Don (1978)

April 17, 2009 at 3:39 am Leave a comment

Don (1978)
Directed by: Chandra Barot
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Pran, Iftekhar, Helen, Om Shivpuri, Satyen Kappu, Pinchoo Kapoor
There are so many things that can be said about Don. But I believe ‘1970’s’ sums it up quite well. The clothing. The style. The Music. The opening itself is very retro camp.

A red car pulls into a field. Don (Amitabh Bachchan) steps out, confronting three thugs. They ask him if he’s brought the gold, and he pulls out his suitcase. The first thing that stood out to me (other than his bow tie and bright blue undershirt) were his huge yellow sunglasses. The sort of glasses you’d see in an old photo of one of your more eccentric great uncles. Yet we’re supposed to believe this man is a Don. A sexy, emotionless Don. This was my first encounter with Amitabh in a movie, and it took a bit of warming up to him. He isn’t (wasn’t) classically handsome. He has/had one of those faces that gets more attractive as a movie progresses, when suddenly it strikes you like lightning…this really was a beautiful man. But I digress, because this review isn’t about Amitabh, it’s about DON.

The thugs decide they’ll take the gold without paying Don, they’ll just kill him. But they obviously don’t know, or never met Don…because when they decide to have at him, he throws the briefcase…and it explodes. Don has a real thing for exploding briefcases. One would assume that if you were going to confront a major crime boss, you’d at least do a bit of research on the man. And since this isn’t the first time an exploding briefcase is used in the film, it’s obvious that this is one of his more common tactics…

After this, your senses are immediately harassed by neon green and red flashes of various clips with bright yellow text displaying the credits. Warning: not for those with sensitive eyes.

When the credits end, the scene flashes to a plane landing, and then a police office where several law enforcement officials are holding a meeting. A police officer from the Interpol has arrived, and has with him a list of criminals wanted all over the world. His name is Mr. Mullica (Om Shivpuri), and he asks about these particular bad guys who’ve set up a headquarters in Bombay (Mumbai.) The DSP (Iftekhar) states a few names, and emphasizes…DON…the most dreaded off all criminals. The sort of man who would smuggle gold, sell drugs, and probably kick babies if he got the chance.

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Immediately after this is said, transition to Don spinning around in his seat and shooting a man. Some of his higher-up henchmen rush in and demand to know why he killed the guy without reason. Don explains that the man was a police agent under cover, and had been storing information about them all in his…shoe. Lo and behold, they check the shoe…and the names are there. There is no explanation for why Don knows this, but I suspect he has a shoe fetish, and just happened to notice the paper when he was going through everyone’s closets one day.

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Meanwhile, Mullick converses with the DSP, curious that perhaps not all of his officers are abiding by the law. The DSP has faith in his boys, and ignores the remark.

Then, we go to Kamini’s (Helen) apartment where they’re both dreadfully worried. Apparently they won’t to get out of the crime business, as they are both working for…DON…and fear that he will kill them if he finds out. Luckily Roma (Zeenat Aman) arrives and offers them two plane tickets. Kamini’s fiancee, Ramesh, is Roma’s sister. But unfortunately for them, Don’s second in command…Narang…knows all, and tells Don in a sauna about their plans. Well, DON won’t stand for this…no…not at all. And when he gets dressed, you bet he’ll deal with it.

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That evening, he shows up at Ramesh’s apartment garbed in black. Don…harbinger of death! Chain smoking villain! And what’s more, when Ramesh escapes…there he is…driving the Taxi Ramesh is trying to make a get-away in…

Kamini finds out about this, and is heart-broken. It can’t be! She’ll have her revenge, you bet she will…and what better way than to dress up in a skimpy white number and seduce Don back to her apartment. Unfortunately, Don isn’t really that into her…so after they assumably sleep together, Don decides to leave. Kamini has called the police, but can’t let him leave until they get there…so what better way to keep him occupied than a dance? This is one of Helen’s funniest numbers, and wonderfully entertaining (especially when she drops a bullet and crawls forward on the carpet to get it while still trying to look enticing…)

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The police get there, and Don angrily takes Kamini hostage. Well, that’s it for Kamini…he later throws her out of the car and kills her. When Roma finds out about the murder of  her brother and his fiancée, she vows revenge (a lot of revenge vows in this movie.) In preparation for a showdown, Roma decides to learn martial arts (and she learns it pretty quickly…less than a week!) When she’s ready…she gets a haircut and infiltrates Don’s gang.

