From Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan & Ranveer Singh: The 'Dons' of Indian Cinema

Sharanya Kumar

Indian audiences were first introduced to the iconic Don franchise in the 1978 film with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role. Screenwriter duo Salim-Javed were unable to sell the film’s script for a long time. After multiple rejections, director Chandra Barot and producer Nariman Irani came on board. Although it was declared a flop at its opening, Don picked up steam thanks to positive word-of-mouth and soon became one of the highest-grossing films that year.

In the film, Amitabh Bachchan plays a double role as the suave criminal Don and his goofy doppelgänger Vijay. The film was so action-packed that the song ‘Khaike Paan Banaraswala’ was specifically written in to slow down the pace and allow audiences to take a loo break! Of course, the song then went on to become one of the most popular moments in the film.

Actor-director Farhan Akhtar was inspired to put a contemporary spin and pay homage to the original Don. And so Don: The Chase Begins Again (2006) was born, starring Shah Rukh Khan as the eponymous anti-hero. The screenplay was co-written with Farhan’s father Javed Akhtar, who was one of the writers of the first film. The reboot received widespread acclaim, and also had one of the best-selling Bollywood soundtracks of the year.

Farhan Akhtar directed a second installment of the film called Don 2: The King Is Back, which came out in 2011 and retained its original cast. Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra reportedly performed all of their own stunts. Don 2 won a number of Filmfare Awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor (Khan). Another sequel was supposed to go on floors in 2016, but never ended up taking off. Until now.

Excel Entertainment, Farhan Akhtar’s production company, released a short teaser revealing the next actor to take on the role of Don. We see an ominous hooded figure lighting a cigarette against a dark cityscape. There is a voiceover of Don’s iconic dialogue: “11 mulkon ki police dhoondti hai mujhe, par pakad paaya hai mujhko kaun? Main hoon Don.” (The police of 11 countries are on the hunt for me, but has anyone been able to catch me? I am Don) and we see Ranveer Singh’s face in the final frame.

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