Shooting film songs

Picture the song: Feel the love in ‘Aaj ki Raat’ from the ‘Don’ remake

Echoes of the Donna Summer disco hit and 1970s retro chic in Farhan Akhtar’s version of ‘Don’.

Filmmaker Farhan Akhtar was briefly trending on social media for shutting down his personal Facebook account after reports emerged that user data had been illegally harvested by the data firm Cambridge Analytica. However, Akhtar hasn’t deleted his Twitter account yet, and he had to put out a tweet on Tuesday denying reports that a third Don movie would be released in 2020 and would feature him as a police officer.

The reports fall into the wish fulfillment category. Fans of the first two films, directed by Akhtar and released in 2006 and 2011, clearly wish to see Shah Rukh Khan return as the suave gangster, and entertainment journalists are happy to fuel the speculation based on conversations with “anonymous sources”. However, the second movie, in which Khan’s titular character returned for a heist, proved that the filmmakers were already running out of imaginative ways in which to extend the story. Don 3 could well turn out to the rehash that nobody really wants.

The 2006 production was a chic and enjoyable remake of Chandra Barot’s 1978 hit, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman. The remake worked partly because of reflected glory – much of the plot and key characters were borrowed from the first film – and smart updates to the material (the characters played by Boman Irani and Priyanka Chopra, for instance, and the plot twist).

Shankar-Ehsan-Loy remastered and reimagined key tracks from the 1978 production for the soundtrack with mixed results. Shaan sang a lovely techno version of the title tune. The seduction song Yeh Mera Dil, replacing Helen with Kareena Kapoor, should have been left alone. Khaike Paan Banaraswala didn’t have the charm in terms of the singing or the visuals the second time round.

The soundtrack’s catchiest tune is Aaj Ki Raat, whose double-edged lyrics (by Javed Akhtar) and club setting hint at dark deeds in the offing. Irani’s Vardhan character is plotting a hit while Khan’s Don hits the dance floor along with the characters played by Priyanka Chopra and Isha Koppikar. The retro feel isn’t only a result of the costumes, choreography and old-fashioned editing transitions. Aaj Ki Raat has echoes of the 1977 Donna Summer hit I Feel Love. Produced by the legendary composer and DJ Giorgio Moroder, the disco track deeply affected Hindi film composers. I Feel Love echoes through Ramba Ho from Armaan (1981) and Raat Baki from Namak Halaal (1982), both composed by Bappi Lahiri, while Pyar Karne Wale from Shaan, composed by RD Burman, is another speeded-up version.

Of the lot, Aaj Ki Raat is the smoothest and lightest tribute to Donna Summer. Alisha Chinai’s smokiness is well paired with Mahalaxmi Iyer’s higher pitch and Sonu Nigam’s velvet voice, and the songs fits snugly into a movie inspired by the 1970s in more ways than one.

Aaj Ki Raat, Don (2006).
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