The police trace a conversation over the phone about Don’s next meet-up…but before Don leaves, he finds a diary in the safe. He asks his second in command what it is, and is told that it contains the names, addresses, and phone numbers for all of their contacts. It’s red because they’re beating you over the head with the plot device.

Don arrives, and who should he find but the DSP himself? Uh-oh…Don has a suitcase…let’s hope the DSP knows who he’s dealing with…The suitcase is tossed, Don flees, DSP gives chase…Don gets shot, and disappears…when the DSP gets in his car to leave, he finds Don in the backseat with a gun. He tries to persuade Don to give up, but Don tells him that it’s not just difficult to nab Don…it’s impossible. And wouldn’t you know it? Don dies…

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The DSP decides to keep Don’s death a secret. He informs the press that Don escaped…little does everyone else know, DSP has an ace in the hole. About half a year prior, a man had come to the police station with two orphans. He happened to look exactly like Don…his name…was Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan.) Vijay is a street performer, of all things…and has probably never even met DON…he’s also a Paan addict, and can’t go five minutes without a bit of Betel leaf in his mouth. He’s incredibly silly, and has apparently adopted the orphans as his own.

He loves the children dearly, but can’t afford to send them to school. He asks them what their father would think if he found out that they were living as street performers. And then the DSP arrives with a proposition. If Vijay poses as Don and gets information for him, then he’ll send the kids to school. Vijay agrees, and spends a few hours studying videos of Don. He also has to give up Paan, which is apparently far more difficult than infiltrating a gang of thugs posing as a crime boss.

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After he decides to take on this daunting task, we meet the father (Pran) of the orphans. He was sent to jail for robbing, a bank in order to give his wife life-saving surgery. The DSP arrests him, his wife dies, and he vows revenge. And now, he’s leaving prison…to…get the revenge mentioned earlier, obviously.

Pretending to have amnesia, Vijay is ‘discovered’ by the police…’unconscious’…on a ‘cliff’…Well, it’s really a cliff, but the apostrophes just needed to be used three times in a row. Anyway, he’s kidnapped from the hospital by his ‘gang’, and they try to revive his memory. Eventually, Vijay pretends to remember who he is…and starts dating Roma. That’s when she decides it’s time to kill DON…after a quick musical number. Awesome song about killing him. It seems romantic though, so everyone goes along with it and seems pretty happy. And might I just say that the shade of blue she is wearing…is definitely her color. Anyway, Vijay joins in on the song…and Don’s old girlfriend is obviously pretty jealous. This may be something Vijay would do, but I doubt the real DON…would burst into song. No one else seems to notice this is out of character either, so we’ll let it pass.

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So when they’re all alone on a desert road, she pulls out her gun and shoots-

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She has no bullets…oh well. She’ll just pretend it was a joke and everything will be allright. Right? Right. Wait, what?! The real DON would have killed her on the spot! But Vijay is kind of dumb (all of that Paan, I’m telling you) and just decides to let her pass. Besides, he likes her.

He gets hold of the address book, and tells the gang he’s going to kill the DSP. It’s a cover, obviously. Roma follows, tries to kill him again, and finds out who he really is when the DSP stops her. I think this is when she falls in love with him.

Later, Vijay tells the DSP that all of the crime contacts in the book are meeting up for a party…and the police arrive to deal with them. But not before the orphan’s father, Daljit, arrives at the DSP’s office and threatens to kill him. The DSP tells him that he’ll show his kids to him if he just lets the DSP go deal with the thugs. Daljit agrees. In the process of catching the bad guys, the poor DSP is shot…and nobody knows that Vijay is Vijay and not DON. He tries to explain, but is ignored (by the police, that is…all of the fellow criminals believe him and decide that they’ll let him take the rap for Don’s crimes.)

Vijay escapes from Jail and meets up with Roma. They know that somewhere is a letter from the DSP that proves Vijay’s innocence…and they have to find it. During their flight, Vijay breaks into song when he gets hold of his much-beloved Paan. This song “Khaike Paan Banaraswala” was the main reason that Don became a Bollywood classic…

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And what happens next? That’s up to you to find out.

Final verdict? 7/10 Bindis. Fun movie. Not the greatest I’ve ever seen, but it’s a favorite.

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Entry filed under: 5 and more Bindis, Film Reviews, Hindi, Languages. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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