Sunday, October 29, 2006

Diwali/Eid Bonanza: Don*** & Jaan-e-Mann*

It was an unusual Diwali for the regular movie-goers this year, as there was not a single festive season release from the consistent Yash Raj/Johar stable. Starting from DDLJ in 1995, the two banners have regularly released their blockbusters around this time - DTPH, KKHH, Mohabattein, KHNH, Veer-Zaara, and so on.

However, the two much-awaited big-budget festive-season flicks came from differing banners - Excel Entertainment (known for popular cinema rooted in aesthetic sensibilities) and Sajid Nadiadwala (known for I guess popular cinema only).

Farhan Akhtar had one of the most sensational debut in Bollywood ever. His Dil Chahta Hai was path-breaking - for its sheer originality in establishing a connect with the (relevant) audience, for presenting stars as actors first and stars later, for narrating a relatively simple tale in the most refreshing manner, and most importantly, giving the fantabulous and gloriously wasted Saif Ali Khan a fresh lease of life in Bollywood. His Lakshya fell short for me only by his lofty standards, though we still witnessed one of the most authentic portrayal of an Army officer by Hritik Roshan. There were goof-ups in Lakshya too, totally wasting Amitabh Bachchan and Om Puri in miniscule roles, and horribly miscasting Preity Zinta.

I have never stopped disliking Preity Zinta ever since Lakshya. Apologies if I am being a sexist here, Lakshya happened around the same time when she started seeing one Mr. Wadia. Ever since then to my mind, she has lost her entire innocence which was probably her USP, and instead looks like a dumb made-up doll, that too not a really pleasant one.

Jaan-e-Mann is the debut flick of Shirish Kunder, husband of choreographer-turned-director Farah Khan. They had met during the making of Farah's debut flick, Main Hoon Na, where Sirish was the editor. I recently managed to glimpse them together in that great English soap opera, The Simi Garewal Show on the Star World, and boy it was diffcult to believe it was the same tough-as-nails Farah who had made such a good masala action movie. The couple kept crooning and gushing, and if I had seen the interview beforehand, I would have actually given Jaan-e-Mann a miss, knowing what to expect.

Farhan decided to remake Don as a tribute to the one movie he had grown up with. I personally had liked the original quite a bit, one of the better Amitabh movies at a time when he was just descending into doing some crappy blockbusters. The movie won Amitabh a rare Filmfare Award, had great music (both songs and background), and some neat twists-and-turns to make it an interesting thriller. Farhan decided to adapt the screenplay from Salim-Javed, contemporarise it by setting it in the current milieu, and most importantly, chose the leading star of the current generation, Shah Rukh Khan, to step into Amitabh's shoes.

If Farah had made her debut with an action flick, Sirish decided to reverse roles by choosing a romantic melodrama for his swansong (I think its right, opposites do attract!). The first time I got to know about Jaan-e-Mann was when I heard it had broken a record, by selling the distribution rights for the Mumbai territory for a whopping Rs. 7.5 crores. The other distinct feature of the movie was some really massy lyrics by the ever-dependable Gulzar.

Farhan's Don is slower than Chandra Barot's original. The first half especially takes more time to establish the characters - who they are, what they do, how they do it, and most importantly, why they do so (except for Don, who is just black). The start of the movie reminds you of a James Bond flick - a franchise which I love, and a role which SRK was very keen to adapt and enact on the Hindi cinema screens. I, and most people of my ilk, have got used to cutting-edge special effects of Hollywood flicks, and clearly all the fights and chases in Don are of international standards. I guess it would have been stupid to expect anything less from Farhan Akhtar, whose war scenes, especially the mountain-scaling ones, in Lakshya were breath-taking.

Jaan-e-Mann starts off promisingly. In fact, Shirish borrows from Farah's association with Bombay Dreams (reflected in her movie in the techno-qawaalli Tumse Milke). The flashback is narrated interestingly, using some innane songs (except for the title track). However, the biggest problem arises when you realise within the first half-hour of the movie, what is going to happen in the next two-and-a-half hours. And get ready for a ride which you have seen undertaken multiple times in the Bollywood world.

Don is a remake, yet there are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you glued (if not necessarily guessing). Personally, the biggest kick for me was when I kept wondering how Farhan would treat scenes which you really loved in the original (and for most, this also becomes a bane as they keep comparing the same to the original). For instance, I absolutely loved the death-scene of the original Don. Here, the same is different, because Farhan had to put in his own original stamp.

Jaan-e-Mann is the oldest-fashioned love triangle. A couple (Salman and Preity) fall out over some stupid miscommunication (that's what happens when you trust snail mail in today's e-generation). Akshay always loved Preity, and in the end, it takes his supreme sacrifice and wisom to unite the parted lovers. The movie borrows very heavily from all the recent blockbusters of relatively similar genres - Kal Ho Na Ho (the actual lover helping someone else woo his girl), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (the sacrifice for the happiness of one's love), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (college-campus stereotypes), Salaam Namaste (the presence of a kid as the binding factor), and so on. However, the amalgam dished out, after being fairly okay in the first hour, starts boring you to death when it simply does not end in the second half.

Farhan pays his tribute through Don to the Matrix trilogy and the James Bond movies. The setting in Malaysia helps to legitimise Don's business of drug-dealing, as unlike the 1970s and 80s, I do not think it is the ultimate crime for Bollywood now. Most importantly, he plays on the Vardhan, and the Mafia angle, from the original very intelligently.

