In 1978, 'Don' begins, true to its title, as the story of one of the most powerful men in the business of crime. In spite of being on Interpol's Most Wanted list, Don (Amitabh Bachchan) remains elusive to the police. Besides the police, Don makes a few other enemies through his merciless approach to running his organization. Notably, Don kills one of his own men, Ramesh, when Ramesh decides to leave the business. This introduces Don to two new enemies, Kamini (Helen), Ramesh's fiancee, and Roma, (Zeenat Aman) Ramesh's sister. When Kamini seduces Don and attempts to have the police arrest him, her plan backfires as Don outsmarts her and the police in his escape. In the process, Kamini is killed. A shattered, revenge-seeking Roma gets her hair cut short, trains in judo and karate, then enters Don's gang after deceiving them into thinking that she too is on the wrong side of the law. Don is impressed with her fighting skills and allows her to work for him without suspecting any ulterior motive.
After years of unsuccessful attempts at nabbing Don, the police finally succeed. Unfortunately, Don dies in the heat of the chase, botching Officer D'Silva's plan to reach the source of all crime—the man Don reported to—through capturing Don alive. D'Silva buries Don's body, ensuring that people believe he may still be alive; the only ones who know of Don's death are D'Silva, the graveyard priest, and his followers. As luck would have it, D'Silva remembers his chance encounter with Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), a simpleton trying to survive in the hustle and bustle of Bombay in order to support two small foster children, who is an exact lookalike of Don. D'Silva hatches a plan to transform Vijay into Don so he can arrest the rest of the gang.
Around the time Vijay "returns" to Don's gang as Don under the guise of amnesia, Jasjit (Pran), just released from jail, begins his mission of revenge against D'Silva and his search for his children Deepu and Muni, who had been saved and taken care of by Vijay. Vijay manages to replace the red diary with a blank one, and tells his gang that he is going to take revenge on the DSP, but is actually going there to give him the real diary. Roma goes after him, but Vijay survives the attack and he tries to explain to her that he is not Don, but Vijay. She refuses to believe him at first but D'Silva intervenes and tells her that the man she is trying to kill is indeed Vijay. Roma apologizes to Vijay, and joins him. Vijay hands over the diary to D'Silva. D'Silva reads the diary and discovers that the underworld crime boss, the man Don reported to, is a man named Vardhan, but he is unable to determine Vardhan's identity.
Meanwhile, as Vijay learns more and more about Don through his discovery of his diary and Roma's help, he announces to his colleagues that his memory has returned. Celebrations ensue as Don announces his return to the world, but things take a drastic turn when the police raid the celebrations, acting upon Vijay's information, but Vijay's only witness to his true identity, D'Silva, dies in the crossfire, and Vijay is arrested because the police think he is Don. Vijay manages to get the police into taking him to the DSP, who was injured in the raid. A desperate Vijay tries to get a dying D'Silva to tell the police he is Vijay. Unfortunately the DSP succumbs to his injuries and passes away. Vijay is imprisoned. However, he escapes the police truck while on the way to a high-security jail. He begins to fight for himself and tries prove his innocence. Roma, now an ally of Vijay, agrees to do whatever she can to help him.
Tangled in a web of confusion where the police refuse to believe that he is Vijay while simultaneously his underworld gang realize that he is indeed not Don, Vijay incites the ire of both the police and Don's right-hand man, Narang. To add to Vijay's woes, the diary that Vijay had handed over to D'Silva – his last hope of proving his innocence – is stolen by Jasjit in an attempt to track down his lost children, without realizing that Vijay is the one man who can reunite them. Vijay escapes the clutches of the police and the underworld with Roma's help and returns to his old self though he struggles to prove his identity and innocence. In the process, he also discovers that the Interpol officer R. K. Malik is actually the underworld crime boss Vardhan, who had killed DSP D'Silva, and had also abducted the real R. K. Malik to take his place. After Vijay fights against Vardhan's men Roma ends up getting the diary. One of the gangsters snatches it from her and burns it. The ending reveals that the burnt diary was, in fact, the fake diary, and that Vijay had the real one in order to trick Vardhan. Vijay gives the proof to the police and all charges are put against him. Vardhan is arrested, the real R. K. Malik is rescued, and Vijay returns to his old life, along with Roma, Jasjit, and Jasjit's children.Amitabh Bachchan as Don and Vijay: Don is the most wanted criminal. The police are always unsuccessful at nabbing him. However, in a police encounter Don is fatally shot. Vijay is the spitting image of Don and is soon forced to pose as Don in order to help the police arrest Don's gang members.
