Why are you re-making the 1970s blockbuster?
It's the one Amitabh Bachchan flick that has stayed with me since my childhood. I think of all the cool films he did in the 1970s, and 'Don' was the coolest. Of course "Deewaar" and "Sholay" are superior films. But "Don" is cooler and funkier. I'd put Mr. Bachchan's character up there with "Dostana" in terms of his sharp-witted and wry dialogues and attitude. It'd be a re-interpretation of one of my favourite films. It will be much lighter to do than Lakshya.
All these are films co-written by your father Javed Akhtar.
Yes. But among them, "Don" stands out for me. It was a film that I thought of making after "Dil Chahta Hai", but opted for the more original "Lakshya".
Why is this the right time to redo "Don"?
It would be fun to do. Lakshya was tough. "Don" would be a good change. It'll be an exploration of a completely new genre. It'll take me into an escapist zone. I'm sure smugglers and gangsters exist. But like "Don"? No way! I don't think such baddies exist beyond "Don".
Would it be like a James Don?
Ha ha. My "Don" will be gadget-friendly for sure, though I won't overdo the gizmos. I want to stick to the ideas and characterizations rather than relying on gimmicks. We've to keep in mind the technological advancements since "Don" was released. For instance, mobile phones would play a big part in my "Don". Such things have to affect my story. It's my homage to one of my favourite films.
Chandra Barot's direction in "Don" was very stylized.
I've heard stories from dad about how many financial compromises the director of "Don" had to make. Given that director Chandra Barot and producer Nariman Irani, who also photographed the film, had so little resources, I think the film achieved a lot in terms of shot takings, etc. Today the film may look very '1970s' but I think it was very cool for its times and budget. I'll try to do something that's equally cool for our times. Unfortunately, when we think of action thrillers, they take us to "Mission Impossible" and James Bond. I'm sure my "Don" would be influenced by those films and "The Bourne Identity" because I love them too.
And your new Bachchan?
Shah Rukh is playing the double role of Don and Vijay. He's of the absolutely correct age for the part. And he loved the movie. He's extremely excited about the film. Both of us are fans of the film. So it would be great fun to recreate the magic.
And Zeenat Aman's part?
That has gone to Priyanka Chopra. I don't think Shah Rukh-Priyanka are doing any other film together. Priyanka will play Roma. She remembered the script by heart. The only thing she didn't remember was her own character. But Pran's, Iftekhar's and Helen's roles are still not cast.
Would you be getting Mr. Bachchan to make a cameo appearance?
I don't think so. It would be too gimmicky. Besides, "Don" isn't an archival classic like the old "Devdas". "Don" is familiar to today's generation. Mr. Bachchan's presence in "Don" doesn't need to be reinforced. I don't want to aggravate the comparisons by getting Mr. Bachchan into my "Don".
Will there be a "Khai ke paan banaras wala" sequence?
It's one of the big USPs of "Don". To recreate it would be impossible. I'll therefore make Shah Rukh Khan do "Khai ke paan banaras wala". It's left too strong an impression on me to be tampered with. As a viewer, I'd feel cheated if I didn't see Shah Rukh doing "Khai ke paan". It's like re-doing "Qurbani" without "Aap jaisa koi". "Khai ke paan..." is the highlight of the film. Why remove it? The rest of the songs are being done by my favourites Shankar-Ehsan-Loy.
You had a bit of a problem getting the copyrights? Why not just remake the darned thing unofficially?
It's just that a certain procedure had to be followed in getting the remaking rights. We had to put in a public notice in the trade papers announcing our intentions to remake the film. Also, I know the late producer Nariman Irani's wife Salma Irani and there was no question of making the film without her consent. "Don" is extremely precious to her family. And also, I wanted to make Don with the title and the characters being called by their original films. I want to re-make Don as I'd like to see it. Mera apna Don. We'll be shooting between February and June in 2006. It's better to do it at one go. Lakshya was a slow shoot. It will be hard to find a tougher film to do.
Does the original weigh on you?
Comparisons are bound to happen. That won't deter me from making "Don" the way I want to. I don't want either my "Don" or the other "Don" to look foolish. I feel more people will come to watch my "Don" just to compare it with the old one. For me it's exciting because everyone involved with my project is equally excited. Everyone on board is here for the love of "Don". I can't wait to get started. Right now, I leave for Venice to shoot for "The Fakir" in which I'm playing the lead. I'm enjoying the experience. My director seems to like my acting. Either he's a good liar or a good friend. They want to premiere the film at the Venice Film Festival.