This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
In the last decade or so, numerous books have been written on the making of classics like Mughal-E-Azam, Pakeezah, Mother India, Devdas and more. On the other hand, some modern day classics like 3 Idiots have found attention from writers too. However, seldom has there been an effort made to relive the experience of some of the other hardcore commercial masala entertainers that have gained cult status amongst the current generations. Yes, films like Amar Akbar Anthony, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Deewar etc. have been written about but they are more from a writer/fan's prerogative than being a 'making'.
In that aspect, 'The Making of Don' is a first, and a worthy one at that. What makes it stand out from the rest is the fact that the film's director Chandra Barot is around which means author Krishna Gopalan does exceedingly well to extract the tale straight from the horse's mouth. While the film by itself stays intriguing till date, there has been some enigma around the filmmaker himself, considering he made only one little known film after Don. All of that and more is explored by Krishna in this supremely engaging 150 odd page book which is exciting and thrilling with twists and turns in every chapter, just like the film.
The book unearths a great deal around how Don actually defied all odds to even get on floors. Apparently there was no real funding for the film and for producer Nariman Irani, it was a make or break affair. Money was hard to come by while dates from actors were at a premium too, considering the fact that the three lead protagonists Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Pran were all extremely busy actors. The film was done by them to pull Nariman out of his debts and hence everything from sets to costumes to locations was just chosen on the fly.
This isn't all as the very subject of the film was alien to hardcore Bollywood insiders. It wasn't considered safe enough to step into the world of Bond, especially when there were hardly any resources available to lend the kind of setting that the film deserved. Many scoffed at the idea if the film would even get on floors and even though Salim-Javed's script came with quite a few interesting firsts, most felt that it was a whim on which Chandra Barot and his team was riding.
As a student of Manoj Kumar (Chandra had assisted him on Purab aur Pachhim, Shor and Roti, Kapda aur Makaan), it was tough for the first timer to actually come out of his shadow. However, the mandate was clear for him from his producer Irani that he had to bring his own individualistic style than get into the veteran filmmaker's mode. Though Amitabh Bachchan was sold with the idea of playing a double role with one carrying a villainous streak, there were moments of doubt that came in from the actor too.
The book reveals how a large segment of film fraternity came to Chandra's rescue. So, used sets of other films were re-used for Don, some of the costumes were picked from roadside, accessories were at times straight out of an actor's wardrobe while the biggest of it all being that Chandra lost a fortune of his own in the making of the film when Nariman met with an accident and died before film's completion, hence taking away with him some verbal commitments that were made to the director around his remuneration.
Some of the many anecdotes as narrated in the book are as below:
– How a good portion of the film was also shot in London but couldn't make it to the big screen
– How Rajendra Kumar desperately wanted to play Iftekhar's role and had to be politely refused
– How Zeenat Aman missed being a part of the iconic song 'Main Hoon Don'
– How G.P. Sippy, after the super-success of Sholay, took a dig on Don
– How Farida Jalal's part was completely chopped off from Don after being shot
– How Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman and Pran let go off a major part of their remuneration for Don
– How Abhishek Bachchan was the source for signature dance step that Amitabh Bachchan adopted for 'Yeh Hai Bambai Nagariya'
– How a prominent critic of that time thrashed Don mercilessly
– How Chandra started work on close to half a dozen films and all of these were shelved
All of that and more is unveiled to great detail in this simple reading book that showcases a fascinating journey of this adventure called Don which was as much a roller coaster ride in its very making as what unfolded on screen.
Price: Rs. 195