Don (1978)

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Don (1977)
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Pran, Helen, Om Shivpuri, Kamal Kapoor
Director: Chandra Barot
Synopsis: Bollywood at it’s most breathtakingly brilliant

Listen to some classic DON audio clips below

Of ten or so films that this reviewer would take along on a desert island with electricity or an endless supply of batteries would be a superlative, unparalleled creation from the gaudy world of Sub Continental cinema.

Don is a work of pure Bollywood Pop art of outrageous proportions. Few films from the mainstream manage to satisfy different elements within a mass audience as this mega classic does. Certainly it was a considerable commercial success upon release, but simply to admire it’s box office figures is not enough.

This film is so typically Bollywood, indeed that is part of its charm, yet it also manages to succeed as a super tight, tension filled, twisty roller coaster of an action thriller better than most. In fact the plot of Face/Off seems dangerously close to the central idea of Don which was made way back around ’77 or so, Here is a film that dispenses with the usual sage mother type characters…….there aren’t any mummy’s or daddy’s to bother about, almost amazing in a commercial hindi film.

The film also dispenses with employing “comediens” the bane of desi films. There is no need for gushing Pita ji/Mata ji type nor for the comedy tactics of the household cook or the local policeman or what not. This is no small mercy. Then, the films songs, though not particularly tuneful, are all beautifully integrated into the films structure and plot and doesn’t just serve as irritating breaks in continuity. Perhaps the greatest thing about the film, however is that it manages not to be predictable and manages to weave some fantastically successful twists into the plot.

There are moments when the audience along with the central character are left floundering for answers as though a carpet had been ruthlessly wrenched from below. Intellectuals have also likened the film to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in that the lead character in both movies is done away with only a third of the way into proceedings leaving the audience floundering.

The film also features a rollicking performance from Amithabh Bachchan. Here is a man at the very top of his profession and we would wager he has never bettered this mesmerizing performance. It is a true showstopper and absolutely highlights the man’s sheer starpower and enormous talent.

There is also a bursting energy to the film which reaches an unbearable crescendo and a fabulous release when the audience and Amitabh are able to let their hair down for a moments break from the tension and let it rip with one of the moments in Indian cinema history – Khaike Paan Benaras Wala – which was apparently put into the film at a very late stage in production to enliven proceedings. It absolutely blows the roof away!

There isn’t a weak link in the supporting cast with Zeenat Aman looking less than her best but delivering a career best role. Om Shivpuri is superlative as is Kamal Kapoor as Narang, Don’s faithful deputy. Pran lives up to his reputation as JJ but may be guilty of some of the less pacy scenes of the film. Well, you need a few lulls, even in a rollercoaster ride of the most intense kinds.

If one can find any angle to criticize the film it may be on the basis that the fight scenes drag on a little towards the end of the film. This may well be the case, but they are somewhat redeemed by the one liner’s and quips coming mostly from Amitabh at his Joe Coolest.

Not only that, but the various leaps and jumps with double summersaults and the like are vintage Bollywood Masala. Its great watching Zeenat Aman and her rather hairy and dark skinner male double interchange so frequently during the fight sequences. So though they may be a trifle drawn out, even the fight’s have their charm.

The film simply succeeds at every level imaginable and is just about the most terrific action thriller ever to have emerged from Bollywood. Doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Don currently holds the cinema attendance records in various cities for a film on re-release. Clearly testament to its undying quality and deserved mass adulation. Just remember that Don may be injured, but he is still Don. More profound words could hardly be uttered! A truly great, epic classic, the most phenomenal Bollywood Masala film we have yet encountered. A gem, blue gem at that! If not the best, certainly the coolest film ever to have come out of Bollywood.