All I’ve heard for the past couple of weeks in India is how much Farhan Akhtar’s Don sucks. If rumor (by which I mean professional reviews) was to be believed, Akhtar, having had the temerity to remake a “classic” was now justly reaping the sorrow of his impertinent ambitions. So, of course, I had to go see it for myself.
I knew what it was about: often described as a B-movie with A-list actors, Don the Older is famous in India for its music, its iconic dialogues and some of the zaniest scenes ever shot. It was good, campy fun but I must say that if Don’s your idea of a sacred classic, then you must be the moron that’s been programming TV lately.
Anyway, it’s now been about forty-eight hours since I saw it (sorry, but my curiosity wasn’t great enough to battle the opening week crowd of a Shah Rukh Khan movie) and all I can think about is this film that Aishwarya Rai once starred in. I can’t remember the name of it – thank you, God – but I do remember that its story was allegedly penned by her mother. I recollect that detail distinctly, because I greatly admired her courage in admitting to it. However, the point is that my best friend, having seen it previously, rented the DVD and played it for me.
“You’ll like it. I mean, it’s not great but it’s pretty nice,” she said. “Plus, Aishwarya Rai and Arjun Rampal, what’s not to like?”
Three very long hours later, I looked her in the eye. “Are you telling me,” I asked, “that you actually liked a movie in which a woman and her husband are run over by her obsessive stalker, leading to the death of her husband and her own amnesia; the stalker then convinces her that her child is actually his child, hires her as its nanny, takes them both to South Africa [Why? Because he can, obviously], she falls in love with him, he feels guilty; she construes that as his continuing grief over the death of his non-existent wife, she runs away, has another accident, regains her memory, forgives him her husband’s murder, and they all live happily ever after? And, oh yeah, this whole post-accident scenario is engineered by her own mother-in-law?”
She paused to think. “Um, yeah… I guess I didn’t think of that.”
Ladies and gentlemen, my best friend is a woman of great insight and keen intellect. She is also, as I am myself, an avid fan of the Hindi film industry or rather, Bollywood, which is an animal of a slightly different hue. We enjoy it, we fork over handfuls of our hard earned money for it, we discuss it, we rent it, we buy it, we hum the songs, we know the lyrics, we get the in-jokes, we follow the gossip and we’ve learnt the lingo.
In return, Bollywood has destroyed our ability to think once confronted by it and taught us how to truly enjoy a story – without any perspective whatsoever. Rational thought is for those miserable beings who prefer life burdened by iffy things like logic. Had I seen that movie someplace other than the freezing and very uncomfortable floor of my friend’s studio, it is entirely possible that I too would have been sucked in by the sheer romance of loving thine enemy. Thine murdering, lying, drunk-driving, stalking enemy with the pretty, pretty face.
And this is what Farhan Akhtar counts upon when you sit down to watch his movie. Don the Younger is a stylishly executed psychological exercise on a grand scale. It takes everything you know about the movies, especially Bollywood movies, as well as all you think you know about Don the Older and stands it on its head. I love it.
Oh, the movie taken by itself has several flaws, chief among them the Jasjit subplot that drags the running time down by several extra minutes that the rest of the script patently disapproves of. In Don the Older, one went along with it because there was a certain charm to seeing Pran dressed in tights and making like the Pages: 1 2 3