Soon after Farhan Akhtar shared the Don 3 announcement teaser starring Ranveer Singh, comparisons with Shah Rukh Khan started flooding in. SRK went through the same when he reprised the role in 2006..
Ranveer Singh takes over the Don franchise with Don 3
Last Updated: 01.46 PM, Aug 09, 2023
The year was 1978 and Amitabh Bachchan had firmly established himself as the ‘angry young man’ of the time with films like Zanjeer (1973), Deewar (1975), and Trishul (1978) among others. The same year, the writer duo Salim-Javed created the iconic character of Don, which was essayed to perfection by none other than Amitabh Bachchan himself, further cementing his onscreen image. The action crime thriller directed by Chandra Barot was released the very next week after Trishul and went on to become the third highest-grosser at the box office in India at the time. Whistle-worthy dialogues, notable songs, and top-notch performances made the film earn the status of a cult classic.
For an entire generation, Don became synonymous with Amitabh Bachchan. His dialogue delivery, dancing style, and flamboyance as Don left an indelible mark in the heads and hearts of the cinegoers, making it an iconic character. Now, here’s the thing with iconic characters - It becomes extremely difficult for the masses to accept anybody else as that particular character. There can’t be another Tony Stark but Robert Downey Jr (Ironman), another Thor but Chris Hemsworth, another Vito Corleone but Marlon Brando (Godfather), another Joker but Heath Ledger, another Forrest Gump but Tom Hanks – you get the drift.
An audacious attempt
Come 2006, almost 24 years after Don, Javed Akhtar’s (who co-wrote the original) son Farhan Akhtar dared to challenge the accepted notion of Amitabh Bachchan as Don with his reinterpretation of the film and having Shah Rukh Khan step into the shoes of Bachchan to play the iconic character in Don: The Chase Begins Again (2006). Of course, the film was dissected and ripped apart by the loyalists and Farhan Akhtar got a lot of backlash for his audacious attempt, with the general sentiment being that there cannot be another Don but Bachchan (P.S. Farhan Akhtar’s Don is also a masterclass in how a remake is done right. It’s not just copy-pasting scenes, dialogues, and situations with new actors in a contemporary setup – but more on that in another article). Despite the strong apprehensions of the cinephiles from the previous generations, the millennials and GenZs welcomed the film with open arms and it went on to be amongst the top-grossing films in 2006.
Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan
When SRK stepped into the shoes of Big B – he was met with a lot of scrutiny and even though it took time for the masses to accept him in place of Bachchan, over time, the iconic role then became synonymous with Shah Rukh Khan, who, without the baritone of Mr Bachchan, could ace being stylishly menacing while essaying the character. It was Shah Rukh’s sinister laughter that did the trick for him since it was a difficult role to portray and an even more difficult mold to break for Shah Rukh. There already was a benchmark that was set by Bachchan.
When Bachchan did Don, he was already a reflection of the ‘angry young man’ onscreen and he innovated within himself to get the part right and play it with conviction. There was no previously set benchmark to match or uphold. It was probably a bigger challenge for Shah Rukh to not only live up to the expectations of the people from the character but also present a convincing departure from his widely accepted and loved image as the ‘King of Romance’.
Such was the euphoria after the release of the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Don, that it made Farhan turn the film into a franchise. This led to high anticipation for Don 2 which was successfully executed by Farhan with SRK, Priyanka Chopra, and Boman Irani reprising their respective roles in Don 2: The Chase Continues (2011). The film also took stylised action several notches higher, coupled with layered subtexts and complex emotional arcs. For an entirely new generation, Shah Rukh Khan became synonymous with Don. This phenomenon is akin to how ultimately people did accept Jack Nicholson and Joaquin Phoenix as Joker, or Mark Ruffalo as Hulk (after Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk).
Ranveer Singh and Shah Rukh Khan
Being compared to Shah Rukh Khan is not new to Ranveer Singh. His menacing act as Khilji in Padmaavat (2018) drew instant comparisons with the dark, anti-hero roles done by Shah Rukh early in his career. Ranveer had told this writer in an interview after Padmaavat was released, “From my very first film people have been drawing comparisons with Shah Rukh Khan. I don't think there's any basis for it. He's a living legend! You can't even take my name in the same breath as him. He has achieved and contributed to Hindi cinema so much. He is a game-changer in so many ways. Like I always say, even if I achieve an iota of all that he already has, I will consider that to be a genuine achievement.”
Now that Ranveer is all set to step into the shoes of SRK – an actor he deeply respects and admires, comparisons and dissections have already started flooding in, just a few hours after Farhan Akhtar shared the announcement teaser of Don 3. The announcement of Don 3 also comes at an opportune time when Ranveer is riding high on the success of his latest outing - Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani - which re-established him as one of the finest actors of the current times after a series of flops in 83, Jayeshbbhai Jordaar and Cirkus.
Going by the teaser of Don 3, a lot of the viewers have pointed out that despite the fact that Ranveer is a brilliant actor, there’s absolutely no way that he can match up to the panache with which Shah Rukh portrayed the venerated character and made it his own. Some feel optimistic as there’s none in the current crop of actors who could dare to do justice to an iconic role like that of Don.
Let us remind you that Shah Rukh faced similar comparisons, apprehensions, and scrutiny when he stepped into the shoes of Bachchan with Don: The Chase Begins Again in 2006. The criticisms made back then were on SRK’s gait, physique, and of course, the distinct baritone that Mr Bachchan possesses - which were crucial to his 1978 film. Loyalists had pointed out that SRK can never match the persona of Big B as Don, especially without the baritone. But, little did they know that the King of Romance also has (as he himself once confessed) “a penchant for playing bad guys in a way to make them look very attractive.” He’s done it in films like Darr, Baazigar, and Anjaam early on in his career and later in Don, Don 2, and Raees. While Ranveer nailed it as the menacing Khilji, it’ll be interesting to see how he turns things around to carve a place for himself as the new Don in today’s times when Shah Rukh Khan’s portrayal of the character is etched in the memories of the millennials and GenZs so strongly.
Evolving with time
It is also important to note that this probably is the time to evolve with the changing times in order to keep a beloved film franchise alive and kicking. Even though a dozen years have passed since the release of Don 2: The Chase Continues (2011), the anticipation for Don 3 never died down with the makers being flooded with queries about Don 3 year after year since 2011. While the sentiment and urge to see the same actors reprising their roles remain, probably it is time we start thinking about keeping an open mind to make way for others to take the legacy forward and wait to see what they bring to the table.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Ranveer will leave no stone unturned in bringing his A-game in his portrayal of Don in the third installment of the franchise, especially since he’d be aware of the obvious comparisons. His inclusion in the series also begs the question - Who among the current lot of actors would be best suited to carry forward Don’s legacy, if the film’s series were to be continued a decade later?