Yes, I think so. It has so much colour, energy, heart and humour that there is something for everyone. Well, no machetes but I can’t really begrudge that tiny lack. And I was certainly inspired to go find or re-watch some of the classic scenes pilfered for use in OSO. Farah Khan as brand ambassador for Masala Pradesh? She’s got my vote! 5 stars!