Stunning visuals, good performances are the film’s plus points
The thrilling stories of Mumbai’s underworld have inspired quite a few filmmakers. Arjun Rampal’s labour of love, Daddy hits the screens today. The film grabbed our attention ever since the first poster was released. Everyone was amazed by the uncanny resemblance between Arun Gawli and Arjun. The film is also the second big venture of filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia whose Miss Lovely earned applause for Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the international market. Rampal has co-written the film along with Ahluwalia and the script has been vetted by Gawli himself. Do the pair of Rampal – Ahluwalia give us a rich cinematic experience with Daddy? Read on to find out.

What it is about
The film is a biopic on the life of Mumbai’s underworld don Arun Gawli who spread his reign of terror in the now-Lower Parel precinct of Byculla-Worli-Chinchpokli. It traces his journey into the world of crime after being rendered unemployed after the closure of mills in the 1970’s. It tells us how he rather reluctantly did his first killing, moved on to indulge in a game of one-upmanship and finally grew weary with the world of crime. Though the film talks about his stint as a politician, it does not trace the period when he built a nexus with the politicians in the late 80’s.
What’s hot…
Daddy is a docu-drama in the truest sense. The film does not have any cinematic excesses, diving straight into the story of a jobless young man’s foray into the world of crime. What strike us instantly are the beautifully crafted visuals. Cinematographers Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar have captured the milieu of the 1970’s with total mastery. The crowded chawls, winding lanes and seedy bars look picture perfect. Coming to the cast, it is a bunch of solid performers. Arjun Rampal puts in an earnest performance, which picks up real momentum in the second half. He is matched in the acting department by Nishikant Kamat, who plays Inspector Vijaykar with aplomb. Supporting actors Rajesh Shringarpure and Anand Ingale suit their characters. There is some wry dark humour that makes you chuckle. The gang war scenes are deftly shot and Ashim manages to build tension every time Gawli reaches for his pistol. Sajid-Wajid’s background score is impactful though used a little too generously.

What’s not…
Daddy’s biggest drawback is in the story-telling. Even though the story is told in documentary format, it is tough to understand for a layman. It has a non-linear narrative that picks up from various phases of Gawli’s life. Also, it is disappointing that they did not touch upon the Hindu-Muslim divide, which was a key point in the gang wars of the 1970’s. Gawli is shown more as this secular guy who is in love with a Muslim girl and reaches out to them after the Bombay riots. Even Dawood Ibrahim is not referred to by his name. It is Bhai/Maqsood. Farhan Akhtar is a real disappointment. He does not evoke any menace and looks like he has come for a costume party. It is one of the film’s biggest let-downs given that he is not in a ‘cameo’. Arjun shines in the scenes with actress Aishwarya Rajesh (Zubeida/Asha Gawli) but their relationship never touches an emotional high for us to feel strongly for them. While the horrific murder of Kundan Dubey is shown, we do not see the murder of Haseena Parkar’s husband. The turning point in Gawli’s story is the death of Rama Naik but Ashim does not invest much emotion in that scene. Trying to capture four decades of anyone’s life in a film is tough, more so of a don like Gawli. Still, the film loses pace in-between and we feel it could have been 15 minutes shorter.

Verdict
Daddy is complete cinema engaging various aspects of film-making with finesse. However, the story might not resonate with the masses due to the low emotional quotient. Watch it for the good performances and stunning look into Mumbai’s bygone eras. And it will be more enjoyable if you read up a bit on Arun Gawli and head to the theatres…

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