By Hindustan Times
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra
The vice president of the Deutsche central bank, Germany’s equivalent of the Reserve Bank of India, is a gentleman called Diwan (Aly Khan). He is Indian too? Don’s moll exclaims to her boss. “Kya karein sweetheart,” sighs Don, we're everywhere!
Thank god for that. This gives Bollywood’s big-budget filmmakers an excuse to set their films across the world, knowing there will always be one desi among that many goras in every profession the hero can conduct his business with in Hindi. Language rarely suffers. Characters manage to swiftly infiltrate rank and file of the police, besides other offices, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever find out: one out of six or so in the world is an Indian, isn’t it? It is!
In snapshots so far, we’ve travelled with Don around Thailand, Malaysia, Switzerland. The views remain stunning, throughout. Though you might want to see beyond. This is a film after all. Not an apartment on sale. Don is, we’re told, Asia’s biggest underworld king and drug lord, in Berlin now, to steal currency plates of the Euro from the German central bank. Poof.
I’m not certain why you’ll wish him the best. You understand missions to save our world. This is a goner, loner don looking to score a big buck for himself. Scripts such as these usually drop nuggets and back-stories later for audience’s empathy. This doesn’t. Here’s what we know, besides that Don always speaks of himself in third person, can morph his voice and face into Hrithik Roshan’s.
He loves the comic series Tom And Jerry (we saw this in the first part as well). He has seen Godfather. Surrendering himself to the Interpol, he asks top sleuths (Om Puri, Priyanka Chopra) to make him an offer he can't refuse. Yet, his name bears no link to his profession whatsoever.
Dons are often backed by charm and an astonishing empire of loyalists, network of funds, henchmen, consigliere to see them through. The original Don did. The one in this sequel has given himself up to cops so he can enter jail, find his arch-enemy Vardhan (Boman Irani: in a permanent state of scowl), get to a video clip to blackmail Deutsche Bank’s desi Diwan with. Enough backup dancers celebrate Don’s return with the title track that could be a version of Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s brilliant Aaj Ki Raat.
Still, the only person working for him, besides Vardhan, a computer hacker he’s just met (Kunal Kapoor), the moll who’s a mystery (Lara Dutta), is a hit man, who’d been paid to bump him off. He does intend to share his wealth with the few who stick by him and his whims. That’s our vague deduction of his modus operandi. By the way, this is also how a lot of second-rate, star-driven films get made in Mumbai!
Now that we know Don’s essentially a goofy, demented one-man army of sorts, who could be shot off any second, given that many guns and enemies around, let’s quickly get to slick frames, cold colour tones, and rapid action over a hollow heist and hostage drama. Cars blowing up in mid-street are of course formula fare by this genre’s global standards.
Many, like me, would have clutched tightly to their arm-rests watching the hero dive down Dubai’s Al Burj in the glass-break sequence in Mission Impossible 4 that released two weeks ago. Most things next to it, outside of some huge budget American blockbusters, will seem desperately derivative, wannabe-Hollywood ho-hum. Despite the efforts, this one does. But that was a given. Coolness isn't tight tees and a Tag Heuer ad.
Comparisons are still inevitable. MI:4 starred America’s Shah Rukh Khan and, among others, Anil Kapoor, a Hollywood extra. This one stars India's Tom Cruise. Both Khan and Cruise, leading men, in their late 40s, you can tell, are at similar phases in their careers. Both have had their share of women fans devoted to romantic weepies. They seek core audiences among kids and younger adults, with stunts that may or may not make sense. Merrily going with the flow, suspended in disbelief, is the only way to access a film like MI:4, or Don 2. You do. Or you don't. The latter may be the case here for a good reason.
It wasn’t hard to tell where Farhan Akhtar’s 2006 remake of Chandra Banot's Don (1978) was coming from. The director, among India’s most talented, could interpret an old, clever story on a contemporary visual scale: Common man Vijay, who’s a Mafioso look-alike, gets planted into a dead don’s den. He’s stuck now. The cop who put him there is also dead!
It was Vijay’s story. Salim-Javed’s tight script had a striking plot. The writers here have sub-plots. They continue to stretch and add thought to thought. The picture promises to never end. It gets hard to carry on with inane inventiveness, when you just couldn't care less.
At some point it becomes essential to wonder, as the adorable Vijay might, from the original: "Ee Down Sahab hain con? (Who is this Don?).” Truly. So much for a franchise.