Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Don - the CD

Knock knock knock, “Yes, who is it?”; “Don”

When I first heard that the classic 1978 Bollywood film, “Don” was being remade it made my heart sink a bit, but after listening to the soundtrack I have hopes that it won’t be a complete travesty. The music is playful with an intentional nod to the original. Not only does it incorporate two of the songs into the soundtrack, but gives the whole sound a slick 70’s groove that has echoes of disco, funk and Bond wafting through it.

Remaking classics is dangerous business and it’s hard to think of any that come close to the original – maybe “King Kong”? Or what about “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”! “Don” in particular will be a tough one to better. From what I have read, this version will be updated with lots of stunts, higher velocity action and loads of hi-tech gadgets – but that rather misses the point of “Don”. “Don” was all about being cool without even realizing it and so provided the viewer with an onslaught of enormous pleasure from the initial “Superfly” beats and the exploding briefcase to the chaotic head spinning kung fu finale. It also starred the two coolest actors in Indian film history – Amitabh Bachchan in his double role as the ruthless crime lord and also as the beetle nut chewing simpleton who has to impersonate him – and Zeenat Aman as the kung fu kicking femme fatale. And as an added bonus, Helen makes an appearance when she tries to seduce Don in order to set him up. How to seduce a man? By singing and dancing to the lilting undulating tune of “Ye Mere Dil” of course!

This one shifts its locale from India to Malaysia as evidenced by the Petronas Towers in the picture above, but much of the basic plot apparently remains the same. This is definitely no cheap rip-off though by any means as it brings in some of the top talent in the film business. At the helm is Farhan Akhtar who rushed to fame in his debut film, “Dil Chahta Hai”, but stumbled with his follow-up film, “Lakshya”, about a military conflict between India and Pakistan. So there is definitely nothing in his short filmography to make one overly confident that he can handle this sort of film, but “DCH” did show a casual irreverent streak that may do him well here. Standing in for Amitabh is the second coolest male actor in Indian history (O.k. maybe the third after Shammi), Shahrukh Khan. This may not be his typical romantic role of late, but in his earlier films he was more action oriented and “Main Hoon Na” of a few years ago showed that he can fake action as well as most! Let’s face it – no current actress can replace Zeenat Aman, but if I had had to choose one for her role from the current crop of actresses it probably would have been the sexy vivacious Priyanka Chopra and that is who in fact they got. She spent months in martial arts training for the film. Of course, I just thought of Mallika Sherawat who impressed in her short action role in Jackie Chan’s “The Myth”, but Priyanka is a better actress I believe. Rounding out two of the other roles is Isha Koppikar (the item girl in “Company”) as Don’s girlfriend and Kareena Kapoor takes on the big challenge of stepping into the dancing shoes of Helen. The film is opening world wide on October 20th and I sure hope that it appears wherever I happen to be.

From the CD soundtrack ( Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy; Lyrics: Javed Akhtar) it appears that the film will have six songs – the CD has added two mixes as well – and I like them all.

It begins with “Main Hoon Don” that starts out simply with a catchy funky guitar riff and then it slowly builds to a full orchestral sound that is reminiscent of some of the big brassy Bond themes in the Roger Moore films.

Next is a techno driven re-do of “Ye Mera Dil” that was originally sung by Asha Bhosle and is now sung by Sunidhi Chauhan. The arrangement is a bit busy at times, but this is such a great tune that it still works and the vocals are fine. I can’t wait to see Kareena dance to it.

“Mourya Re” is the most traditional song of the bunch – a percussive driven beat and great vocals by Shankar and one envisions some fast-footed choreography around it.

Taken again from the original is the next song “Khaike Paan Banaraswala” and for me it is the high point of the soundtrack – extremely playful and rhythmic with some vocals contributed by Shahrukh but primarily sung by Udit Narayan.

Sounding as if it could have fit into “Disco Dancer” is “Aaj Ki Raat” with its beginning drum beat that then surrenders to the synthesizer and velvet vocals – I can see the spangles and hot pants now!

The final number “Don the Theme” is interestingly an instrumental other than the words uttered at the beginning of this review – it is a great piece of music that takes in various influences and goes from Curtis Mayfield funk to Bond.

Most of the time I admit to wanting remakes of classic films to fail – unless you can do better what is really the point? But I hope that this is a good one and different enough not to really compare it to the original. But somehow you know that it will never match up on the most basic level with the original – the total fun factor – that I would guess was as much accidental as intentional – that kind of thing just can’t be planned.

Oddly – or perhaps not - is that another classic Amitabh film is being remade – “Sholay” and Amitabh is in it as the villain! Once a film industry begins cannibalizing its own you know that it is in the middle of a creative crisis and that is certainly the case with Bollywood at the moment. Up until now they were primarily remaking Hollywood films by the bushel full but have now turned on their own. Not a good sign.

P.S. – I picked up a few DVDs and CDs of Indian films while in Little India in Kuala Lumpur. I had looked around till I finally found a store that looked like it was selling legitimate copies though for fairly inexpensive prices - $5 for the DVDs and $3 for the CDs – except for Don which went for $10. As it turns out, none of the DVDs could play and the CDs other than Don skip quite a bit – so be warned of cheap prices in Little India! But they did give me a free poster of Aishwarya!

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