Movie Review: Don 2 (Farhan Akhtar)
by Srikanth Mantravadi
OK before you point out the flaw in this review, I’ll lay it out for you myself. I have written this with the assumption that Farhan Akhtar exactly knew and meant what he was writing, unlike say Kanti Shah or Ed Wood who did not have any idea about the kind of stinker that they were making. There’s a only this much difference between Don 2 and Gunda. Except that the former is rip roaringly campy while the latter is uproariously trashy. Because there is no way such an A lister could play out with such B movie tendencies especially when it is helmed by Farhan Akhtar. So I call Akhtar a Tarantino rather than a Kanti Shah. I am willing to cut that much slack for him, a director who has given us the uber cool Dil Chahta Hai, the rousing Lakshya and the devilishly smart Don remake. Not to mention the wicked sense of humour he displays in his TV appearances and movies (as lead) so much so it seems as if he collected all his one liners and gave them to SRK.
Don 2 has loud, brassy, colourful screenwriting that is at times so reckless and inconsistent as to be fatal. But somewhere down the line Farhan manages to strike a balance, I would not say fine, between this pure unabashedness and proficient plotting. It is still all over the place in a likeable way. It is not overwrought with a clinicality that becomes a defining feature of most thrillers. It does not even aspire to be the perfect thriller. Its aspirations are lower and it meets them in sublime fashion.
In the original Don itself, SRK managed to bring in his own mannerisms and quirks to make the character his own. It was a major departure from Sr. Bacchan’s smouldering, dignified performance in the original. Don 2 only ramps up the brashness and quirkiness of Don. It is an extension of SRK’s and Farhan’s personas. So if you can’t tolerate them in real life this movie can become extremely annoying to watch. The plot is centred around a heist that Don, Vardhaan and a man boob possessor called Jabbar, who is like a cross between Parmeet Sethi and Javier Bardem, fashion in order to steal currency printing plates from Deutsche Zentral Bank. There are a couple of plot twists as usual, a comically apocalyptic romance between Don and Roma (Priyanka Chopra in an assuredly dramatic role), his jangli billi who he admits has become a buri aadat, a few double crosses etc.
But what you really take away from this movie is SRK’s cheeky bastard swagger and charm that he, in the true tradition of camp and kitsch, overdoes. There are lines like “mujhe apne aap ko zinda rakhna suit karta hai” or “aaj meri maa yeh sunkar kitni khush hoti” that are outrageously funny. With this movie I lost the ability to discern the difference between so-bad-its-funny and actually-funny because it ferociously vacillates between the two although it is mostly of the former variety. Either way it is funny. This is the campiness and excess of the Tim Burton kind and go for broke filmmaking because I am quite sure Farhan could have made a studied thriller with functional dialogue and walked away with so called critical acclaim. He could have put the focus on the story but staunchly refuses to do so. Instead he puts the focus firmly on his lead and tells it in the massiest way possible. He makes the audience laugh at the film and not with it. He gives atrociously clunky dialogues to Om Puri (Who reprises Malik) and basically everyone apart from Don to make them look like moronic characters straight out of the iconic C.I.D. show. All of this is ridiculously joyous to watch.
The second aspect that hits you is the fabulous cinematography that faithfully and evocatively recreates the lushness of Thailand, the polish of Kuala Lumpur and the icy cool blue tint of Berlin. Jason West, take a bow man! The action set pieces are not extraordinary but definitely Hollywood worthy. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s soundtrack, as I had guessed earlier, improves dramatically in the context of the film. Their groovy cadences in the background score, derived largely from the first instalment, propel the movie well.
All in all, Don 2 takes hold of the action-heist genre and reconfigures its boundaries to suit its lead’s persona. It feeds and thrives on the energy and glamour of SRK and along the way throws in a modicum of a plot that I didn’t even bother about. Because in the end all the tackiness, cheesiness, ludicrousness and over the top-ness is the real deal, and to quote my friend (who quotes from the movie!), is all part of the plan. Its all part of the plan.