40 years of 'Don': A film Bollywood rejected, people accepted
"Don" was a Salim-Javed script that many big stars in the industry had passed on but Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, and director Chandra Barot decided to take on the "difficult" project to pull one of their friends out of debt. Released on May 12, 1978, "Don" featuring Bachchan in a double role, that of a mafioso and a simpleton, went became a blockbuster.
Bachchan ate 40 'paans' just to get a scene right
Director Chandra traces the birth of "Don", how several stars rejected the film and how he once made Bachchan eat 40 "paans" just to get a scene right. Chandra was the long-time assistant director of Manoj Kumar and became friends with Bachchan and Zeenat during the shooting of "Roti Kapda Aur Makaan". He also developed a close bond with the film's cinematographer Nariman Irani.
We decided to make a film for Irani: Chandra
In 1972, Irani produced Sunil Dutt-Waheeda Rehman starrer "Zindagi Zindagi", but the film bombed and Irani found himself in debt. "Because we all were working together, Amitabh, Zeenat, and Pran saab, we were friends. We decided to make a film for Irani to help him come out of the financial mess. Even Manoj suggested the same. But we didn't have a script," Chandra says.
Salim Khan was approached for a script
As luck would have it, Irani's wife was Waheeda's hairdresser and knew writer Salim Khan. "We asked her to put in a word for us. When we met Salim, he didn't have a script ready but told us, 'There is one subject which no one understands'. In the '70s, we had 'thakurs' and no one had heard the word 'Don'," the director said.
It was called 'Don waali script': Chandra
"Dharmendra, Jeetendra, and Dev Anand refused the film. But we said, 'We don't care, we just want 'Salim-Javed' on the posters'. It was a ready script and we took it immediately. It didn't have a title so all called it 'Don waali script'," Chandra recalls.
The songs became a talking point of the film
The film's first day was to begin with the shooting of "Yeh Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" but they did not have enough money, so Chandra took Rs. 40,000 cash from his sister, singer Kamal Barot, and the set was created. It wasn't just Helen's "Yeh Mera Dil" which became popular, Bachchan's "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" also became a talking point of the film.