Friday, October 20, 2006

Don & Jaan-E-Mann 


It's sheer nostalgia that deems the 1978 Don a classic. The Chandra Barot film was a good example of a masala entertainer of the period. Amitabh Bachchan was at his peak, the supporting cast was good, the music popular and Salim-Javed's dialogues memorable.
Audiences in those days were not even looking for technical pizzazz. Watching the old Don today would induce giggles, at scenes like Pran's tightrope walk or at the bell-bottoms Amitabh wore, but it is still curiously enjoyable as films of those days tended to be.

If tribute is to be paid to the period and the genre, it has to be done in the same spirit of innocence and eagerness to please, or it can fail as spectacularly as Farhan Akhtar's new Don.

Akhtar retained most of the original script, along with the characters’ names, songs, situations, and by doing that set himself up for comparison with the old film, and came off as a pale copy.

He concentrated too much on updating the look of the film and gave it stylistic sheen-- foreign locations, gizmos, a James Bond like opening sequence in Paris-- but the result makes you think of a child frowning with the effort of getting his fancy toy to work, and not enjoying the game at all. A sense of fun that came so easily to the original , evades this one.

The plot is familiar -- a cop D'Silva (Boman Irani), keen on busting an internationally gang of drug dealers, sends lookalike Vijay (Shah Rukh Khan), to take the place of Don in Malaysia. The real Don has been captured in India, and unknown to the outside world, has died in captivity. In the original, D’Silva is killed and Vijay is now stuck with both cops and gangsters after him. Farhan Akhtar changes that and it is to the detriment of the film, because after the ‘twist’ in the end, when you go back over the film, it makes no sense at all. Was it the greed for a sequel or for turning Don into a Bond like franchise that caused this bizarre compromise with plot? Whatever the reason, it ruins the story—and definitely destroys the fabulous Khaike paan moment.

Shah Rukh Khan at his starry best, in foppy designer costumes is no match for Amitabh Bachchan, and his Vijay just not as riotous as the original “Chhora ganga kinarewala”. Priyanka Chopra in the Zeenat Aman role, Kareena Kapoor in the Helen part and Arjun Rampal in the Pran role, simply cannot recreate the seventies magic. Odd casting too, that Akhtar gets stars in even small parts (Chunky Pandey, Om Puri, Isha Koppikar, etc), and casts a relative unknown in the part of Big Don Singhania, taking away the menace from the scene.

Too much effort goes in trying to give the film a slick, steely grey look—the only time there’s a riot of colour it’s in the superbly picturised Ganpati sequence. The curiosity factor will work in its favour of course, and the holiday weekend; but it’s not much of a tribute to a film that was not much of a classic!


Shirish Kunder’s debut film Jaan-E-Mann, has an element of quirkiness to it, which is nice to see. For instance, it begins with one of the heroes Agastya (Akshay Kumar) in outer space and the other hero Suhaan (Salman Khan) having a Forrest Gump-ish dream in which he is in an awards function in the past, accepting a trophy from Meena Kumari.

Suhaan’s uncle Boney (Anupam Kher) is a dwarf, just for the heck of it. The song sequences are fantastically inventive, like old Broadway and Hollywood musicals. It’s only when the film gets down to telling a not very novel story about two men in love with the same girl Piya (Preity Zinta), that it steps into well-trod territory.

Suhaan wants to avoid paying alimony to his divorced wife Piya, so he tries to set her up with old college admirer, the nerdy astronaut Agastya. Akahay Kumar really whoops it up playing Agastya in college, with thick glasses, braces and unruly hair. Even when he’s a grown-up nerd in a conservative suit, he has a shy manner and a braying laugh that brings the house down each time.

While teaching Agastya to romance Piya, Suhaan discovers what had gone wrong with their relationship, but thinks it’s too late to turn the clock back. Meanwhile Piya’s wild, dancing family approve of Agastya and want her to marry him.

The film drags, stumbles and totters to the inevitable climax, and you wonder why Kunder could not keep up the madcap quality of the first half. But even with patches of tedium, it impresses with its visual quality and has crazy stuff like Suhaan modeling for diapers! Salman Khan and Akshay are terrific together and look like they were having a blast; Preity Zinta plays the quintessential dream girl, with dimples flashing and hair flying in slow motion. If cut by at least half and hour, Jaan-E-Mann would be far more bearable.


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