Daddy is a fresh and intriguing tale of the meteoric rise and fall of Arun Gawli, one of the few gangsters who was considered to be on par with the likes of Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan. He also had the distinction of making it to the assembly by winning an election with landslide verdict. He was an extremely animated character and I heard a few of his speeches on the TV. This film gives us a firsthand look at the life of Gawli and we are introduced to his side of the story. There were obvious cinematic liberties taken but the end result is quite fascinating and has the documentary-esc seriousness to it.
Arun (Arjun Rampal) grows up in Dagdi Chawl, a slum that was famous for housing the laborers of the nearby mills in the 1970s Mumbai. Pushed by his poverty and lack of alternative modes of employment, he enters the world of crime. He is aided by two more criminals, Babu and Rama and the three together, with the help of Maqsood (Farhan Akhtar), a la-Dawood Ibrahim character start making their presence felt in the Mumbai underworld. As the story progresses, the other two fall by the way side in gruesome fashion bringing Gawli to the fore. He turns the Dagdi Chawl into a fortified heaven for himself and his men and then starts’ going after Maqsood, who he believes, is behind the death of his compatriots.
Daddy is directed by Ashim Ahluwalia, the man who made the stark and dramatic Miss Lovely. Daddy has a similar feel to it. Even though it is characterized by a lot of shootouts and violence, at heart the film remains a somber and affecting drama. What is further great about this film is the fact that it is gripping. The story moves through a period of say, 40 years and that too in a duration of 2 hours and 15 minutes. The plot advances at a pace which is in strong keeping with the content and mood of the narrative. It’s fast when it has to be and leisurely when it needs to be. The action is organic and unfolds as a result of a dramatic standoff. The sequences are kept very gritty and realistic with little or no fancy. There are no heroic entries or exist or slow motions for that matter.
Arjun Rampal delivers probably the best performance of his life. Even though he is much better looking than the real man, he gets into the skin of the character. He had to get the look and feel right primarily because there are so many close-ups. The camera often lingers on his face and he has to emote and make the scene work. He does so effortlessly through his brooding act. I loved his act after he takes on the political mantle. I wanted this part to continue as he looked and acted so much like Gawli but it was cut short. But still, that doesn’t take away anything from the man’s essay for the rest of the film. He was brilliant.
Nishikant Kamat as the inspector who has some serious beef with Gawli is brilliant. He is at par with Rampal’s act and works as the ablest foil to Rampal’s act. I loved his verbal tussles with the witnesses that he visits to secure evidence against Gawli. Each of those meetings is wonderful in its own way. I didn’t know that Farhan Akhtar was a part of this film and he does a good Dawood impersonation. Even though he doesn’t have that long a part to make much of an impact, he does leave an indelible mark on the story. Aishwarya Rajesh Plays Gawli’s wife and she does a commendable job.
Overall, Daddy is bolstered by a realistic feel, engaging story, organic action and great performances. It’s the kind of film that not only entertains you but also makes you think. It isn’t the kind of film that leaves you with a good taste in the mouth. It does quite the opposite if you are someone who has been rooting for the protagonist. But that doesn’t make you feel cheated. The film tries to stay as close to the real story as it can and it is able to make the most of its premise. Daddy is a gangster film in the line of Satya, Company etc but just falls short of the mark set by those classics. Having said that, it is still one of the better gangster films to have come out of Bollywood in the last few years.
Rating : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)