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October 24, 2006 > Don- the chase begins again

Don- the chase begins again

by Vidya Pradhan

The year was 1978. The Indian Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, was churning out blockbusters. Legends of the movie industry, Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor, had banner releases. The 'angry young man' Amitabh Bachchan was consolidating his position as the most popular and highest paid actor of his time. In fact, as the saying goes, he occupied numbers 1 through 10 on the charts.

In the middle of this banner year came a small movie made by a recent émigré from Tanzania, Chandra Barot. Trying to help a producer friend who was in debt, he gathered a cast and crew made up of the latter's friends and proceeded to quickly put together a film. One of them happened to be Amitabh Bachchan.

The movie was 'Don' and it was released without much fanfare. But news of its unique and compelling storyline and taut direction quickly spread and the film became a sleeper hit. Millions of adolescents were exposed to a new form of Hindi movie, one with very little sentiment, no unwed mothers or disobedient wives, no domineering mothers-in-law or tearful family reunions. Just the story of an uber cool gangster outwitting the police of many countries played with incredible panache and style by an iconic actor.

A whole generation later, a young hotshot director, Farhan Akhtar has attempted a remake of what was a cult Bollywood movie. Updated with technological gadgetry and gimmickry and a couple of original twists, this is the director's homage to what must have been a childhood influence. It also stars the reigning superstar, Shahrukh Khan and has the same music as the original, remixed to a techno beat.

Don is the story of an international gangster who is being tracked by Indian police and Interpol. Wily at evading capture, Don is severely injured in a chase. The police inspector in charge of the case then has the idea of sending in a look-alike to infiltrate the criminal's gang. The beleaguered imposter is vulnerable to many dangers, one being the gorgeous Roma who has also joined the gang to take revenge on Don for her brother's murder. What happens to the fake Don is the crux of the story.

Hindi movies have become increasingly popular with the mainstream American audiences. Thanks to the English subtitles, language is not much of an issue. I caught up with Julie, who was at the same first day, first show with her friends Charlotte and Stephanie. Julie, who is a big fan of both Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan, saw the original movie on DVD recently. I asked her how the movie compared to the classic. "This one is as much fun! It has a modern look and feel and I think Shahrukh is pretty good," she said. The movie ends with a big twist on the original which completely thrilled the group.

If you have never seen a Bollywood movie before, here's what to expect. Beautiful women, flamboyant acting, choreographed fight scenes and foot-tapping music. If you have a couple of 'Huh' moments when you're trying make some sense of the script or trying to work out the logic of a particular scene, it comes with the territory. Leave your brains at the door and prepare to be thoroughly entertained for 3 hours. Yes, that's the running time, which includes a 15 minute intermission.

'Don - the chase begins again' does quite well as a stand alone movie but to get the real flavor, rent the original at your local Indian store and see it first. You will get to see two superstars at the top of their game and will have fun comparing the movies.

Don runs at Naz8 theatres, located at the Gateway Plaza in Central Fremont. For more information and online ticketing, go to www.naz8.com. And don't forget the samosas*.

Don - chase begins again (with English subtitles)
Daily shows at Naz8 theatres www.naz8.com

* samosas - Indian deep fried bread stuffed with potatoes. Served at the Naz8 concession counter.

 
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