“Don Ko Pakadna Mushkil Hi Nahin, Na-Mumkin Hai” states the tag line to Don 2. Despite its obvious hyperbole, trust me, substantiating the claim takes a really, really long time.
Don 2 starring Shah Rukh Khan, directed and written by Farhan Akhtar (in association with Ameet Mehta and Amrish Shah), is a slick, twisting thriller from the villain’s vantage point. In earnest, its template is a counterfeit mixture of successful recipes: A mix of James Bond with a twist of Mission: Impossible, add a dash of the Bourne Identity and bake until climax.
Don 2’s double-deception, a continuing fixation from the first Don, by itself is pretty neat. And sometimes, the mix-plate recipe actually works, regardless of its proclivity to state the obvious; but not in the sense of regular Bollywood bastardizations.
Farhan Akhtar has the right idea: create a franchise on an larger-than-life villain. Take him away from India. Have him fabricate an improbable, though not impossible premise and then, let it rip.
The movie starts with an action sequence, five years after Don. Don is a big commodity in Asia, and like every successful merchant, he wants to expand his enterprise overseas — Europe to be precise. This requires creating a little headway in the already overcrowded European underworld market.
The set-up is relatively easy, and SRK — donning stylized, uncombed hair, 10-day facial hair and a big “D” tattooed on his right arm —takes out his welcoming committee with relative ease. He then turns himself in at the gate of Interpol HQ, to a flabbergasted Inspector Malik and Roma (Om Puri and Priyanka Chopra).
Malik is on the verge of retirement, and Roma, Don’s Junglee Billi from the first movie, may be the next in line for promotion. We don’t really know if that promotion happens or not, because both Roma and Malik are put on the backburner. They are treated as a futile hyperlink for narrative consistency.
Roma, although becomes the long arm of the law, is always a step behind Don. There’s always a heavy burdened expression that she does not really believe that Don has turned a new leaf. But that’s OK. We don’t believe him either.
Don meets up with Vardhan (Boman Irani) at a Malaysian prison. They escape, hire a crack-shot hacker (Kunal Kapoor) and plot to steal the printing plates from a Euro printing bank. SRK is Don, in the literal sense of the word. There’s a subdued cockiness to his attitude that borders on lunacy.
To see SRK barely missing the fine-line between overacting and subdued madness is worth the price of admission alone. And on top of that he fights with the ferocity and technique of a trained spy, rather than a Bollywood hero. There’s a method to his madness that is only hampered by Farhan Akhtar’s overtly-relaxed prose.
Don 2 may be the next big international Bollywood franchise, but it has ways to go if it’s going to compete with the likes of Mission: Impossible.
Mohammad Kamran Jawaid is the resident film critic at Images on Sunday, with an exclusive Second Opinion based film review column “Animadversion”.