Yaaaaay! Another movie I didn’t really really review before this, and now I have an excuse to go back to it!
This is a totally different movie from Don 1. That’s pretty unusual in the modern sequel world. Usually “sequel” in Hindi film means something like Love Aaj Kal 2020 or Aashiqui 2 or the Golmaal films, where there is no real connection between the movies in terms of narrative, but there is a similar style to them, a similar sort of story, similar sort of characters, and so on. Don 2 is a direct narrative continuation of Don 1, but in a completely different style with a completely different kind of story, just all new.
That’s part of why we are all so eager for Don 3, or at least why I am eager. I want to see what Farhan does next, where he takes this franchise. Because really, it could go anywhere! The first movie was a clever homage to classic 70s Masala, a romance, and an action thriller. The second movie was a tight heist film in modern style. What could the third movie be? A spy thriller? A tragic romance? A complete comedy? Anything is possible!
This movie is not just unlike Don 1, it’s unlike any other Hindi film. It’s got the sleek no nonsense style of a western thriller, there isn’t a lot of spectacle and emotion and “masala” to it. It still has the kind of fun “anything goes” attitude that you need for a movie like this, only without the songs and excitement that usually go with it in Hindi film.
Writing and designing a film like this, so different from the previous movie, is impressive. But convincing the same cast to come back, play the same characters, but completely different? That is a real feat of direction. Not 100% of course, Om Puri and Priyanka are basically the same as in the last movie. But Boman and Shahrukh? The same characters, not just because they have the same names, but because they are the same people with the same histories and motivations and behaviors. Only this time these same people have wandered into a totally different kind of world.
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This plot has a bit of a trick to it, the trick being, there is no trick. At the start, all the top gangsters of Europe have come together to try to get rid of Shahrukh. He fights off their assassins, then goes to the police and offers to give over evidence against all of them in return for total amnesty. The police refuse. So Shahrukh goes to jail, meets up with Boman Irani again, works with him to escape, then plans a heist to steal the engraving plates for Euros. He meets up with noble hacker Kunal Kapoor, and smart organizer Lara Dutta, and distracts the cops Om Puri and Priyanka Chopra, and then in the middle of the heist, when Boman turns against him, goes back to the cops to offer to help them capture Boman for immunity. He helps capture Boman and gives back the engraving plates. Then reveals at the end that he switched the plates and walks off into the sunset with unlimited money, and no warrants against him.
The movie starts with Shahrukh offering to give evidence against all other gangsters in return for immunity. He’s turned down, a bunch of stuff happens, and it ends with him giving evidence against all other gangsters in return for immunity. The trick is, there is no trick. Shahrukh wanted to go straight all along, he just had to find a way to make sure the cops agreed after they turned him down the first time. The heist was just an elaborate shell game to draw in the police, and Boman Irani was always set up as the fall guy.
Part of us buying into the idea of the heist and so on is the way the movie is filmed, so clear and straightforward and detailed, we see every little bit of the preparation, and it all takes place in gray Berlin, no colorful outfits or big dance numbers or any of that. We see everything, we just don’t understand it when we are seeing it. We don’t see the meaning behind it.
And yes, this is also a continuation of the story of Don 1! Priyanka ended the film frustrated at being tricked by Don, Shahrukh ended by flying off into a bright powerful future, Boman ended it arrested and furious. Now, we can see that Shahrukh went on to become a powerful gang leader, Priyanka joined the police in a continuing search for justice in the world, and Boman is still bitter. The connection between Shahrukh and Priyanka in Don 1, which was sincere on her part and trickery on his, has developed too. She is a tie to his old life and identity, a “what might have been” and a nostalgia all at once. And he is her last bad thing, the wild undercover Priyanka of Don 1 is now hidden under a proper cop.
It’s a well made heist film, the action sequences (especially the car chases) are great, and the heist itself is satisfyingly complex. What really makes it work is uniformity, the whole film is dedicated to a certain clear taut aesthetic, whether it is a jail in Singapore or a ballroom in Berlin. The camera is sure of itself and what it is doing.
And of course, our star is sure of himself. This is the Don series after all, the whole thing lives or dies on the central performance. And Shahrukh brings the edgy danger and unreadable expressions and everything right back. It’s still Don, just in a whole new world.