Forget the 1978 original - what about the nod to Raja Hindustani?!? Don: The Chase Begins Again

[spoilers ahead]

Two nagging points out of the way first, because if I don't express them I'm going to lose it.
1) I know this isn't a problem unique to this film, and if I watched more action movies I could spout off a host of other examples, but: why, why, why must the police be such awful shots? Obviously DeSilva wasn't always going to be on the target we expect, but everyone else? And why does no one shoot out the tires of escape vehicles? And wouldn't prisoners on a transport plane have handcuffs on? {Babli voice}What crap!{/Babli voice}
2) If anyone remotely connected to the Hindi film industry is reading this, I'm begging you, please get someone to proofread the subtitles. It's instead of its, you"re instead of you're (as a twist on the mistake you'd expect), and, a personal favorite, Deepu education will be taken care of. I'll do it for free. Just email them to me and I can turn them around in forty-eight hours. Like Filmiholic just said, in a production as slick as this, these kinds of rookie mistakes were glaringly stupid. (And in the time-honored tradition, by griping about others' typos I'm sure to have plenty of my own here; I'd like to point out that the problem of noticing your own mistakes is why you have proofreaders if you are a professional, budgeted production to be seen by millions.)

Also, please bear in mind: I was raised on neither Amitabh Bachchan nor the original Don (and have only seen it once), so for me this basically had to stand alone. And it did. About halfway through Don: The Chase Begins Again I had a revelation: I don't particularly need this one to compare to, change, or otherwise have any relationship with the original - except in spirit, and I think it has the giddy, twisty chase of the original covered sufficiently, if not with some toning down of the slapstick - because to me this seems like a pretty different movie.

To me, this was Bollywood + James Bond, reminding me of how Bride and Prejudice was Bollywood + Jane Austen. I really like James Bond movies (which often surprises people, given that generally I dislike film violence and seeing women be helpless, possessed objects), and if Bollywood wants to give me a James Bond-ish movie with singing and dancing and one of my favorite actors, sign me right up. Bride and Prejudice was a thoroughly enjoyable experiment, although in my opnion not as good as either full-on Bollywood or a full-on Jane Austen adaptation. Don was also a thoroughly enjoyable, and I think a much more successful, experiment, with all its pieces and references holding together as it zoomed along, using the orignial Don as raw material for a new, different project.

Which raises the question of whether borrowing a plot means that a movie is a remake. At first I thought, "Well, of course it does," but now that I've been thinking about it for a few hours, I'm not so sure. Somehow it seems, reasonably, that a shared plot is very significant and implies a responsibility to faithfulness to the source; but yet for me this is just a different movie, plain and simple, even though the stories are so similiar. I wouldn't really say that Bluffmaster is a remake of Nine Queens, even though they are very similar in some aspects of the story, but I can't deny that the latter must have knowingly borrowed from the former. Of course, they have different titles and are from different film cultures, so maybe those differences rule out the label of "remake." And maybe we just need some additional categories, running across a spectrum, like "homage to" or "inspired by" and "copy" and "retelling" or whatever. Let's not forget that the Hindi film industry recycles elements of movies all the time, and nobody seems to care whether Aap Ki Khatir is faithful to or dares to trash the very soul of The Wedding Date. Is it fair to hold the new Don to higher standards because it's a remake of a Hindi classic? I'm not saying it isn't fair, by the way; it's just that now that I'm thinking about remakes and how we analyze and judge and accept them, I'm curious. I also wonder if the new Don isn't what a lot of us would do if we had the opporutnity. It was a fun movie to watch, and I bet it was a fun movie to make.

Maybe it was the presence of Priyanka and Arjun, but I kept thinking of Asambhav as I watched this - poor, ridiculous Asambhav. After all, both are slick, gadgety Hindi action films with some undercover aspects and layers of villains, but this was a zillion times better. (Maybe there's an inverse relationship between enjoyableness and split screens?) Probably because SRK is a joy to watch perform and Arjun Rampul isn't, although neither he nor Priyanka sucked my will to live in this particular movie, maybe because neither had much to do. Roma got short-changed here, didn't she (and Om Puri too)? Too bad. Someday I'll find Priyanka in a role in which she actually gets to do something; until then I guess I'll just admire her nose like everyone else. Boman Irani was fabulous, giving DeSilva a convincing taint of bumbling and shabby.

