(Ratings: Poor * Average ** Good *** Very Good**** Excellent *****)
"Don apne doston ka haal pooche na pooche, par woh apne dushmanon ki khabar hamesha rakhta hai," says Shah Rukh's titular character in Don 2, cutting to the core of the film's plot.
In an interview prior to the release of Don 2, director Farhan Akhtar clarified that his film had no real message, apart from the idea that Don is smarter than anyone else, always a step ahead. In a slick two and a half hours of high-speed car chases and heart-pumping action, put together in a fairly smart heist flick, Farhan's extension of the classic Don mythos puts his stated vision across loud and clear, even as Shah Rukh Khan turns in a performance that might just still the doubting waters that his last release, RA.One, stirred up.
While the first instalment in Farhan's Don series rebooted Salim-Javed's original Big B starrer from 1978, this time around, with Don 2, Akhtar is branching out into new territories, bringing the vicious criminal mastermind into a completely original story. The idea is that while the first film was just old wine in a new bottle, with Don 2, the writer-director mind behind it is bottling a completely new spirit.
As Don 2 opens up, we learn that five years have passed since the events of the first film, and Don (Shah Rukh Khan), now, is the undisputed king of the Asian drug trade. He is looking to expand into the markets of Europe and the Americas, but finds himself on the hit list of the drug mafia out there, instead, even as Roma (Priyanka Chopra) and Malik (Om Puri), both Interpol agents from the prequel, are still hot on his trail. The next thing we know, the maverick druglord voluntarily surrenders to the Malaysian branch of the Interpol, only to be shipped off to the prison with a death sentence. Once in jail, his plan quickly becomes clear, as he meets up with Vardhan (Boman Irani), who he'd helped capture earlier. While Vardhan is initially hostile to him, Don quickly convinces him to escape with him and participate in a daring heist that'll let them steal a heavily guarded set of printing plates for Euros from a Berlin bank, by blackmailing the Indian deputy chief of the bank. The rest of the film deals with how Don brings his elaborate plans to fruition, even as he seems to be doublecrossing everyone he's involved with.
From the word go, director Farhan Akhtar's focus on Don 2, seems to be on keeping it all slick. Right from the point that the audiences are reintroduced to the new Don, with just glimpses of a long-haired, stubbled Shah Rukh riding a speed boat through Thailand's twisty riverways, Farhan keeps it patently stylish and chic, with even the fight sequences choreographed perfectly like ballets. Add some fast car chases and exotic locales, like Zurich and Berlin, and you've got a perfect potion to give even the likes of the recently released Mission Impossible 4 a run for their money.
The film's other great strength, apart from the slick execution, lies in the dialogues that Farhan has penned for it. Though they aren't quite in the Salim-Javed league, the dialogue in Don 2 has punch enough to stay memorable.
Farhan apart, the film's true star is Shah Rukh Khan, who delivers a lethal, almost devious performance as Don. The King Khan is in his element here, as he delivers punchline after punchline, (and punch after punch) sounding menacing like a hissing snake. Though he does go over the top at certain points, it's certainly a superb comeback for the superstar in the sort of negative, anti-hero roles that he first made his mark with, in films like Baazigar and Darr.
Though she's in the lead role, Priyanka Chopra's role as Roma lacks the bite to make her character engaging. Though the spark between her and Don lights up towards the end of the film, for the most of the film, the cat-and-mouse relationship between the two characters doesn't quite stay in mind. Boman, on the other hand, as Vardhan, is pitch-perfect, nearly as devious and suspicious in his character as Shah Rukh himself. With few scenes, Om Puri is wasted, while Alyy Khan manages a fair job as the Indian bank exec, JK Diwan. Kunal Kapoor and newcomer Sahil Shroff could both do with meatier roles, though the latter needs to work on his acting skills.
Overall, Don 2 is a film that belongs entirely to Shah Rukh Khan and Farhan Akhtar, the latter more so than the former. The talented writer-director deserves all credit for taking a character as established as Don and turning him into his own creation. Shah Rukh Khan also delivers a superb performance and is bound to earn himself a whole legion of new fans with the quasi-villainous act. Superbly slick, with impressive action, Don 2 deserves a watch, at the very least…