Don (1978 film)

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Don 1978 poster.jpg
Directed byChandra Barot
Written bySalim–Javed
Produced byNariman Irani
StarringAmitabh Bachchan
Zeenat Aman
CinematographyNariman Irani
Edited byWamanrao
Music byKalyanji Anandji
Nariman Films
Release date
  • 12 May 1978 (1978-05-12)
Running time
166 minutes
Budgetest. ₹70 lakh[1][2]
Box officeest. ₹7 crore[3]

Don is a 1978 Indian Hindi-language action thriller film directed by Chandra Barot and produced by Nariman Irani. The film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, and Pran. Bachchan plays a dual role, as Bombay underworld criminal Don and his lookalike Vijay. Written by Salim–Javed, the plot revolves around Vijay, a Bombay slum-dweller who resembles the powerful criminal Don, being asked by police superitendent D'Silva (Iftekhar) to masquerade as Don due to the latter's death, in order to act as an informant for the police and track down the root of the criminal organization. The film features music by Kalyanji Anandji, with lyrics by Anjaan and Indeevar.

It was the third highest-grossing Indian film of 1978, and was classified a golden jubilee by Box Office India.[3][4] The film spawned the Don franchise; Javed Akhtar's son Farhan Akhtar created a remake Don: The Chase Begins Again (2006) and its sequel Don 2 (2011), both starring Shah Rukh Khan. It also inspired several South Indian remakes, notably the Tamil film Billa (1980), a breakthrough film for Rajinikanth.[5] Don is also known for its theme music, which was used in the American Dad! episode "Tearjerker" (2008). The intro to "Yeh Mera Dil" was sampled by the Black Eyed Peas for the song "Don't Phunk with My Heart" (2005).[6] The movie was also unofficially remade in 1991 into Punjabi language Pakistani movie titled Cobra. Don is one of the films that catapulted Amitabh to superstardom in his career.


The film begins with Don (Amitabh Bachchan) as one of the most successful criminals in Bombay who always eludes the authorities, marking himself on Interpol's "Most Wanted" list. To that end, the police, led by Deputy Superitendent of Police D'Silva (Iftekhar) and Inspector Verma (Satyen Kappu), is working with Interpol operative R.K. Malik (Om Shivpuri) in their attempts to nab Don. When one of Don's men named Ramesh decides to leave the gang, Don kills him, provoking Ramesh's fiancée Kamini (Helen) and Ramesh's sister Roma (Zeenat Aman) to swear vengeance on Don. Kamini tries to seduce Don in an attempt to have the police arrest him, but her plan backfires as Don plays wise to her moves and kills her before escaping once again. Training herself in judo and karate, Roma becomes a spy for D'Silva and enters Don's gang after deceiving them into thinking that she too is on the wrong side of the law, impressing Don in allowing her to work for him without suspecting any ulterior motive.

After years of unsuccessful attempts, the police finally succeed in nabbing Don, and D'Silva plans to take him into custody alive in order to reveal the source of crime that Don relies on. Unfortunately, Don dies succumbing to his wounds inflicted by the police during the chase, botching D'Silva's plan. Still wanting a chance to take down Don's gang, D'Silva buries Don's body while ensuring many people to believe he may still be alive as the only ones who know of Don's death are himself, the graveyard priest and his followers. As luck would have it, D'Silva remembers his previous encounter with a slum-dwelling simpleton named Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) who is an exact lookalike of Don. Meeting up with Vijay, D'Silva explains the situation to him and hatches a plan to have Vijay pose as Don so that he can get the police to arrest the rest of Don's gang and find out the source of crime that they rely on.

