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Weekly Classics: Don

Published Apr 20, 2012 04:51pm


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Back in the 1970s, Amitabh Bachchan was without doubt the dominant figure in the Indian film industry. He rolled out one hit movie after another, and was “a one man film industry” to quote French film director Francois Truffaut. He established himself as arguably the biggest movie star that the subcontinent has ever produced. One of the classics in which he acted in was the 1978 blockbuster “Don”. It’s a movie that has been remade several times and has all the ingredients that make Bollywood movies stand out from other film industries.

The film incorporates the famous double role persona, in which an actor plays two separate people whose lives, by remarkable circumstances, cross paths. In this particular film the “Big B” plays (as the title says) Don: a ruthless underworld figure wanted by the authorities for a long laundry-list of crimes, ranging from smuggling to murder. Don holds a vice like grip over his gang and will not tolerate any dissent. One member of his gang, named Ramesh, however wants out of the criminal enterprise. Don gets a hold of Ramesh’s plan to escape with his fiancée Kamini (played by the luscious Helen) and kills him before he can run away. Kamini seeks revenge on Don by seducing him under the false name of Sonia and tries to have him caught by a tough police officer named DSP Dilva, who has been trying to catch the criminal for a very long time.

But as Don himself says it “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi, namumkin hai!” and escapes from the clutches of the police.

Later on however he is not so lucky and dies in a botched escape attempt in the back of DSP D’Silva’s car. The DSP becomes the only one in the police to know that the gangster is dead, but keeps that secret to himself because he suspects that Don answered to someone higher in the hierarchy and wants that man found. As it turns out that supreme criminal is a man called Vardan, who has kidnapped an Interpol officer, and is now under a false guise heading a team to find Don.

While all this is happening, Ramesh’s sister Roma (played by the even more luscious Zeenat Aman) wants to avenge her brother and his fiancées murder. She does that by learning some Judo and joining Don’s gang so that she can take him out from within the organisation like some female version of the Trojan horse.


DSP D’Silva also decides to infiltrate Don’s gang by hiring a wanderer named Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan again) who shares a spot-on likeness to the deceased gangster, and putting him in his place. Vijay agrees to the idea only on the condition that D’Silva takes under his wing two orphan kids who he has been looking after.

The two kids however do have a father named Jasjit (played by Pran, who wears one wig too many in this film). Jasjit was a circus performer who has already crossed paths with Don’s gang and DSP D’Silva. Initially refusing to commit a robbery for the gang, he had reluctantly agreed after his wife had an accident and he had to come up with money for her emergency surgery. But as luck would have it he was caught by D’Silva and sent to jail. With his wife dead and the location of his children unknown, Jasjit has vowed revenge on D’Silva.


Later on Vijay, after successfully returning back into the fold as Don, gets a hold of a red diary that has all the details of the gang’s operations and names of associates, including that of the main man Vardan. Roma on the other hand still wants revenge on Don and tries to kill him unsuccessfully. By a series of remarkable coincidences she eventually finds out Vijay’s true identity and magically falls in love with him.

Everything seems to be going fine for Vijay until DSP D’Silva gets killed in a raid on Don’s hideout by Vardan. With the only man who knows his true identity dead, Vijay now finds himself in the predicament of being wanted by the police as Don and by Don’s gang as an imposter. The red diary which everyone is after turns up in the hand of Jasjit who uses it as a bargaining chip to settle old scores. Now all that is left is to find out who gets the diary and whether Vijay can clear his name before he gets killed in a case of mistaken identity.

The plot may seem outrageous and highly unlikely, but it is actually a very good story written by Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. It incorporates escapism, thrills, action and comedy in a perfectly gelled script. It has all the ingredients to make this film a classic. Whether it’s the colorful characters, the fast pace of the film, or simply the great music by Kalyanji Anandji and playback singing of Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar, everything falls into a perfect crescendo.

The remake in 2006 starring Shahrukh Khan, doesn’t hold a candle to the classic original. The 1978 film is still the best and one that is required viewing.

We will continue to highlight one classic a week, including foreign-language films, as well as local classics, so check back same time next week to see our next weekly classic!

View’s weekly classics archive here.

Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at


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Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at and can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (25) Closed

