Don (1978) as we know is one of the iconic movies of superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s career.
He played a double role in the film. Director Chandra Barot worked on a Salim-Javed story and created an instant classic. Stylishly shot and containing some fantastic characters, and had enough twists and turns to keep jalebi-lovers happy.
The film’s plot went somewhat like this -- Don is a ruthless criminal who is always one step ahead of the police. Officer D'Silva's (Iftekhar) chances upon Vijay (Amitabh again) a simple villager who looks after two foster children.
When Don is killed in an encounter, D’Silva trains Vijay to be Don, who agrees to it because of the money. Vijay, as Don, enters the underworld and is once again the toast of the crime world.
Unknown to Vijay, Roma (Zeenat Aman), the sister of a man Don had killed, had infiltrated the gang in order to kill Don.
D’Silva is unfortunately killed and there is no one who can now vouch for Vijay’s real identity.
The police think he’s Don and the underworld knows he isn’t. Thankfully Roma now helps him and so does Jasjit (Pran) the father of the two children he was caring for. The three overcome great odds and get the real underworld mastermind arrested.
What’s interesting is that one of the songs of the film -- Khaike paan banaraswala, created as much buzz among the audience as the film itself. It’s said the audience back then went berserk over the song and went for repeat viewings just to catch a glimpse of it. The song had Amitabh Bachchan imbibing bhang and eating one paan after the other with great relish. It’s said that to add authenticity to his rendition, singer Kishore Kumar kept chewing on paans himself while singing the song.
It’s said that the song initially wasn’t part of the film. It was added later, after the completion of the shooting. Even Bachchan saab had said so in one of his social media posts. He wrote, “An afterthought, that became THE thought .. song 'khaike paan banaras wala' was done after film DON was completed..”
Some say that the song was initially written for Dev Anand’s Banarasi Babu. Director Chandra Barot, who was close to Manoj Kumar, showed him the film and Manoj Kumar reportedly thought it was too intense and suggested the addition of a song to give the audience some breathing space.
The song was shot when the entire film was wrapped up. The makers didn’t want to postpone the release date and hence it was reportedly decided to shoot it amidst actual cowsheds or tabelas in the Aarey Milk Colony instead of creating a set. Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman’s presence created quite a stir among the locals. It’s a wonder that despite all the last-minute proceedings, it turned out to be such a rage.
Lyricist Sameer, whose father Anjaan had written the song, holds a contrary view to these stories. According to him, his father wrote the song for Don itself and not for Banarasi Babu. He further mentions that the song wasn’t shot earlier as the producers didn’t want to delay the release.
Some say that it was Javed saab, who suggested there should be a song mid-way and Chandra Barot went along with the suggestion. Whatever the truth maybe, we’re glad that the song got made as it is such a vibrant number and never fails to lift up the mood of the viewers and listeners even now.