Favorite new way to fell an opponent: golf drive to the head.

Favorite wardrobe piece: Don's linen pants in the scene in which he is eventually captured by DeSilva. Second favorite: Vijay's kung fu t-shirt.

Favorite "something borrowed" from the original: the getaway van in the parking garage lined up perfectly over a grate, dropping DeSilva to safety. Not only was it a nice nod, it was done much more realistically, and in movies like this, I'll take my wee moments of reality whenever I can get them.

Saddest moment: the implied death of Vijay. I really liked him, for the fifteen mintues I knew him. However, I was satisfied to sacrifice him for an explanation of how post-injury Don knew how to fight so well.

I have nothing good to say about the music in this movie. The background score was stronger and more effective than the songs, which were watered down - strange, given how amped up the clothes and sets and action and violence were - and sounded as though they were trying too hard to sound tech-y, although I liked the nod to "Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe."

Another point people might fuss at me for, but I don't care: I wasn't raised on Helen, either, and I think Kareena did a fine job, especially given that she had only "Yeh Mera Dil" lite to work with. I wish Don had danced with her, I must admit, but that's only because I love watching SRK in action.

Which, after all, this movie provides in spades. Rock on, new Don - but with better music next time, please.


Maja said…
*high fives Beth* Loved this post (and Vijay's kung fu shirt)! :D
Keith said…
Oh, Asambhav...some nights I think I am your only friend.
Anonymous said…
I love bond movies, and I think this was very much a bond movie - only less gadgets and more action, which is nice :-)

I loved the songs too, shankar ehsan loy are my fav music directors. I think this movie was pretty good. Ahead of its times (in bollywood time that is) just like they say the previous Don was (I am only 25 I wouldn't know). This was not made for TV, so I hope you saw it in a cinema hall.
Anonymous said…
I didn't totally love the original Don (I'm embarrassed to admit this!) although Amitabh was wonderful both as a cool tough guy and as a big goofball. But I'm dying to see the remake! Thanks for the review.
Morgan said…
Are you kidding? I love this movie! Priyanka is so strong and atheletic- her dancing makes me want to learn Kung-Fu and take up Hip Hop dance right now! I agree- she doesn't have much to do here, but still- she can WORK it! As for the music- Aaj Ki Raat is one of the slickest songs ever, and if you love SRK at all, you should be able to appreciate Khaike Paan Benaraswala! It's his own voice! And he raps! This movie is not much more than eye-candy, but I'll be the first to get the sequel!
Morgan - You've got me totally confused. Did you think I didn't like this movie? I definitely did, and I thought my words communicated that. Hence the "rock on, new Don" :) And yes, SRK's rapping is indeed a good time. I'll see you at the sequel!
ajnabi said…
I really liked this movie too, Beth, mostly because SRK carried the day. I just turned off all my critical faculties as soon as I saw the ballet dancers. ;-D
Shellie said…
I've yet to see the original, so this was stand alone for me as well. I totally am with you on the subtitles 100%.

I, however, love Khaike Paan Banaras Wala, and it's #1 on my top 25 on my ipod. I crank it when SRK's bit comes on. Other than that, the music was subpar. I also could have done without Kareena's poor attempt at seducing. I thought the song and the choreography were terrible.

Great recap!
Ellie said…
We just watched this on an overnight trip to Utopia, TX. And it was wonderful. I was really not expecting to like it-- I'd heard there was all kinds of sexualized violence, and I guess there was a little, but Roma held her own, SRK was great, I did like the music (I heard and got used to it before I ever saw the movie, and so to see the songs pictured-- esp. the OTT fabulous "Main Hoon Don"-- was a delight), and the plot was fantastic. It IS very Bond-esque, and that's a good thing. I haven't seen the original-- it's up next.

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