Arjun Rampal united with Ashim Ahluwalia to make Daddy, a movie on the life of former underworld don Arun Gawli, who started his life as a petty criminal before becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Mumbai underworld.
Ashim Ahluwalia makes his Gawli more an unwilling gangster in search of redemption than a ruthless cold-blooded murderer, and while that is an intriguing choice, the results are mixed.
The only one who did not run? When the posters of Daddy were out, the tagline left numerous enthralled. The biopic of Arun Gawli, gangster turned politician (briefly), was noticeably designed to take a dig at Dawood Ibrahim. Gawli's arch-nemesis is called Maqsood in Daddy but the enmity is obvious in every frame that director Ashim Ahluwalia places Arjun Rampal (in the role of Arun Gawli) and Farhan Akhtar (as Maqsood, a character based on Dawood Ibrahim) in.
Film Daddy begins with a bang and takes the viewer through the narrow alleys of Dagdi Chawl where the 1970s mill strikes and eventual shutdown ended up snatching many youngsters' jobs. It revolves around Arun Gawli (Arjun Rampal), the son of a mill-worker, who took to petty crime with his allies Babu Resham (Anand Ingale) and Rama Naik (Rajesh Shringarpure) for a living. The movie then goes on to trace the rise and fall of Gawli after his associates are killed and he is compelled to step up to take reigns of the gang in order to fight the ‘Bhai’ (Farhan Akhtar) and carve a niche for himself in the hierarchy of the underworld. How Gawli manages to do this while staying one step ahead of his nemesis Inspector Nitin Vijaykar (Nishikant Kamat), forms the rest of the plot.
Every actor has given his absolute best without any exceptions. Rampal, who underwent an amazing physical makeover to get under the skin of his character. There is a certain seriousness that Rampal brings to the role, which is simply praiseworthy and the actor manages to convey emotions through his eyes when no dialogues are needed. One can almost feel Gawli’s reluctance to join a life a crime and his helplessness as he gets sucked in deeper.
Actress Aishwarya Rajesh, who essays his wife Asha Gawli, is bang on as she bears a mysterious similarity to the real Asha Gawli and the actress has put in a solid act, in spite of her limited screen time. Kamat as the cop on Gawli’s trail is almost scary in his single-minded intensity and there are scenes where you really tend to empathize with the criminal rather than the cop. Farhan essays ‘Bhai’ (clearly modeled on Dawood) and manages to project an aura of menace without trying too hard. Ingale and Shringarpure have given capable support to the narrative with their restrained acts. Actor-director Nishikant Kamat takes the cake as far as the ensemble cast is concerned. He essays Vijaykar, the limping police officer who ensures that Gawli ends up behind bars.
Film Daddy is quite technically sound right from the first frame itself. Be it attires or locations or cinematography or the background score, Daddy is a total winner on all departments. What works against the movie is Ashim’s trick of using several narrators to present Gawli’s tale as it tends to make the plot lose its crispness and stretches it. Had the filmmaker stuck to a sole narrator or just let the plot unfold without the help of a narrator, the movie may have moved at a needed pace. Also, though Rampal had sworn that the movie will not glorify Gawli, ‘Daddy’ does tend to be tilted in favour of the former don and presents him as a reluctant gangster rather than an active member of the Mumbai gangland. Also, the second half is stretched needlessly and could have done with some editing.
Overall, it is worthy to watch once for Rampal’s able act and experiencing underworld’s reality!