Sivakarthikeyan and his films, despite being entertaining appealed to me as a little bit one dimensional, until I chanced upon to see Nelson’s Doctor (2021). Till then, his films followed the usual repertoire, that could even be branded as ‘Sivakarthikeyan kind’ of films. Doctor changed it and most importantly made me intrigued to look forward to the post-Doctor phase of his career. Cibi Chakravarthy’s Don is his first release since Doctor.
Don does have the elements of Sivakarthikeyan films, but somehow the writing looked earnest and made some difference. Despite being a film about someone who chooses to be the local hero – the ‘Don’ among the students of the college campus, the film manages to make the character grounded, vulnerable and humanise him. Certain interesting ideas of presenting rivalry, revolution and rebellion inside the college campus in an analogous way to a gangster drama do work to a good extent. The film can be said as old wine mixed with new and served in a new bottle.
There were some interesting pop culture references which worked, not just because of the nostalgia, but for the fact that the writing was coherent and those references were placed organically. The Nayakan (1987) reference was intelligently placed, in my opinion. Another interesting bit was when the character of Sivakarthikeyan was made to utter a dialogue condemning stalking, which is a small step of progress forward, given the fact that the same actor was hugely criticized for the same in his earlier film Remo (2016). The romantic track between the lead actors was also made well.
The film’s best thing was the placement of emotional beats at regular intervals of the screenplay and making them work. It was amazing that in a film loaded with humour and light hearted conflicts, heavy scenes were brought inbetween and were made to connect. However, the main problem I found was also from one such heavy element – the final act. The film started off well as a rebel against a toxic parent, but out of the blue changed course during the last act to justify the same in the name of “for the goodness of the kid”. Personally, I wasn’t able to buy that, given the number of stories I’m hearing and reading daily about the trauma and impact of toxic parenting. While there are a few scenes where Samuthirakani’s character accepts that his way of parenting was wrong, that scene could’ve been more impactful but again, in the commercial cinema, we cannot ask for more.
It’s very well known that SJ Suryah is currently on a roll and Don was yet another cake walk for him. However, I was equally amazed by the performance of Sivakarthikeyan, showing so much nuances and layers. I felt that his demeanor and performance personally connected with me, especially during the emotionally intense scenes. On a lighter note, I found his makeover with the white shirt and goggles during his introduction scene having an uncanny resemblance to Fahadh Faazil from Malik (2021). I was wondering if his post-Doctor phase might have something like a Malik in store for him, given that he hones his performances a little more and chooses more intense stories to act. With Don, I’m looking forward to the next projects of both the actor and the director.