Mein Hu Koun?6 min read

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Don.. Don.. Don.

This is what Shah Rukh Khan and Farhan Akhtar would be hoping to hear from the audience, when their film hits the theaters worldwide in the festival season of Diwali-Eid. Infact, the louder the cheers get, the better it augurs for the success of their film. Here’s why. In the original movie ‘Don’, the song in question, sets in almost after two hours of narration, in the third act, so to speak. So, if the new version stays any true to the original (which Mr. Akhtar says it will, in the script department), then the response sure indicates that the audience is still engaged and might continue to do so, till the end of the movie. If that does happen, it must bring in a huge sigh of relief for the entire team of ‘Don’, Farhan and Shah Rukh in particular.

But is there a likelihood that it might not happen? Yes, if the audience answers the question ‘Mein Hu Koun’ as

Amitabh.. Amitabh.. Amitabh.

Yes, Shah Rukh would be fighting a super persona also known as Amitabh when his ‘Don’ releases shortly.

Amitabh’s ‘Don’ released in the year 1978, became a blockbuster thanks to an unconventional script and a tight screenplay by Salim-Javed, pulsating music and racy background score by Kalyanji-Anandji, vocals by inimitable Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle, excellent cinematography by Nariman Irani and creditable performances from the lead cast. But it was Amitabh and his out-of-the-world portrayal that made this successful potboiler worth remembering decades after its first release and fetched an unprecedented re-run value at the box-office. The dream run simply carried forward to Television channels.

If you are a TV surfer, there is every chance that you crash into Amitabh’s ‘Don’, and get to hear some of the memorable dialogues of Salim-Javed. He grabs your attention with his dialogue delivery, at every stage, right from the seemingly innocuous question Kya tumhe maut se dar nahi lagta to a hint of swagger in Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hain. It is these subtle shades of characterization that Amitabh used to a good effect to make a negative character loveable and entertaining.

Another brilliant aspect of Amitabh’s acting that comes to fore is the ease with which he played the role of the ‘Don’. There were no strange mannerisms to show cruelty or queer looks to bring out the cunningness. He played it as if ‘Don’ were a character of a next-door person. He brought in believability to the character of ‘Don’ and then, sort of over-played the second character Vijay. This brought in the stark contrast needed for a double-role. As the two characters do not come face to face at any time, there were no rude shocks when the ever-cool Don gave way to a pan chewing Vijay and vice-versa. As Amitabh had no predecessor against whom he would be compared with, he played it the way he wanted to and the way he perceived the characters to be.

Alas! Shah Rukh has no such luxury. He has to create a ‘method’ that is different and yet stands tall in comparison to Amitabh’s portrayal. Unfortunately, such an effort has every reason to go to hay wire. Not because of Mr. Khan’s acting talents. In the past, Shah Rukh delivered noteworthy performances as a bad guy and he redeem himself as an actor yet again. But the problem comes from the audiences and their contrasting reference points. While the die-hard fans of Amitabh would like to see how different or similar he is to their idol, aficionados of Shah Rukh would check if his usual springing self were still intact when he plays a negative character sans the usual courtship romantic musical stuff.

Shah Rukh first has to crack this puzzle, either by being a devoted clone (which he cannot) or carve a new path (that could prove very difficult owing to his romantic hero image). As the loyal fans of two generation superstars, form the target audience for the movie, Shah Rukh in an effort to win over both might deliver a half-baked performance. Just imagine Shah Rukh trying hard to bring in the romance angle into Don or Vijay’s character. Well, to some extent, in the case of Vijay, he might succeed. But what if he does that to real Don? Hope he remembers the dialogue from the old version-Mujhe ladkiyo ke dil se koyi dilchasbi nahin, isi liye to ab tak zinda hun. Hmm..Shah Rukh, appears to be on a sticky ground.

If you compare with Shah Rukh’s confusion, Farhan Akhtar’s job is well etched out. All he has to do is create contemporary worlds for the real Don and his look-alike. Though this is easier said than done, Farhan might just pull it off. His mastery over all the crafts of filmmaking will definitely hold him in good stead during the making of this new version. Supported by a talented crew, he might even succeed in creating a milieu that draws inspiration from an overlap of a ‘Mission Impossible’ with a ‘Don Brosco’. Plus, he has already proven his mettle with ‘Lakshya’ where he designed the world of a soldier to the letter.

Farhan has chipped in a lot of other attractions already, with a host of stars making an item or glorified guest appearances, and Kareena Kapoor doing a Helen act. You never know…he might even have an ace up his sleeve, like a very special appearance by the legendary Amitabh himself dancing to the title song or an Abhishek Bachchan crooning the words ‘Don.. Don.. Don’ for that matter. At the end of it, the overall result might even endear the film to a new set of audience other than the fans of Amitabh or Shah Rukh.

Though it is easy to get carried away by Farhan’s plans, let’s make no mistake. ‘Don’ is essentially a Shah Rukh film. The spotlight is on him for sure. It is only when he starts ruling their minds, that the audience would move on to savor the rest of Farhan’s assorted menu.

But, the movie is bound to generate great openings with the three sets of crowds flocking in-fans of Amitabh, fans of Shah Rukh and the regular moviegoers-as the movie offers something for all of them. The success and the range of it would though depend on the word of mouth and the acceptance of Shah Rukh in Amitabh’s shoes. So, the movie will ride heavily on the shoulders of the intended target audience.

Irrespective of the fate of the new ‘Don’ at the box-office, and the lingering ‘Mein Hu Koun’ question, one thing is for certain. More and more people would like to see the original, either before the movie or after its release. Marketing team at Sony Max, the channel that holds the telecast rights, would have already repackaged the old ‘Don’ and hiked the sponsor’s rates. Eagle, the company that holds the video rights should be thinking of a commemorative DVD, unless Farhan Akhtar’s contract bars them from doing so.

While wishing all the success to Shah Rukh and Farhan, here is the last word from a die-hard fan of Amitabh. When the dust has settled and the movie has had its run at the box-office, we might just end up having more number of people revisiting the old version and joining the chorus of ‘Amitabh.. Amitabh.. Amitabh’, albeit with the singer Shaan. Amen!

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