So What Shall It Be?
I haven't watched Don 1 yet, which was a remake by Farhan Akhtar back in 2006 based on one of the classic Amitabh Bachchan films, and all I know about that movie, besides starring Shah Rukh Khan in a negative, villainous role, was that it was mostly shot in Malaysia. It took quite a while to finally have this sequel completed, but it was worth the wait for that level of production values yet to be seen in a Bollywood action film, which has so far been somewhat derivative. And this progress bodes well for the Hindi mainstream film industry coming out and standing on its own uniqueness, from Delhi Belly to Dhobi Ghat, and now Don 2.
One doesn't need prior knowledge from Part 1 because key moments will have its necessary but brief flashbacks, so you can go ahead and make plans to watch this without any need of background knowledge. Suffice to only know that Shah Rukh Khan continues in the role as Don the drug lord of Asia, who because of his ambition to take over Europe's cartels as well, has irked the Europeans to put money on his head. This makes Don think twice about wanting to continue being in this dangerous trade, and is willing to give up all his contacts to the Interpol police, represented by Om Puri and Priyanka Chopra as Detective Malik and Roma respectively, for immunity from incarceration and the hangman's noose.
But this is Don, so what's on the surface is purely and literally superficial, as his plans have parts two and three, meaning to get rid of those enemies who had done their pre-emptive strike from Europe, as well as to exit the drug trade and go into something more lucrative, say a bank heist to get the printing plates of the Eurodollar currency. And to do all this in one setting - what's life without its challenges, eh? This means to blackmail people at the right places such as Diwan (Aly Khan) the VP of the bank, to make friends out of enemies like Vardhaan (Boman Irani) from the past in the original film, and those hired recently to bump him off such as Jabbar (Nawwab Shah) and his goons, counter-offering such mercenaries three times as much so as to gather enough resources for the audacious plan he has concocted that sprawls throughout the film, wondering if he has plot convenience on his side to pull everything off in one night. Rounding up his troopers are tech geek (for any heist film) in Sameer (Kunal Kapoor), and femme fatale Ayesha (Lara Dutta) in a small role.
The multi-talented Farhan Akhtar had pulled out all the stops here in making an action crime caper worthy of standing out there in the international film circuit, boasting all the necessary ingredients that made Don 2 an exhilarating ride from start to end, whether be it fight sequences involving guns, knives, fists or makeshift weapons, or complex designed stunts from multi-levelled car chases to having SRK leap off a rooftop from 300ft. Working with some of the best in the business of stunt choreography had given this film a distinct slickness in every stunt execution, and one of the best sequences involved the extended infiltration of a building by Don, Roma and a team of German Spezialeinsatzkommandos (SEK, the equivalent of the American SWAT) and the gun/fist fights. Goodbye gross exaggeration, hello smooth execution.
This is probably the first time I've seen SRK play a negative role on the big screen, and he does his Bad Shah persona with aplomb, balancing that sneaky schemer in his Don character with the necessary physique for the role, putting us all to shame since he's pushing 50 years of age and still looking good for the part of the action super-star. Priyanka Chopra also proved that she's no flower vase in this film, with enough stunts here to put her in almost the same league as what Scarlett Johansson had done with her Black Widow role, showing off her toned frame and one tough cookie persona in having to perform her own fight routines, which was a good break from her extended involvement here that has Interpol always on the back pedal, addressing villains with their hands tied.
Opportunities to add some pizzazz such as bond-ish song and dance routines especially that featured in its closing credits seemed to hard to pass up, but these routines were thankfully kept to a bare minimum and usually out of the main narrative, which was a thankful deliberate decision so as not to detract from the relative seriousness of the narrative. Its crux is primarily a heist movie that involves the planning and scheming to have things fall in place for a plan to be carried out, but since there's little honour amongst thieves, it provided for a larger margin of error, and entertainment for the audience when loyalties get tested and double crossing becomes just part of the entire game of unexpected twists and turns. There were some obvious plot loopholes, but with the punchy narrative, you're hardly going to realize them until the end credits roll, especially to those that had a high level of convenience weaved into them.
Shah Rukh Khan has 2 films that came out in 2011 with his Ra.One being the more talked about and hyped film, but comparing Don 2 with that earlier release, I felt this one had made more of an impact in terms of story and level of sophistication, even if Ra.One was touted as the most expensive Hindi or Indian film to date, which had to bring its story down to the lowest common denominator for everyone in the family to enjoy. Look out too for Hrithik Roshan's special appearance that reunites him with Priyanka Chopra briefly (ready for Agneepath and Krrish 2?), as I guess Farhan Akhtar may have talked to his co-star in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to help out in this one!