As a startup, D'Silva and Vijay staged an 'accident' that lands Vijay in the hospital under police custody, prompting Roma and Don's gang, currently led by Don's right-hand man Narang (Kamal Kapoor), to free Vijay, allowing him to infiltrate the gang under the guise of having amnesia. Around the same time, a man named Jasjit "JJ" Ahuja (Pran) is released from jail and wants revenge against Don and his gang, as they got him arrested for a past robbery that he was involved in. It was also told that JJ only took the job with the intention of using the money to save his wife from death, but was caught by D'Silva in the act; JJ also intends to reunite with his children Deepu and Muni, who are currently taken care of by Vijay himself. As part of his mission, Vijay finds a red diary containing evidence regarding to Don's criminal activities. Vijay replaces the diary with a blank one while telling Narang and the gang members that he is going to take revenge on D'Silva for capturing him, but is actually going to him to give him the real diary. As Vijay heads off, Roma tries to attack him in an attempt to avenge both Ramesh and Kamini's deaths. However, D'Silva intervenes and confesses about Don's death and the situation to Roma, who apologizes to Vijay and agrees to help him out in taking down the gang members. Using the diary, Vijay and Roma learned more about Don's past and feigned moments of doing notorious acts to maintain their covers to Narang and the gang members. D'Silva even learned that the diary also reveals the existence of a notorious crimelord named Vardhan serving as the source of crime in Bombay, and that all of the gang members are working for him (even Don and Narang are nothing more than just middlemen reporting to Vardhan). Despite this, there is no indication to finding out Vardhan's identity as it remains unknown.

After Vijay feigns a moment of regaining his memories to the gang members, this prompts them to announce a celebration on Don's return. However, things take a drastic turn when Malik and the police (acting upon Vijay's information) raided the celebration, and D'Silva is killed in the crossfire, leaving Vijay, Narang and the gang members to be arrested as Malik and the police mistook Vijay for Don. With D'Sliva dead and no one to vouch for him, Vijay is forced to escape, and the commotion caused Narang and the gang members to finally learn that Vijay is an impostor just as they too escape from captivity, swearing to kill him. To make matters worse, Vijay learns that the diary (the sole evidence to prove his innocence) is stolen by JJ, who attempts to use it to reunite with his children. Despite this, Vijay avoids getting captured by the police and the criminals with the help from Roma, who maintains her cover to the gang members. Vijay and Roma then meet up with JJ and explain to him about the events, prompting him to ally with Vijay and Roma. However, the trio are horrified to learn that Malik himself is actually Vardhan, as he captured the real R.K. Malik (Pinchoo Kapoor) and posed as the latter to cover his identity. They are even more horrified to learn that Vardhan was the one who murdered D'Silva during the raid-up, and that he already exposed Roma's identity to the gang members before having them kidnap Deepu and Muni so that they can force the trio to surrender themselves and the diary to Vardhan.

Meeting up in the same graveyard where Don was buried, Vijay, Roma and JJ meet up with Vardhan and his gang members, who are holding Deepu and Muni hostage. During a long standoff between the trio and the gang members, Vardhan snatches the diary and burns it before calling in Inspector Verma and the police to the scene to have the trio and the gang members arrested so that he can get away scot-free. However, anticipating the possibility that Vardhan would try to escape, Vijay cleverly revealed that the diary that Vardhan burned was the blank one that he switched, just as he hands the real diary over to Inspector Verma, exposing Vardhan's identity and occupation to the police. As a result, Vardhan ends up being arrested and sent to prison along with his gang members for their crimes, and all charges against Vijay are dropped while JJ is reunited with Deepu and Muni. The film ends with Vijay, Roma, JJ, Deepu and Muni happily walking away from the police station, satisfied that they took down Vardhan and his gang members for good.

Cast and crew[edit]


