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Don, down the decades


Even as the media stays obsessed with Amitabh Bachchan's "Don" and Shah Rukh Khan's version, get to know the world of Chandra Barot, who gave us the original. And what about Mithun Chakraborty"s `The Don?'

"Don" won three Filmfare Awards despite films like "Muqaddar Ka Sikander", "Trishul", "Ganga Ki Saugandh" and "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" in the fray.

DON DIARY Shah Rukh Khan as the new "Don"

A world obsessed with comparisons, convenient and casual, is often too busy drawing parallels between Amitabh Bachchan's "Don" way back in 1978, and Shah Rukh Khan's, releasing this Friday.

Even as Farhan Akhtar talks of being a four-year-old kid when Amitabh's film released and Shah Rukh talks of it as one of "the most modern films of our times," nobody has any time to talk about Chandra Barot, the man responsible for the original.

Or Mithun Chakraborty, who in the midst of his Ooty shooting spree gave us "The Don" about a decade ago. Directed by Salim, most seems to suffer from amnesia when it comes to talking about this film.

Barot never made another film that could find the big screen. Mithun's film with Sonali Bendre and Jugal Hansraj keeping the veteran company is running in smaller centres even today. The media, accustomed to hero worship, has little time for either. Not that the old-timers are sulking. Says Mithun, "Right now everybody is talking about Amitabh and Shah Rukh. Maybe because their films are called `Don' while mine was `The Don.' Unlike the latest `Don,' my film had nothing to do with Amitabh Bachchan."

Mithun did not copy any of the gestures of the Big B; there was no "Khaike Paan Banaraswala." There was no talk of a Don's moll. "It was simply an action film based on the mafia," Mithun recalls. Themedia had preferred to look away. "I have no complaints. The film did well at the box office."

Incidentally, while we have been hearing about Shah Rukh's film for ages, with every song being scrutinised, every casting being talked about, Mithun's film was wrapped up in six months. And the budget of his entire film was less than Shah Rukh is said to charge per film! Made within a budget of Rs.2.5 crores, it has proved to be a long distance runner.

Something similar has been the case with Barot's `Don' made at a cost of Rs.85 lakhs, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Pran. The film, when it was originally made, had run into financial problems with the producer passing away before the venture could be completed. With help from persons such as Yash Johar and Salim, Barot overcame the hurdles.

He recalls with pride, "Manoj Kumar's "Roti Kapda Aur Makan" was sold for Rs.19 lakhs per territory while `Don' was sold at Rs.21 lakhs to cover any losses."

Now, the old prints have been revived and are doing decent business in the interiors where the new `Don' may not be seen for another six months!

Director Chandra Barot

Says Barot, "It took us three and a half years to wrap up the film. It was released in 1978, which was a heavy-duty year for big budget films. It began with `Ganga Ki Saugandh', then `Besharam', `Trishul', then came `Don' followed by `Shatranj Ke Khilari', `Satyam Shivam Sundaram' and `Muqaddar Ka Sikander.' I was a newcomer whereas other films were by established masters like Sultaan Ahmed, Satyajit Ray and Prakash Mehra. But `Don' got three Filmfare awards, `Muqaddar... ' did not win any despite 11 nominations."

How does he take Shah Rukh's compliment of his being the most modern film?

"Well, he wrote to me saying, `We hope not to disappoint you.' The producers, Javed Sahab - Javed Akhtar - Farhan Akhtar, they all came to obtain formal permission. I had no objection whatsoever."

Best compliment

Soaking in the best compliment that he could have got in his career, Barot recalls the early days of filmmaking. "I was back from Tanzania where I lived for some time. I was a movie freak. At times I drove about 600 km to catch some films otherwise banned. I was so impressed with Hollywood and James Bond films, my film had to have an element of that too. So before the credits rolled, there was an action sequence, which was a novelty... [at] that time. I had assisted Manoj Kumar for more than nine years but when I decided to make a film I decided to do it my way and never make a `Mere Desh ki Dharti' kind of cinema."

Posters of "Don"

And was the media any different with `Don' in 1978?

"Ah! Completely different. The media glare was absent because we had only a couple of newspapers and no channels. My film took a soft opening but picked up through word of mouth. We did not have much money for promotion."

The film picked up for sure, going on to do silver jubilee and more at many places. How come then Barot never made another film?

"The Don".

"Well, I made lots of films but they never got completed. I was offered 52 films! I started a couple of films with Amitabh Bachchan, one for Manmohan Desai, one for Kewal Kumar. They never got completed. Then I launched a film `Master' with Dilip Kumar. It was inspired from `My Fair Lady.' At the same time Dev Anand was making `Manpasand' on a similar subject. And Dilip Kumar went and played a grandpa in `Shakti.' So I had to shelve that too."

Then came `Boss,' the last time Barot launched a film?"Right. But `Boss,' starring Vinod Khanna and Jayaprada is complete and I am negotiating with Sahara for television release. It is a beautiful film. Vinod has dubbed for the film, and I feel it has turned out quite... [well]"

Much like `Don?' "Well, that comes once in a lifetime."

The question is will Barot's `Don' be repeated in his lifetime by Farhan Akhtar and company? And will Mithun's `The Don' outlive and outrun the more fancied names?

The chances are the media won't keep a tab!

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