Don-The Chase Begins: Movie Review
Don (2006): * and 1/2
How do you go about critiquing a movie which is so mediocre it doesn’t evoke any emotion from the viewer? Having just come out of the screening, I am so numb with disappointment, that there’s neither any incentive to praise this piece of crap, nor the energy left to bash it with junky adjectives. Since when did Bollywood mainstream movies become so utterly predictable and so totally boring? Have film-makers absolutely lost the sense of having a proper graph, having good dialogue and good characterisations? Where is the integrity in the screenplay, and where’s the feel or a sense of thrill, tension, pace and seeing something that isn’t simply staged and rehearsed? And all this when its actually a remake of a decidedly over-the-top (it was the 70s) yet taut-to-the-last-scene thriller of the yesteryears. Despite all the special effects and marketing gimmickery, the new Don is proof of Hindi cinema’s storytelling quality spiralling downward with such godspeed that if a few good films don’t release fast, even the most hardcore Bollywood devotees wouldn’t touch the stuff belched out of this industry with a bargepole.
2 hours later, after calming down a little, I was able to put together a few thoughts about why this movie simply didn’t work for me and have randomly stuffed them in a few points below:
1. I must have repeated this line so many times reviewing the biggies from Bollywood this year (Fanaa, Phir Hera Pheri, Krrish, KANK), its probably lost all its meaning. But still I’ll say it again–Don is unpardonably boring; a staged, fake bore-a-thon that’s neither got the pace nor the tension that a good thriller so badly needs. And for a mainstream movie, that is a sin. A cardinal sin. Its a general rule that whatever it takes, your prime focus should be to involve the audience in such a way that a common thread or theme keeps them intrigued with charismatic stars; elaborate, showy dance numbers; over-the-top melodrama; plot-holes so big you can ride road-rollers in and co-incidences to drive home the point under 3 hours only adding to the fun factor.
To start with, Don doesn’t have a common thread or theme to speak of. It starts off as a bland cat-and-mouse chase between the police and the ever-growing-self-professed-kingpin SRK, then quickly changes gears to this kingpin getting seduced and attacked by vengeance-driven women (aka Kareena and Priyanka) thanks to his itch of bumping off his right-hand men who always turn out to be seductresses’ bhais, then somewhere in between him getting bumped off and replaced by a UPite-bandwala twin by a cop (Boman Irani) who plants him as a mole in this stylised cocaine-land, and then a whole load of fuss about a CD containing all the account details and passwords of drug lords of the world the semantics of which are so braindead, my head hurts. There’s another angle of an IT security fella (Arjun Rampal) who’s had his wife and son held at ransom and when asked to rob hundreds of crores worth of diamonds, the guy obliges and gets caught by the same cop who’s leaving no stone unturned to expose the drug mafia. Unable to complete his part of the deal, Rampal’s wife is killed and his son, who’s left to fend on the streets, is adopted by the UPite bandwala twin of DON. The two big twists of the movie are *SPOILERS*–Is the cop really doing what we think he’s doing? And Is the UPIte twin of the DON really the one we think he is? I guess the tone of these two questions have given them off but since I am not recommending the movie anyways, I am not bothered. And the question really isn’t whether the two twists shock or not, its actually–do we care? The answer is a resounding no.
2. Shahrukh Khan is hopelessly miscast as the DON. As the shaking, spindly, anorexic, and irritatingly animated ganglord he’s basically the twitching loverboy who’s seen the old Don probably too many times. Not only is the actor crippled by his own physicality (its just the wrong baritone–lines like “I’m the king” are unintentionally funny, wrong physique–even Boman Irani and Arjun Rampal look more upto the job of bashing people up and indeed kick some serious SRK-ass) which makes him look eerily like a kid playing “let’s pretend” amidst hefty men; his perpetual pouting, and hyper-expressing gives away the lines much before he’s mouthed them. And there’s simply no presence or no meany threatful menace to this Don, which is quite saddening as SRK was really in his element when he played grey in Darr and Baazigar not forgetting his hilarious yet convincing turn as Baadshah. Now, everytime the fidgety SRK attempts a swagger, its more of a catwalk, and everytime he utters the supposedly tough-yet-cool lines from the old Don, it looks like a college teenager cheesily trying to make a pass. And this when the movie isn’t even a spoof. His now-routine attempts at sauve sarcasm and rustic tomfoolery fall totally flat not because they are badly written, but because he does them in a way that shouts “Can I have some claps for what I just did?”. Of late, he’s also mistaken acting for a collage of similar windblown close-up shots of his goggled face which is becoming very tiresome to watch. Its all disheartening as this character had some brilliant scope had it been done with silent, sauve unpredictability-words this Khan has flushed down his toilet sometime in the late 90s. Compared to him, both Boman Irani and Arjun Rampal pitch in far more believable performances.
