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The return of the antihero
Dec 23, 2011 12:12 PM 6105 Views
(Updated Dec 23, 2011 05:14 PM)





I remember reading that psychoanalyst Carl Jung once opined that the human mind is a most fascinating and complex labyrinth in which even the accomplished at times tread water. It sees what it wants to see and ignores things to the contrary to the extent that a person may trulybelieve something to be true even when it is false and vice versa. Most of the time, we already have a preconception about objects in the world and human mind just reaffirms what we have pre-conceptualised, and sometimes, even rationalises our pre-conceptions for us to show the world that we have arrived at the conclusion through a logical process even though we haven’t. I guess going by that premise, there will always be inconsistencies whenever I’m presented with a Shahrukh Khan film. You see, I like SRK. It’s not that I find him adorable, sexy, hot or a great celebrity, nor do I detest any other Khans in the industry. I just like his films and his tongue and cheek humour. It’s that simple. And though I do my best to remain objective, it is likely that this may be harder to accomplish than it seems. If Carl Jung were here, he would tell me that my mind will rationalise my appreciation of SRK and present it in such a way that it would be plausible for me to trulybelieve that his films are good, even the ones which might not be. Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to my dilemma in the near future. Shahrukh has no plans to stop making films and I’m compelled to appreciate them, despite the ruckus it might cause.

Don 2: The King is Backis actually a surprising good sequel, given how sequels have been a hit and a miss scene with the Hindi film industry. Don 2gives an excuse for SRK to embrace his narcissistic alter ego and truly run with it; an alter ego which has also been a hit and a miss with the junta. C’mon, the film itself has the tagline – The King is Back.If that’s not a direct pun on the larger the life presentation of the SRK brand, I don’t know what is. The first half is mediocre at best. Its not that things don’t happen in the first half, in fact quite a lot of things happen in the first half, including Hrithik’s cameo, the film is largely in build up stage and it disappoints. However, when the film picks up right from the beginning of the 2nd half, it never looks back and promises you an action packed hour and fifteen minutes. In fact, it helps that the 2nd half is considerably more in length than the first half and that works in the films favour. Shahrukh gets to play his narcissistic alter ego who is self indulgent and non apologetic for his larger than life image, and its no surprise that he does extremely well. In fact, this is one of SRK’s better performances, acting wise, perhaps because in the garb of the character of Don, he gets to truly expand upon his narcissistic side which comes out from time to time in the public eye, but through Don, he gets to play a narcissistic version of himself, while also stay in character. A masterstroke, that one. Shahrukh has also pretty much made a completely different character of Don compared to how Amitabh portrayed the character, which actually works in favour of the film. Through the sequel, we get to know more about Don, especially how he thinks. With the character of Don, Farhan Akhtar has created a pathological liar with sociopathic tendencies who has a grandiose sense of self. Needless to say, the audience may have trouble accepting such a character as the lead of a film but I think its great that we have a true antihero franchise at last.


The first half is a disappointment. Don has irked the European drug cartel because they know that now that he controls the Asian drug trade, he can supply drugs on a cheaper rate. They send out a hit on him. Don, realising that the safest place for him is prison, surrenders and teams up with Vardhaan (Boman Irani), whom he put in jail in the first film and for which Vardhaan still holds a grudge. Don breaks out Vardhaan and assembles his team – Lara Dutta (eyecandy), Kunaal Kapoor (tech geek/hacker) and Nawaab Shah to break into the DZB in Zurich and steal the money plates. Roma (Priyanka Chopra) and Malik (Om Puri) are on their backs. Don and his team blackmail Diwan, the vice president of DZB, into giving information about the plates but each player has his/her own motives due to which they are siding with Don. In the 2nd half, the double crossing game begins as the heist is put into action and that is when things really heat up. Who double crosses who? Does Don get the plates? What about the European drug cartel? Once again, we realise that Don is always one step ahead of his adversaries…


The first half follows the Ocean’s 11 film premise (the George Clooney trilogy, not the great Sinatra film). Don breaks out Vardhaan, assembly of a team to pull of an impossible heist. Its not that the first half is bad or truly pathetic but if you’ve seen the Ocean’s 11 films, you have seen it before and it gives you a feeling of déjà vu. But persist with the 2nd half and film takes a complete u turn and is anything but formulaic. It’s as if the writers pretty much wrote the film for just the 2nd half. Or maybe it is the editor’s fault. The interval came at a time when the film was providing none of the promised thrills. If some of the brilliance of the 2nd half could have been juxtaposed into the 1st half, we’d have an absolute winner on our hands.


It’s interestering as well how Don’s characterisation is expanded in this film. Though I enjoy the self referential and indulgent feel to the charisma of Don (much like Shatner’s Denny Crane of Boston Legal), I’d rather watch the man at work and seewhat makes Don the larger than life figure that he is, rather than hear him say it again and again. But I guess, that is part of the character of Don as well. We get some more ‘Don-isms’ if we can call them that, and even though you cannot replace Amitabh’s baritone husky voice, SRK’s delivery is rather different and his Don digresses fropm Amitabh’s Don as well. Psychoanalysts will have a field day analysing the character of Don. He is a pathological liar, bordering on sociopathic, yet he has moments of empathy and complete honesty, especially with Roma, which is really interesting, and its good that we do not get to see the formulaic ‘love story’ kind of narrative arc playing. It is clear that Don truly cares about Roma, yet the next instant he patronises her by her calling her a “bad habit which he can’t get rid of” (comparing her to cigarettes). Can a character like Don truly change? A character who ultimately puts his own interests above all else, to what extent is such a character capable of feelings like empathy and love? It’s a really interesting case study and what’s even better is the willingness of Farhan Akhtar to explore these facets of the character, especially because he gives a clear message that there is going to be a Don 3 (check the numberplate of Don’s bike). Also interesting is Roma’s love/hate relationship with Don – her move towards wanting to believe that Don can change and the conflict due to knowing otherwise. Finally, what we know for certain is that Don is always one step ahead in the game of chess with his adversaries.


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