Amitabh Bachchan as the original Don exuded a kind of raw machismo which I guess is impossible today. Even he has softened up for today's television generation, and while his son Abhishek is the designated retrosexual, I am not so sure if that can be so easily replicated. Thankfully, Shah Rukh tries to play Don through his own type of mannerism-driven raw energy (patented in his more than decade-old negative roles), and I think he does a fairly decent job. I never liked Zeenat Aman much, and Priyanka Chopra does more than justice to Roma's role, both in terms of performance and sex-appeal. Possibly as a tribute to Zeenat in the original movie, Farhan also shoots Priyanka in a swim-suit, and as a sign of changing times, the camera captures her in greater detail this time.

Akshay Kumar had been offered the role of Jasjit in Don, which he had turned town, saying he wanted to play the protagonist. Instead, he went and played Champu in Jaan-e-Mann, and manages to sleepwalk through a role which made no demands on him. Preity Zinta again plays the same character in the same style. In fact, the only time she looks fresh is when she is shown in a song during her college days. Salman Khan is in fine form, playing the role of the buffoonish character which he had excelled in at Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya. However, he hardly replicates the intenstiy of his emotions from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (for me, his finest performance ever). Salman also has some good comic lines in the beginning with Anupam Kher, who plays a dwarf (I guess to provide the movie with some of the only lighter moments).

Arjun Rampal reprises Pran in Don, and he looks as expressionless as ever. In fact, you sort of empathised with Pran's Jasjit, here you are just left cold. The Indian and international sidekicks of the new Don are also not half as menacing as the original Narang, Shetty & gang. In fact, another classic scene in the original was when Vijay was locked up with his gang, here it is a lot mundane for originality's sake. Farhan, in his pre-release interviews, for some reason kept saying he has introduced a new character of Anita (Isha), but I guess there was an Anita in the original, who had managed to discover that Don is actually Vijay.

I can attribute it to my poor music sense, the songs of both movies sound pedestrian but have been picturised well on screen. In Jaan-e-Mann, the title track and one soft romantic number (which I have conveniently forgotten) stand out. In Don, the title track looks good, though the original Main Hoon Don was a much more melodious number. Even Aaj Ki Raat has a retro-feel to it, and reminds you of Raat Baaki from Namakhaaal.

The trickiest bit in Don was reprising two classic numbers from the old movie. As a rule, I hate remixes. Kareena gives her everything to play Helen in Yeh Mera Dil, and looks sufficiently hot too. However, her performance when she is held hostage by Don to bluff the police, is pedestrian to say the least. The bigger problem arises in the Khaike Paan number. I am sorry, but the original was a vintage Amitabh-Kishore classic, starting from the buildup to Amitabh's performance (yep not dancing) during the song. SRK tries his best, but I just do not think anything or anyone can even remotely approach the original. The disco beats added to the song do not help much.

The biggest problem in the original Don was the climax, almost circusque in it nature with the three main characters somersaulting as clowns for a little red diary. Thankfully, Farhan's climax is a lot better, and has a very original Hollywoodish twist to it. However, this same twist does leave some holes in the screenplay - like what was there in the DVD which reprised the role of the red diary in the new movie (someone actually tries to buy the data from it), why does everyone keep bashing Vijay up so easily (Shetty's counterpart, Jasjit, Vardhan), and so on. The only thing it does is keep the channels open for a sequel, which SRK claims that he plans to make - with or without Farhan.

Jaan-e-Mann is the type of movie which does not deserve to be made now, even more so with such big budgets. It will be of great help if Sirish utilises his original narration style for at least more substantial, if not novel, plots.

The biggest problem which Don had to, and has suffered from, is the comparison to the original. I guess it is inevitable, and I do not totally agree to the view that in today's satellite TV generation, the youngsters have not seen the original. How the hell did I manage to see the movie, which was released in the year I was born, so many times . I think the trick is to view the movie afresh, with no baggage (easier said than done).

The critics have panned Don, the majority have loved it (similar to Dil Se I guess). However, I think at the box-office, the results for the movie would be a lot different, much closer to Devdas, one remake which I did not like at all.


svety said...

Its a SUPERHIT. A BIG BIG SUPERHIT. And, ur review is bang on. Except that I would , if I may, like to add some

- the climax scenes of Don are shot in the most amazing locale
- Shahrukh rocks
- Boman rocks and rolls. the sheer change in body language and tenor in each of his roles is devastating

More later on Don. Jaaneman, I refuse to comment.

Abhigyan said...

Boman is clearly establishing himself as the leading artist of mainstream movies (polite term for a non-hero, hehe). although I think he had not much to do here, hence missed talking both him and Om Puri...

svety said...

I disagree abhi. I think he took away substantial screen space from Shahrukh to establish the duplicity of his character (which went on to become the pivot of the film.

utpal said...

hi abhigyan....
I watched the movie only yesterday and kind of liked it as much as the original. i guess the possiblily of the intelligent twist in the tale must have inspired Farhan to remake this particular script.

Quite refreshing to see Shahrukh in role like this one. 'Swadesh' and 'Don' suggests that there are others in the film fraternity who respect his talents more than the karan-chopra gang.

Waiting for your review of Umarao Jaan.

Abhigyan said...

Umrao Jaan will have to wait..I am not planning to catch the flick actually. So maybe Vivaah, if and when it happens. And definitely Casino Royale.