Don Movie First Impression: Sivakarthikeyan-Cibi pass with flying colours
A quick mini spoiler-free write-up of Don, starring Sivakarthikeyan, Priyanka Arulmohan, SJ Suryah and Samuthirakani
One of the most fascinating aspects of Indian cinema recently has been the extreme paucity of the quintessential “college film.” Closer home, in Tamil, we have not really seen our biggest stars be part of this subgenre despite their core audience coming from this age group. In fact, it has been almost a decade since we saw one of the last notable “college films” featuring a star. It was 2012, and the film was Nanban.
Sivakarthikeyan, one of the young Turks of Tamil cinema, has taken on the mantle of delivering a campus film, and gives us DON. Incidentally, Don does have a slight Nanban/3 Idiots hangover. Now, this comparison isn’t to slight either of the film but just to explain how deep the Rajkumar Hirani film has affected the collective psyche of a generation of college-goers and filmmakers. Another valid comparison would be with Hiphop Adhi’s debut film, Meesaya Murukku, mainly because Don too feels like an autobiographical film of the director Cibi Chakaravarthi. It is no coincidence that the debutant filmmaker has named the protagonist after his father.
Following the success of Doctor, which saw a rather uncharacteristically subdued Sivakarthikeyan at the centre of it all, the actor loses all sorts of pretense to showcase an unabashed college guy who has a particular distaste for rules and regulations. It is this immovable object that meets with the unstoppable force of professor Bhoominathan (a brilliant SJ Suryah) who heads the disciplinary committee of the college. Their altercations provide the base for the film, which is solely then built on humorous gags hitting us one after the other. While a few gags miss the mark, the ones that land are howl-arious. Take, for instance, the scene where Soori impersonates Sivakarthikeyan’s close relative, which brings in laughs from unexpected writing choices. One other gag that really works is the presence of a student who well… talks and reacts like the sloth from Zootopia. The other comic actors like Bala Saravanan, Mirchi Vijay, Munishkanth, Singampuli, Kaali Venkat, and Sivaangi, hit more than they miss, and it keeps Don in okay-ish stead till the cookie crumbles in the second act that goes a bit all over the place. It takes time to get its things together, but when it does… oh boy!
After a point, the altercations between Bhoomi and Chakaravarthi get a bit tedious because it doesn’t have the same fun element that was there the first few times. But credits to Sivakarthikeyan and SJ Suryah for selling these scenes like it is nobody’s business. Full points to Samuthirakani too for his portrayal of the strict dad of Chakaravarthi who has no qualms in raining slaps on his college-going son in front of all the students. It is impressive how Samuthirakani can alternate between the Dhayalan of Saattai and Appa, and Chakaravarthi’s father in Don. Two contrasting characters, and two convincing performances.
For the longest time, Cibi Chakaravarthi takes the age-old route of college films but tries to inject a little dose of freshness into template scenes. Even in the romance portions between Chakaravarthi and Angaiyarkanni (Priyanka Arulmohan), most of the beats feel old, but out of a blue, there is one original note that makes it a bit refreshing. The school portions stretch the thread of believability, but in these films, it is not about the logic but the peranbu. It is not every day that we have the guy not having the guts to go against the father’s strict orders. In campus films like this, we often ask whether the students ever studied, and I particularly liked how Cibi played around with this question to extract laughs. A downside to the campus films are lack of memorable supporting characters, and here too, while we have a battalion of actors fleeting in and out of the screen, their only purpose is to either be Chakaravarthi’s friend or his enemy.
Nevertheless, if Don manages to tickle our funny bones, it is due to the earnestness of the performances, which as always, is held together by Anirudh’s background score that is becoming the lifeline for many a film now. But as I said earlier, it is the third act that holds all the cards. In fact, for a film that does a decent ‘pledge’ and a middling ‘turn’, it ultimately comes up trumps thanks to a terrific ‘prestige’.
As I walked out of the screening, I was impressed with how Cibi pulled the wool over all our eyes. Sivakarthikeyan and Cibi Chakaravarthi promised a fun nostalgic ride back to our college days. While that was a bumpy ride, for the most part, what makes the last leg smooth sailing is the emotionally stirring final act that came out of nowhere.
I came for the laughs, but I stayed back for the tears, and if that isn’t the magic of cinema, then what is?