Ahmed May 03, 2012 08:19am
Wazir, This thrid grade movie was the inspiration for Sharukh and Farhan Akhtar's remake and is considered one of best from Salim-Javed, the writer duo. That Sharukh and Farhan made it the worst remake is a different story. And this movie is included in Time Magazines 100 must watch Asian movies list. Probably your sensibilities of rating a movie are better than the experts at Time. So dont waste your time commenting trash and spreading hatred. Its an article in entertainment section nd hence it is about a movie. The more important issues of life and country can be covered in a different section. No one is trying to strike your national integrity. If there is any threat to your national integrity, it comes from your own hatred and in tolerance. So rather put your precious time and thoughts to that.
Piyush Apr 22, 2012 10:34pm
Religion in this too ?
Piyush Apr 22, 2012 10:33pm
None - cos being a Gujrati, he was sidelined by the Punjabi lobby ! He never got a movie to direct even though this film was such a success.
Nanha Apr 21, 2012 12:47am
Don and many other films of Amitabh can be watched on myplex at
Piyush Apr 20, 2012 05:41pm
A nice film slickly made as compared to the films during those times. But it has it's typical Bollywood moments like Amitabh breaking into a dance eulogizing Banarsi Pan in midst of being chased by the police or Pran walking a tightrope between two tall buildings holding two grown-up children. But is still worth a "dekko" any day.
Dubaakoru Apr 20, 2012 07:30pm
Shahrukh BACHHA can't match BIG B in any way. He is wasting his time and failed to enhance his profile.
ravikanth Apr 20, 2012 07:32pm
Great movie ....
Madan Mohan Joshi Apr 20, 2012 08:34pm
Prior to making DON, producers never knew that it would turn out to be a classic. Salim Javed has opened a creative box of screenplay. Music too contributed a lot. Kalyanji Anandji showed their best potential. Of course Amitabh and Zeenat Aman made the film memorable. But I always liked Iftekhar as a police officer ( the role which just fits his persona in numerous bollywood films). 'khaike paan banaras wala' echoes till today
Rahul Singh Apr 20, 2012 11:17pm
Chandra Barot, Don's director, had a lot to do with the success of the film.
pravin Apr 20, 2012 08:41pm
Original Don is DON forever..... Dilipkumar Tragedy King Legend Devananad- Ever romantic hero Rajkapur- Great show man Rajkumar-Betaaj badshah Rajendrakumar (Jubilee kumar of bollywood) Rajesh Khanna -Glamorous super star Amitabh- Mahanayak of 20 century Shmammikapur-Elvis presly of bollywood Shahrukh khan- Duplicate super star ( always copying amitabh movies, items )
Arjun Apr 21, 2012 05:43am
Really? How many films and hit films did Chandra Barot made after Don ?
Nirmal Apr 21, 2012 09:02am
Is it any coincidence that dawn picked don for this weeks review :-) Nirmal
Wazir Khan Apr 21, 2012 10:53am
Why was a necessity felt to give this much coverage to a 3rd grade Indian Movie? Is it being pursued to gain cheap popularity to attract all these comments from Indians, which are already quite generously welcomed, no matter even if they try to strike directly on our national integrity and religion? What satisfaction does this useless act have brought to the Newspaper and the author? Are we finished with more important things and issues in our lives, in our country? Why one shouldn't think that there has been some vested interest of someone to publish this article? It is hoped that some sense will prevail next time.
yogi Apr 21, 2012 11:04am
i dont understand what's srk doing? But SRK is really coppycat! He even can't chase amitabh's shaddow! He's romantic hero! He's made for DDLJ,K3G type movies So he should not try to become angry young man!!! Even he should stop coppying 'Rajnikanth'!!! Best example, RA-1 a failed coppy attempt of 'Robot'!
yogi Apr 21, 2012 11:14am
'Old Don' is a perfect combination of best story,dialogues,action & super actors so..... "Don ko dobara banana mushkil hi nahi namumkin hai!!!"
sunil Apr 21, 2012 11:26am
the story of Don is actually inspired from another movie Kalicharan.
Pakistani Apr 21, 2012 01:31pm
spellings r different and Don along with Sholay considered a classics .. correct me if im wrong
Karachite Apr 21, 2012 10:07pm
Good article. Agreed original Don is much better than the 2 remakes and you cannot compare acting of Amitabh with Shahrukh.
aks Apr 21, 2012 11:36pm
A classic indeed. Such was the movie and such was the aura of Big B. People are still trying to match him, without much success.
Aamir Apr 21, 2012 11:45pm
It would be nice if you could also include Pakistani films in the classic film section. They are numerous excellent classic Pakistani films. No offence but we need to promote our own Cinema also.
DiehardfanofAmitabh Apr 22, 2012 11:46am
Please write a note on the ever famous classic i.e. 'Muqadar ka Sikandar' also. Ohh maaan ! what a movie it was ! again by legend Amitabh Bachhhan !
rohit Apr 22, 2012 12:47pm
you are jealous !!!!
navinmathew Apr 26, 2012 03:23pm
Wazir, comeon be a sport, yes i am not a movie buff, and saying striking at "our national integrity" is going too far especially for a country like pakistan which has been accused by almost the whole world and even by all weather friends like china and Iran of formenting trouble, all in the name of religion. so please stop this sour grapes act and be a sport
Dhruv Kumar Apr 24, 2012 01:29pm
Ha ha so you think by commenting here we will hurt your national integrity and religion....i don't think they are so weak that they will be broken just by our comments
nagesh May 02, 2012 11:52am
wazir u r thinking wrong. maximum indian wann peacefull relation with pakisthan, and also we wann every devolopment in pakistan. pak is separated from india due to british strategy. we are not enemy. please think properly. we wann each and every people should be educated in india as well as pakistan.