Don is in every way a superlative film
By MovieTalkies.com, 02 November 2006
We have seen many actors who have been referred to as one film wonders and yet one can not help but try and understand why director Chandra Barot was never able to repeat the magic he created with Don. Don is in every way a superlative film which not only has strong performances, great music, crisp writing (courtesy the dynamic duo Salim Javed) and also introduces audiences to the excellent storyteller in Barot.
Don begins, true to its title, as the story of one of the most powerful men in the business of crime, who in spite of being one of the most wanted on the list of the Interpol, remains elusive to the police. Don (Amitabh Bachchan) is not a typical Hindi film negative character; he is understated and yet dominating, a man of few words who is stylish yet not flashy, he represents a negative character who you just can not hate, as his sophisticated and sharp intelligence makes you actually envy him. Along with the police, he makes a few other enemies through his merciless approach to running his organization especially when he kills one of his own men, Ramesh, when Ramesh decides to leave the business. This introduces Don to two new enemies, Kamini (the sizzling Helen) Ramesh’s finace and Roma (a ravishing Zeenat Aman) Ramesh’s sister. While Kamini seduces Don and attempts to have the police arrest him, her plan backfires as Don outsmarts her and the police in his escape, and in the process Kamini loses her life. A shattered yet revenge seeking Roma enters Don’s gang after proving that she too is on the wrong side of the law and will not hesitate in taking the life of even a cop. This “jungli billi” appeals to Don and he allows her to work for him, without realizing her true intentions. Meanwhile after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at nabbing Don, the police finally succeed, but unfortunately Don dies during the pursuit, endangering ACP D’Souza’s (Iftekhar) plan to reach the source of all crime, the man Don reported to, through capturing Don alive. D’Souza buries Don’s body so that it remains unfound, ensuring that people believe that he may still be alive, and as luck would have it, D’Souza remembers his chance encounter with Vijay, a simpleton trying to survive in the hustle and bustle of Bambai nagariya in order to support two small foster children, who bears a striking resemblance to Don. D’Souza hatches a plan to transform the Banarasi paan loving Vijay into Don, and place him back into the crime nexus, but this time as a police informer.
Don returns to his gang, albeit while suffering a bout of amnesia at around the same time that JJ (Pran), just released from jail, begins his mission of revenge against D’Souza and his search for his children Deepu and Muni, who had been saved and taken care of by Vijay. While Roma is hell bent on eliminating Don in order to avenge her brother’s death, she is suddenly introduced to the fact that Don is dead and the man she is trying to kill is actually Vijay. Meanwhile as Vijay learns more and more about Don, his life and his contacts through his discovery of Don’s diary and Roma’s help, he announces to his colleagues that his memory is back and he remembers that he is Don and meanwhile hands the diary over to D’Souza. Celebrations ensue, as Don announces his return to the world, but things take a drastic turn when the police raid the celebrations, and Vijay’s only witness to his true identity, D’Souza ,dies in the crossfire and now Vijay is tangled in a web of confusion where the police refuse to believe that he is Vijay not Don, whereas his underworld gang realizes that he is indeed Vijay and not Don, and hence Vijay is now not only hated by the police, but also by Don’s righthand man Narang and the rest of his gang. To add to Vijay’s woes, Don’s diary which he had handed over to D’Souza and is his last hope of proving his innocence, is stolen by JJ in an attempt by him to track down his lost children, without realizing that Vijay is the one man who can reunite him with them. Vijay escapes the clutches of the police and the underworld with Roma’s help and transforms back into “chora ganga kinnarewala” but with a sword hanging over his head as he struggles to prove his identity and innocence. The climax reveals a shocking twist in the tale where Vijay discovers who is truly on his side, and who is against him.
Don boosts of a fast paced narrative with one event logically leading to the next without the pace dropping at any point (in fact the pace seems to continuously pick up from one nail biting scene to the next), along with remarkably well etched characters. The contrast between Don and Vijay is cleverly crafted and Barot chooses to introduce each character in a simple, natural manner, without the traditional dramatic introduction sequences of the hero and heroine. Barot craftily interweaves several stories without distracting the viewer from the main plot and intersperses the songs at perfect intervals, ensuring the songs help carry the narrative forward. The screenplay is nearly flawless and dialogues are smart, leaving memorable dialogues like “Don ko pakadna mushkil nahin namumkin hai” and “mujhe uske joothe pasand nahin the” etched in the viewers memory much after watching the film.
Several scenes are extremely well crafted including the sequence in jail post Vijay’s attempts to reveal his true identity and Narang realizing that he is telling the truth, to the subsequent sequence in the police jeep where Vijay intentionally antagonizes Don’s gang in an attempt to engage a reaction and mastermind his escape. Another engaging sequence is Vijay and Roma’s get away leading up to Khaike Paan Banaraswala as is the climax which reveals the identity of the true criminal mastermind. Actually the film is filled with one memorable sequence after another.
Amitabh Bachchan is probably the only actor who can be the perfect Don and yet be the perfect Vijay in the same film, allowing the contrast of the characters’ personality to clearly emerge. What is remarkable about Bachchan’s performance is that he enacts both characters in a manner which ensures that neither are over the top or clichéd; he portrays Don in the most subtle, understated, stylish manner where he delivers dialogues without overacting and yet ensuring that they remember etched in the audiences mind and Vijay in a manner which brings across his simplicity and innocence and yet manages to exhibit a certain degree of intelligence and sheer courage. Zeenat Aman is the perfect mix of feminism and aggression which truly defines the character of Roma and no other actress would have fitted the bill of this character. Pran is superb in a role which makes the audiences hate him and empathize with him at the same time; hate him because you know his actions have led to a deeper grave being dug for Vijay and yet you know his motivations and intentions are not evil and that he is at the mercy of circumstance. The film is ably supported with strong performances by Iftikhar, Om Puri and Helen.
Here is a film which in spite of being a masala fair, is not just entertaining but reminds the audiences that a good script, great direction and strong performances are the backbones of good cinema.