  • Amitabh Bachchan as Don, one of the most wanted criminals and a middleman working for Vardhan. The police are always unsuccessful at nabbing him until his death.
    • Bachchan also plays Vijay, a slum-dwelling yet kind-hearted man who is the spitting image of Don before posing as the latter in order to help the police arrest Don's gang members. He is the main protagonist of the film.
  • Zeenat Aman as Roma Bhagat: A young woman whose brother Ramesh works for Don. Roma despises Don for his having murdered her brother and fiance. Serving as a spy for the police, she joins Don's business with the secret motive of killing him, unaware that Don died after his last encounter with the police.
  • Pran as Jasjit "JJ" Ahuja, a family man who wants revenge against D'Silva and the gang members for the death of his wife and the separation of his children.
  • Iftekhar as D'Silva, the Deputy Superintendent of Police. He was the one who assigned Vijay to pose as Don following the latter's death in hopes of taking down the gang members. He eventually ends up being killed by Vardhan.
  • Om Shivpuri as Vardhan, the manipulative and notorious crimelord that all criminals (including Don and Narang) are answering to. He is also revealed to have impersonated himself as Interpol operative R. K. Malik to cover his identity. He is the main antagonist of the film.
  • Pinchoo Kapoor as R. K. Malik, an INTERPOL operative who was captured by Vardhan, who stole his identity.
  • Satyen Kappu as Inspector S. Verma, a police inspector allied with D'Silva.
  • Jagdish Raj as a police officer
  • Keshav Rana as a police officer
  • Abhimanyu Sharma as Inspector Sharma
  • Prem Sagar as the police inspector inspecting the ambulance
  • Paidi Jairaj as Dayal, Roma's judo & karate instructor
  • Kamal Kapoor as Narang, Don's right-hand man. It is later revealed that just like Don himself, Narang is a middleman working for Vardhan the entire time. He is the secondary antagonist of the film.
  • Arpana Choudhary as Anita, Don's sole henchwoman working for Vardhan
  • Helen as Kamini, Ramesh's finance. She sworn revenge on Don for killing Ramesh, but ends up being killed by Don as well
  • M. B. Shetty as Shakaal, one of Don's goons working for Vardhan
  • Mac Mohan as Mac, one of Don's goons working for Vardhan
  • Baby Bilkish as Munni Ahuja, JJ's daughter
  • Alankar Joshi as Deepak "Deepu" Ahuja, JJ's son
  • Moolchand as Govinda
  • H. L. Pardesi as Banarasi, a pan seller
  • Gyanesh DJ as a police officer
  • Sharad Kumar as Ramesh Bhagat, Roma's brother and Kamini's boyfriend. He started out as one of Don's goons, but when he decides to leave, he ends up getting killed by Don.
  • Kedar Saigal as a doctor
  • Rajan Haksar as Kishan
  • Yusuf Khan as Vikram, one of Don's goons working for Vardhan
  • Manik Irani as a goon



Producer and cinematographer Nariman Irani was in a financial mess when his film Zindagi Zindagi (1972), starring Sunil Dutt flopped. He was in debt for Rs 1.2 million and couldn't pay the money off on a cinematographer's salary. When he was doing the cinematography for Manoj Kumar's major hit Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974), the film's cast (Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Pran) and crew (assistant director Chandra Barot) decided to help him out. They all recommended that he produce another film and that they would participate in its production. They all approached scriptwriting duo Salim–Javed (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar), who gave them an untitled script that had already been rejected by the entire industry. The cinematographer Nariman Irani, while working on Chhailla Babu, decided to borrow most of the plot of Chhailla Babu and shared a modified story idea with Chandra Barot, who made the new modified story as the film Don (1978). The script had a character named Don. Bachchan would play Don, and Barot would direct the film. Aman and Pran would play key roles in the film.[7]

The film took three-and-a-half years to complete.[8] Before filming was completed, producer Irani died from an accident on the set of another film he was working on. Barot faced budget restraints but received aid.[9] Barot showed the film to his mentor Manoj Kumar, who felt that the film was too tight and needed a song in the midst of the action-filled film, and so "Khaike Paan Banaraswala" was added into the film. Don was released without any promotion on 12 May 1978 and was declared a flop the first week. Within a week after an adding the song "Khaike Paan Banaraswala", the song by itself became a big hit, and by word of mouth spread, so by the second week, the film's fortunes were reversed, and the film was declared a blockbuster. The profits from the film were given to Irani's widow to settle her husband's debts.[10]

The hit-song "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" was choreographed by P.L. Raj.[11]

Don was produced on a budget of 70 lakh[1] ($860,000).[12] Adjusted for inflation, its budget is equivalent to $3.4 million (22 crore) in 2016.[13]


Soundtrack album by
LabelEMI Records
ProducerKalyanji Anandji

The soundtrack of the film has been composed by the duo Kalyanji Anandji, while the lyrics were written by Anjaan and Indeevar.

