Pryanka Chopra is the latest Hindi crossover, with starring and award-winning performances in India and the US. She's a former Miss World (2000) and -- of course -- gorgeous. But she has also developed into a very fine actor since her debut in 2003, with a variety of roles under her belt. Don (2006) is an update of a very popular 1978 film by the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan. If you can, I absolutely recommend watching the 1978 version first, because part of the fun is in the comparisons. Both films are superb at showcasing the talents of the star playing the title character. Anyone up for a Don marathon watchalong?
Anyhoo, back to our first date. This was a doozy on, and off the set. Pryanka was such a fangirl about working with SRK and they spent so much social time together that it spawned rumors that they were having an affair. Shah Rukh Khan plays Don, a ruthless criminal mastermind, and Pryanka plays Roma, the sister of one of his victims. Intent on revenge, she trains herself in firearms and martial arts and then insinuates herself in his gang -- and his trust. Enter SRK's other role (I looove watching him in double roles!), the good-hearted simpleton Vijay, who is recruited by a police inspector to impersonate Don. At this point I will abandon my attempt to summarize the plot, which is both very complicated and hard to summarize without spoilers. WATCH THESE MOVIES!
As an acting pair, they work very comfortably together, in both of SRK's avatars. In fact one of the best scenes is their fight scene -- and how many film couples get the chance to spark that kind of chemistry? The attraction between them varies throughout the movie, depending on which SRK is paired with Roma. Roma responds to Don's wary yet lustful first encounter by attacking him and placing him in a headlock with a sharp blade at his throat. Believing that Vijay is really the injured, recovering Don, Roma shifts into seduction mode. When Roma is on the lam with Vijay, their connection grows slowly and very sweetly. It's all pretty terrific.
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Don/Vijay? The beauty of SRK’s double roles is they often give him a chance to showcase both his comic acting chops and his outstanding ability to take on the darkest of negative roles. Don is a great example of this. Don is a sleek, conniving, cold-hearted killer. Vijay is a warm, loving, lovable goofball. (This is the contrast promised in Duplicate but not quite delivered.) The fact that both of them are super attractive shows how much he had grown as an actor between 1998 and 2006.
What is Roma's first impression of Don/Vijay? She is viewing Don through a thick haze of hate, with her heart set on murder, and he does nothing to change her mind. In fact, he behaves like the wily heartless bastard he is. When she first meets Vijay, he is posing as a wounded and harmless Don, and there is no change in their interactions until the pretense is revealed. Slowly, wariness turns to trust, trust to friendly affection. He grows on her, and she softens towards him.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Complex and convincing. Negative when it needs to be, with a transition to attraction and love that helps us believe in an otherwise series of plot twists. (In the video below, Vijay/Don is making celebrating his recovery with a wild party. The woman in the white minidress is his "old" girlfriend; Pryanka enters around 2:52.)
If you had a first date with Don/Vijay would you go on a second? With Don, I would have to survive the first date to go on a second. (I was so rooting for Karina to succeed in her seduction, but not the assassination.) Vijay is adorable, if a little simple. So, yes.
Next First Date: Deepika Padukone - Om Shanti Om (My very very favorite!)