3. The action sequences are a mess and not even remotely as swanky as the smartly edited preview would have you believe. The flash-cut-left-right-cut–centre-cut-top-flash technique sucks even the minutest bit of rawness or excitement, not to mention the fact that you see them coming much before they do. What’s even worse, when the camera remains still, the actors look like in the middle of a dance sequence than an action one (there’s a SRK-Arjun Rampal martial-art one-on-one which is possibly the fakest Bollywood fight I’ve had the oppurtunity to see. Not only are the actors unconvincing, the sound design and the camera angles are shockingly mundane). Also, the superhuman genes have been sprinkled generously to the whole male cast, and not just the hero. So there are scenes when Boman Irani, the cop, would get shot at visibly heart-level, blood would spurt out from both the holes in chest and the back and he would not only run but shout, strategise and point a pistol with both hands for the whole of the remaining sequence a hundred times before all of its conveniently forgotten.
Then there’s this sequence where an otherwise limping Arjun Rampal who uses a walking stick trots away on top of a 300 feet high walkway’s glass roof with his son on the back. There are shots of him slipping over the parapet often, but the guy’s agility with his otherwise lifeless leg can give circus tightrope walkers some competition. Fight-or-flight reaction is the probable explanation. And the grand daddy of them all is the one where during a fight in the plane (that’s transporting Don and his company to some godforsaken land I can’t be bothered to remember), Don himself pushes the lever of the emergency exit door mid-air and gets sucked out along with the poor Irish thug who had picked a fight with him. The funnier bit is, despite free-falling without a parachute much before the Irish guy who has suspiciously managed to get sucked into open air with one, Don’s perfectly able to pick a fight mid-air, exchange a few slaps and punches, snatch the parachute away and land safely without a scratch. And I thought I was dumb at physics.
The thing is, stunts and sequences so larger-than-life are a staple of this genre and can be easily digested if they flow with the plot or are a daredevilry showcase of a likeable character. With not even a remotest semblance of plot-graph or characters, over-ambitious scenes like these only add up the bigger joke that this movie is.
4. The only thing that tops SRK’s hamming and the outrageously embarrasing action sequences is the background score. The monotonous techno-trance music continues to thump away carelessly and endlessly with little credence for scene or situation, timing or mood compounding the headache. The music, when re-living past melodies from the old Don, is admittedly very well-orchestrated (Yeh Mera Dil’s tempo, rhythm and mood is light years ahead in sensuality than the original while Khaike Paan Banaraswala manages to retain the rustic cheekiness with electronic beats to boot), but the original melodies are plain mediocre. And despite having such names as Saroj Khan and Farah Khan in the credits, the choreography is not only downright ordinary but sometimes even shoddily put together. And we are talking of a film-maker who gave us Woh Ladki Hai Kahaan (DCH) and Main Aisa Kyun Hoon (Lakshya).
5. Now to my favourite part of the review–the girls. Like a good ole’ Bond movie, they look gorgeous and sumptuous, but within a defined range. Kareena would look utterly ravishing in some poses but is downright scary when she tries to overdo the come-hither-me routine (and boy does she overdo it or what!). There’s a veil of artificiality that never leaves Priyanka’s eyes for a good part of her screentime (with a character as shoddily written as hers, I wasn’t surprised) and her lollipop figure profile (large face and head atop a petite body) still freaks me out a bit , yet this talented girl thankfully puts an effort in creasing her facial muscles and selecting a better designer which helps in bailing out her performance as creditworthy overall. The one thing that Isha Koppikar always did with aplomb was move right but here not only she manages to look consistently bland, she hams like no tomorrow and her dance moves brought back some very painful memories of Manisha Koirala.
6. Finally I am once again, for the 5th time in a single year, shocked and infuriated as to how weak this movie is, how B-grade its treatment is, how it doesn’t even have the basic ingredients of an entertainer, how it completely fails even when compared to a tackily made original let alone contemporary police-n-spy thrillers, and how it all comes from the same guy who re-wrote the format of mainstream urban Bollywood movie hardly five years back.
I sincerely hope this movie flops miserably and leads to talented-but-now-over-confident guys like SRK and Farhan Akhtar do some soul-searching and return to their roots.
This Don really is one big yawn.