Zeenat Aman as Roma: A simple girl whose brother Ramesh works for Don. Roma despises Don for his having murdered her brother. She joins Don's business with the secret motive to kill him.
Pran as Jasjit "JJ"
Iftekhar as DSP D'Silva
Om Shivpuri as Vardan/INTERPOL operative R.K. Malik (Impostor)
Pinchoo Kapoor as INTERPOL operative R.K. Malik (Real)
Satyendra Kapoor as Inspector S. Verma
Jagdish Raj as Police officer
Keshav Rana as Police officer
Abhimanyu Sharma as Inspector Sharma
Prem Sagar as Police inspector inspects the ambulance
Paidi Jairaj as Dayal, Judo & Karate Instructor
Kamal Kapoor as Narang
Arpana Choudhary as Anita
Helen as Kamini
M. B. Shetty as Shakaal
Mac Mohan as Mac
Baby Bilkish as Munni
Alankar Joshi as Deepu
Moolchand as Govinda
H. L. Pardesi as Banarasi, Pan seller
Gyanesh DJ as Police officer
Sharad Kumar as Ramesh
Kedar Saigal as Doctor
Rajan Haksar as Kishan, Jasjit's employer
Yusuf Khan as Vikram
Director: Chandra Barot
Producer: Nariman A. Irani
Production Company: Nariman Films
Cinematographer: Nariman A. Irani
Art Director: Sudhendu Roy
Costume Designer: Ramola Bachchan, V. Scharwachter
Wardrobe: S. Irani, Manikrao Jagtap, Mani J. Rabadi, Mehboob Shaikh
Stunts: Haji Khan, A. Mansoor
Choreographer: P. L. Raj
Music Director: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyricist: Anjaan, Indeevar
Playback Singers: Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Amitabh Bachchan
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, 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 to 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. The film took three-and-a-half years to complete. 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. Aman did not take any money for her work in the film. 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 in the film. Don was released without any promotion on 12 May 1978 and was declared a flop the first week. The song "Khaike Paan Banaraswala" was actually to be used by Kalyanji–Anandji for the film Banarasi Babu and picturised on Dev Anand, however since the song was not needed, Dev Anand had removed the song from the album. Within a week after 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.
The hit-song "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" was choreographed by P.L. Raj.
The soundtrack of the film has been composed by the duo Kalyanji Anandji, while the lyrics were written by Anjaan and Indivar.
According to film music expert Rajesh Subramanian the song "Khaike Pan Banaraswala" was composed by Babla, younger brother of 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.Filmfare Awards
Best Actor - Amitabh Bachchan
Best Male Playback Singer - Kishore Kumar - "Khaike Paan Banaraswala"
Best Female Playback Singer - Asha Bhosle - "Yeh Mera Dil"
Don has elements of Shakti Samanta's film China Town (1962) and is apparently inspired by it. The movie had Shammi Kapoor playing the double roles of both a gangster and his lookalike - a common man turned informer. However this film is heavily inspired from Manmohan Desai's Sachaa Jhutha starring Rajesh Khanna. Don was itself remade several times.
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 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.One Hindi remake was titled Dav Pech (1989), starring Jeetendra. It was unsuccessful.
Duplicate (1998), directed by Mahesh Bhatt and starring Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla, is partly a parody of Don.
A film with the similar plot line was made starring Bollywood actress Rekha. The film was named Madam X .
The 2006 Hindi remake of this film starring Shahrukh Khan, titled Don was successful .
Don was first remade in 1979 in Telugu as Yugandhar, starring NTR, Jayasudha and Jayamalini.
In 2009, a second Telugu remake titled Billa was released, starring Prabhas, Anushka Shetty, Namitha and Krishnam Raju, and Jayasudha in a different role than the one she played in Yugandhar. This film used the same title as the Tamil remakes.
1983 movie Roshagadu had a similar storyline and was remade in Hindi as Dav Pech.
It was also remade in 1980 in Tamil as Billa, starring Rajnikanth. Helen, who played Kamini in the original Hindi film Don (1978), repeated her role in this remake.
The 2006 Hindi remake starring Shahrukh 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).
In 1986, the movie was remade in Malayalam as Shobaraj, starring Mohanlal and Madhavi.
1994 Kannada movie Alexander starring Shashikumar had a similar storyline.
The 2007 Hollywood movie The Death and Life of Bobby Z had a similar premise to this movie. It revolved around a lookalike of a gang leader who is asked to masquerade as him by law enforcement officer(s), though the remainder of the plot was largely different. It is based on a 1997 novel of the same name. The novel was well received, but the movie received negative critical and commercial response.
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."
The third season American Dad! episode "Tearjerker" uses the 1978 Don theme music in its intro sequence.