The depressingly underwhelming (and numbingly long) Don 2 is less about Farhan Akhtar’s commitment to plot and character than hairstyling and haberdashery. Watch Shah Rukh Khan, in the opening scenes, resembling the world’s nattiest Naga sadhu. Behold Om Puri, gratefully grown out of his simian buzz cut in the earlier movie. See Lara Dutta’s ripe cheekbone framed by an inverted-comma cascade of silken hair. After the first Don, the reboot, the question on my mind was why they bothered. Why remake a star vehicle so identified with a one-time superstar? Why not simply write something new around a next-generation superstar? And Farhan Akhtar’s response was that he was bringing Don to a generation that had grown up without fond memories of the Bachchan blockbuster. I suppose his justification for Don 2 would be that he’s bringing Mission: Impossible and Die Hard to a generation that’s grown up without those blockbusters. Don 2 is so derivative, so dull that it makes us realise something we’d have thought hardly possible as the year began: Anubhav Sinha has ended up making the better Shah Rukh Khan film.
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Ra.One, mistakenly marketed (and seen by many) as some sort of sci-fi breakthrough, was, at heart, an old-fashioned potboiler, unashamed about its lowbrow priorities. What kept us – okay, me – watching was some mildly diverting drama about a reincarnated hero avenging his death. The film was livened by vulgar showmanship. Farhan Akhtar, though, will never stoop to something as common as giving the audiences a rollicking good time, something to hoot and holler about (or at). Attitude, to him, is all. He stylises everything – clothes, performances, dialogues, and, yes, hair – to such an extent in Don 2 that the film is airless. It doesn’t breathe – all it does is pose, the world’s longest commercial for high living. Why condescend to make movies for Hindi audiences if all you want to do is mimic Hollywood? We have our own trash – like Ra.One – thank you very much. We don’t need this imported rubbish. When I watch laughably wannabe films like Blue, balancing their western stylings with desperate dashes of desi sentiment, I slot them as Hollywood films for those who don’t see Hollywood films. Who knew the director of Dil Chahta Hai would surrender to that ethos?
Don 2 raises more questions than its predecessor. Why resurrect the characters of Don and Vardhan (Boman Irani) for a commonplace heist movie? If Don is some sort of underworld drug lord, why doesn’t he seem to have any henchmen to do his bidding? Why does he end up doing all the hard work himself, like a Commissioner of Police doubling as a constable? Why the needless 3-D? Why the ridiculous romantic flirtation between Don and Roma (Priyanka Chopra) that undermines both characters, making them weaker and sillier than their positions of power suggest? Didn’t anyone protest at the rhythms of such dialogue as “Mujhe apne aap ko zinda rakhna suit karta hai”? Shah Rukh cannot decide whether to stay in character, or reduce Don to a preening peacock, mightily tickled that everything he does is so cool. Why should we bother investing in Don if the actor playing him can’t be bothered? Boman Irani, though wasted, has an entertaining few minutes where he pretends, like a schoolboy in math class, to be engrossed in the droning intonations of an expert. Only Lara Dutta, purring like a well-stroked kitten, escapes unscathed, amusing herself with her gorgeousness for lack of anything remotely amusing around her.