OLD WINE: SRK who plays Amitabhâ€™s role is up against the venom of nostalgia
Meenakshi Sinha and Ketan Tanna trace the rupee and other variables from the first Don to the second
Every generation recounts the past with an unmistakable condescension â€” â€œsimpler timesâ€. And so it must be said about the Technicolour age of Don. 1978. Simpler times. An Amabassador car cost less than Rs. 50,000. Pran charged just ten times as much and even this modest fee was twice as much as what Amitabh Bachchan was paid then. When Nariman Irani, producer of the first Don, died before the film could be completed at the age of 49, the stars waived off a part of their fee because he was survived by three children. The item girl Helen was 40. And the fact that she wore green lenses became a hysterical topic of discussion in the upper perches of the society. The film was made in Rs 85 lakh, an extravagance then but adjusted to inflation it would cost less than Rs 8 crore today, roughly the expense incurred in the publicity of the new Don. Yes, they did not know it then, but those were simpler times.
The first Don was sold at Rs 21 lakh per territory and just 30 prints were distributed. Farhan Akhtarâ€™s Don â€”The Chase Begins Again, releasing next Friday is believed to have cost Rs 30-40 crore. Its lead star Shah Rukh Khan was paid over Rs 4 crore, according to trade analysts. And the film hits the marquee with 300 prints worldwide, 115 of them to cinemas in North America. â€œIt is definitely seen as the biggest release in today’s times,â€ says Siddharth Roy Kapoor, marketing head of UTV that is managing the overseas distribution of the film.
The first Don, an action packed story of a smuggler who is killed in a police encounter and replaced by the law enforcement with a clone, arrived facing great difficulties. Its original script was rejected by many, including Prakash Mehra and Dev Anand, because it was about a don, an unheard of concept in those days. â€œI had always felt that Don was a bit ahead of its time. Technically it may look dated now, but the characters and the dialogue were very hip. Therefore, it lent itself very well to a remake,â€ says Akhtar.
Interestingly, the famous song Khaike Paan Benaras Wala almost didnâ€™t make it to the original film. In those days, for music to be put on the Long Playing (LP) record, it was mandatory to have a minimum of 22 Â½ minutes of songs. And the first Don did not have so many songs. â€œThe song Khaike Pan Benaras Wala was added after the completion of the film, just so that we could bring out the long playing record,â€ recalls director Chandra Barot.
Don â€” The Chase Begins Again arrives without such fumbles. In its planning, technology and marketing, it stands for everything that is new and imposing about Hindi cinema. But it is a victim of comparison already. The debate over the artistic merits of something that is old and a work that is new, is usually rigged in favour of the old. Also, the choice of Shah Rukh Khan in the remake, has been a matter of discontent among the average person. Television channels are asking the dramatic question â€” Whoâ€™s better, Amitabh or SRK?
Yet, director Akhtar says, Shah Rukh was an obvious choice. â€œHe fits the part like a glove and is the only person today, who could do justice to the part. He had the style, flair, confidence, sense of humour, focus and drive.â€
There is a lot of Kareena in a song, a bit too much around the thighs in fact. But she too, is a victim of comparison and somehow a more vicious comparison because the original is Helen. â€œI felt if there is anyone who can come close in looking ultra-glam and non-vulgar while seducing an actor on screen today, it is Kareena. She is very classy, much like Helen aunty and can never ever look tacky,â€ Akhtar says.
Cinematographer Mohanan claims to have tried hard to deglamourise the film. Sticking to colder blue and green hues, he made the camera seek out the realities in the milieu of a don. To achieve this end, Mohanan was asked by Akhtar not to refer to the old Don. In less than a week, arrives this film that is somewhat cutely called a â€˜remakeâ€™, as it belongs to a plagiarising industry that is in the business of remaking films. Itâ€™s just that Don â€” The Chase Begins Again has owned up. TNN