According to film music expert Rajesh Subramanian, the song "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" was composed by Babla, the younger brother of a famous music director Kalyanji Anandji.

Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle received accolades at filmfare for the tracks "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" and "Yeh Mera Dil" respectively, both of which have also been remixed in the remake.

1."Main Hoon Don"AnjaanKishore Kumar04:43
2."Yeh Hai Bombay Nagaria"AnjaanKishore Kumar05:53
3."Khaike Pan Banaraswala"AnjaanKishore Kumar04:04
4."Jiska Mujhe Tha Intezar"AnjaanKishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar04:21
5."Yeh Mera Dil"IndeevarAsha Bhosle04:18
Total length:23:17

Box office[edit]

At the Indian box office, the film grossed 7 crore[3] ($8.6 million).[12] Adjusted for inflation, its box office gross is equivalent to $34 million (218 crore) in 2016.[13]


Award Category Recipients and Nominees Results
Filmfare Awards Best Actor Amitabh Bachchan Won
Best Male Playback Singer Kishore Kumar for "Khaike Paan Banaraswala
Best Female Playback Singer Asha Bhosle for "Yeh Mera Dil"
Best Lyricist Anjaan for "Khaike Paan Banaraswala" Nominated
Best Music Director Kalyanji-Anandji

Legacy and influence[edit]

Don series[edit]

The film was remade in 2006 as Don starring Shah Rukh Khan in the lead role of Don, Priyanka Chopra as Roma, Arjun Rampal as Jasjit, Boman Irani as D'Silva, and Om Puri as Malik. It was directed by Farhan Akhtar. With some changes in the script, the film proved to be one of the highest-grossing films of the year. A sequel to that film, Don 2, was released on 23 December 2011.[4]

Remakes in other languages[edit]

  • It was also remade in 1980 in Tamil as Billa, starring Rajinikanth. Helen, who played Kamini in the original Hindi film Don (1978), repeated her role in this remake. Billa was a breakthrough film for Rajinikanth,[5] establishing him as the top star of South Indian cinema.[14]
  • The 2006 Hindi remake starring Shah Rukh Khan, titled Don, inspired the Tamil directors who made the Ajith Kumar starrer Billa — a remake of the same-titled Rajinikanth film.
  • Billa II (2012) is a Tamil film starring Ajith and a prequel to Billa (2007).


A sample from the song "Yeh Mera Dil" was used by The Black Eyed Peas for their hit song "Don't Phunk with My Heart" in 2005. The song won the Black Eyed Peas their first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, while the composers for "Yeh Mera Dil", Kalyanji Anandji, were awarded the BMI Award for being the originators of the melodies used in "Don't Phunk with My Heart."[6]

The third season American Dad! episode "Tearjerker" (2008) uses the 1978 Don theme music in its intro sequence.


  1. ^ a b "Excel Entertainment - Raees After 15 Years Of DCH Cinema - Box Office India".
  2. ^ "Don". Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Box Office 1978". Box Office India. 20 October 2013. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b IANS (22 February 2010). "Farhan's next Don to go on floors in October". Sify. Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Girija Jinnaa (15 June 2007). "'Yesterday I was a conductor, today I'm a star'". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 17 June 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Kalayanji, Anandji win BMI award". Indo-Asian News Service. 17 May 2006. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  7. ^ "filmibeat Page Not Found". Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2015. Cite uses generic title (help)
  8. ^ "Don, down the decades". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 20 October 2006. Archived from the original on 6 November 2007.
  9. ^ " An exclusive interview with Chandra Barot, who made the first Don". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  10. ^ " An exclusive interview with Chandra Barot, who made the first Don". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  11. ^ "PONYTAIL 'n' pop, but desi". The Hindu. 29 September 2003. Archived from the original on 8 July 2004. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Exchange Rate of the Indian Rupee (8.15 INR per USD)". Reserve Bank of India. 1978.
  13. ^ a b "Exchange Rates (68.3 INR per USD)". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Rajanikant: His name spells box-office magic in the south". India Today. 31 July 1988.
  15. ^ "Don but Notout". The Indian Express. 29 December 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2018.

External links[edit]