DON – a review

When I was a kid, my mum and I both loved the movie Dave. Kevin Kline is a fun actor (we also like French Kiss) and it’s one of the now-rare comedies that is free of nastiness and vulgarity. It’s just about a nice guy who is nice.

Mistaken identity stories often rely too heavily on the reveal–not towards the audience reveal, but in-universe. It’s like the painful misunderstanding arc in romantic comedies. He said, she said, you lied but so did I. Ugh. But in Dave, there isn’t so much a reveal as there is an end to the charade.

Don has a similar title and a similar plot, but the similarities are not terribly strong. Dave certainly comes out as the superior film.

Like many Bollywood films, Don clocks in around three hours. Unfortunately, even with all of the plot twists and character stories, it doesn’t need all of that time.

Both movies have a nice but unsuccessful guy take the place of an unsavoury lookalike. In the case of Don, that unsavoury lookalike is a murderous drug dealer. Where the titular character of Dave referred to the nice guy, Don is the drug dealer, and a good chunk of the beginning revolves around him with no sign of good guy Vijay. To the point that it feels like the story is a very different one and the movie is over by the time that Vijay does show up around the 45 minute mark.

It’s interesting to see the story start that way, especially if you just watch the movie without knowing what it’s about. But it is definitely weird to see Shahrukh Khan play a bad guy. I kept expecting him to break character and reassure the audience.

Don has a long introduction, the end of which puts his character out of the film entirely. Two of the characters who show up during this introduction are there solely to be killed in order to give another character, Roma, a reason to want to kill him. One would have done it, but they needed the second to have a sadly bland musical number. After Vijay is finally brought in, we also learn about a man who is father to Vijay’s ward, and if you can’t guess by this ridiculous sentence, his story only confuses things more. Really, there are just too many characters.

If the film was shorter, with a few less characters, it would probably have been better able to utilise the premise. Vijay infiltrates a gang by playing Don, falls for a female lieutenant seeking revenge on the boss, and ends up busting the gang and a dirty cop. Instead, you get:

DCP D’Silva and Inspector Malik are after druglord Singhania, so they target Don, a deadly man who works for him. Don kills Ramesh and then his vengeful fiancé Kamini, which incites Ramesh’s sister Roma to try to get close enough to kill him. Before she can do that, Don is captured and replaced with his doppelgänger Vijay, who does the job only so that little boy Deepu can go to school. Deepu is alone because his father Jasjit was forced to steal diamonds and failed thanks to D’Silva; Jasjit went to jail, which resulted in the death of Jasjit’s wife Geeta and Deepu’s quasi-orphaned status. Jasjit is now out of jail and hunting D’Silva while Vijay masquerades as Don under the scrutiny of gang members like Narang and Anita, and falls for Roma, who attacks him at the best opportunity. Then Singhania comes in person, and it all goes to hell.

This is just a sample of how knotted it can all get.

I’m running long, and I’ve pretty much covered everything I wanted to say, so I’ll just end with a small note about the songs. Even the big dance scenes seem oddly quiet and underplayed, like Peter Lorre humming. Maybe it’s just me, but I found myself missing the dance-y beats from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, or even Endhiran–I hated that movie, but the music was great. The music in Don made me feel like I was watching Dil Se, or Jab Tak Hai Jaan without the romance or pathos.

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