By Nabeel Mohideen Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Farhan Akhtar's debut film ``Dil Chahta Hai'' marked the arrival in 2001 of a gifted director, beguiling audiences with a funny, poignant and utterly charming tale of three friends and their rites of passage. His second feature, ``Lakshya'' in 2004, was a commercial failure, largely because of the timing. With India and Pakistan trying to improve ties after having come to the brink two years before, audiences rejected what they perceived to be a war story. A pity, because ``Lakshya,'' perfectly paced and free of jingoism, remains one of the best coming-of-age Bollywood films. Perhaps the disappointment of the last venture persuaded Akhtar to play safe with his third and latest feature, the remake of a 1970s thriller. The ``Don'' of 1978 was directed by Chandra Barot, who never made another movie of note, and starred the iconic Amitabh Bachchan at the height of his career. While a significant hit in the Bachchan oeuvre, it never achieved the cult status of his other films. Akhtar says he chose the film because it was the ``coolest'' Bachchan film he remembers. There's another connection -- the old ``Don'' was co-written by father Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan, who together scripted many of Bachchan's best-remembered films from the period. Don, who doesn't have any other name in the film, is a much- sought-after villain who's shifted base to Kuala Lumpur from India and is making his way rapidly into the upper echelons of global crime. Hot on his trail is Deputy Commissioner of Police D'Silva, who eventually succeeds in getting his hands on his quarry. D'Silva plants a Don look-alike, the bumpkin Vijay, to roust out the remaining gang members. D'Silva though gets bumped off and Vijay is trapped, unable to prove his innocence. Slicked-Up Version Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood's current top leading man, takes on the title role in Akhtar's vastly slicked-up version, playing the bad guy with a stylish, deadly élan. Contemporary touches include the fetishistic black leather and dark glasses, with Khan adding his own little campy, creepy flourishes to make the character complete. When he's out of the Don guise and portraying the rustic, gullible Vijay, Khan slips back into the hammy star persona that his fans know and love. Which is perhaps why Vijay doesn't get much screen time. Akhtar has added a few clever tweaks to the story, which are entirely true to the spirit of the original and, in a sense, even more so. Whether Akhtar scores a hit with his ``Don'' depends mostly on whether Khan still maintains his hold over audiences. The new ``Don'' is leaner, meaner and colder, appropriately reflecting the loss of innocence between then and now. A Lesser Work Akhtar's film is a well-constructed, stylish, occasionally derivative thriller that you wouldn't call tautly made at three hours. While it may endure better than the original, it's still a lesser work from a director who's shown himself capable of tackling bigger, better stories with more complex themes. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy has a nicely understated throb to it and is suitably contemporary, thanks to key contributions from the MIDIval PunditZ. It also includes two remixes from Kalyanji-Anandji's original score. Kareena Kapoor sizzles in her dance-seduction ``guest appearance,'' while the film pays respectful homage to the much-loved track, ``Ho Khaike Paan Banaraswala.''