In this series, we look at remakes of Hindi films in Hindi cinema—both the official and the ‘closet’ variety—to assess how they stand vis-a-vis the originals. We kick off with an insight on the cult film Don.
There are two kinds of cult films—those that were blockbusters when released, like Don, and those that flopped, for a variety of reasons, but grew by word-of-mouth into cult cinema, like Agneepath. But both kinds have been remade.
Since the average gap between a film and its official remake is at least 15-20 years, most ‘re-makers’ like to put in modern/contemporary elements and make changes in a way that the newer generation accepts them. Unlike in the past, most GenY filmmakers prefer their remakes to be official, and as tributes to films they have loved, usually as kids!
One classic case was of the Salim-Javed-written 50-weeker Don, the second biggest hit of 1978, featuring Amitabh Bachchan in a double role as Don, an international criminal wanted by the police of 11 countries, and Vijay, his lookalike country bumpkin who performs on the streets in the city. The plot began with Don bumping off an associate, Ramesh, who merely wanted to leave crime, leading to his fiancée (Helen) wanting to destroy Don by first seducing him.
Don kills her too, and now Ramesh’s sister Roma (Zeenat Aman) seeks revenge by joining the gang and winning Don’s confidence. However, unknown to her, Don has just been killed by cop D’Silva (Iftekhar), who has trained and planted Vijay (as Don) as in the gang, pretending to have lost his memory.
A time comes when Roma almost kills Vijay, but D’Silva tells her the truth. But soon, D’Silva is killed and Vijay is now in a soup, as only D’Silva could have proved his identity. Then there is Jasjit (Pran), who holds D’Silva responsible for his jail sentence that destroyed his family, not knowing that Vijay has brought up his two kids by one of those filmic coincidences.
Finally there is a red diary that contains evidence against Don and his gang, led by master criminal Vardhan. And now, Vijay is being hunted as Don by the police and as Vijay by the gang!
This Salim-Javed yarn, inspired by the 1962 Shakti Samanta film, China Town, that also had an overseas source, was the childhood love of Javed’s son Farhan Akhtar, who decided to write and direct a remake and co-produce it with Ritesh Sidhwani. This time, Javed came in only for the lyrics. And Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composed the music, re-creating the two cult Kalyanji-Anandji songs from the original, Kishore Kumar’s Khaike paan Banaraswala (written by Anjaan) with Udit Narayan, and Asha Bhosle’s Yeh Mera Dil (penned by Indeewar) with Sunidhi Chauhan.
Though the new film got a mixed reception despite Shah Rukh Khan in Bachchan’s role(s) and a Diwali release, Farhan’s contemporary tweak was ingenious—he turned D’Silva (now Boman Irani) into an imposter who was really Vardhan, kept him alive after being believed dead, and showed that the real Don was alive and had killed Vijay! This dark end paved the way, later, for a sequel, Don 2 (2011) that crossed 100 crore in India. The 2006 Don was an average success in India but a hit overseas.
A logically unconvincing ploy in the remake was Roma (now Priyanka Chopra)’s relationship with the real Don (who has killed her sweetheart Vijay). In the sequel, she becomes an Interpol officer who is chasing him (Don), but still cares for him!
While the new Don had one song that has endured—Aaj ki raat, the rest of the music, including the re-creations, failed to connect, while the sequel lacked a single good song.
And even youngsters who watched the 1978 Don, which won Bachchan a Best Actor award, generally feel that the remake totally lacked the emotions of the former, despite the technical superiority.
Content, once again, scored over the packaging!
– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.
Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar
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