“Revenge is the purest emotion” as said in Mahabharata and used as a tagline in Ram Gopal Varma’s revenge saga “Rakta Charitra” (2010) is the phrase which will haunt you while witnessing Ashim Ahluwali’s “Daddy”. This year somehow Bollywood has 3-gangster films, “Daddy”, “Raees” and “Haseena Parker”, 2 being biopics while “Raees” is more of a fictional yet all three revolve around a person.
The year in which Arun Gawli got the named “Daddy” with his white collar transformation is the one I was born (unrelated?). Those living in Mumbai might very well know Arun Gawli aka “Daddy” but those unfamiliar with the dreaded (white shirt) gangster will know much about him in the course of the film. The film plays back and forth in an investigative format of Arun Gawli’s (Arjun Rampal) rise as the gangster from 1986 to 2012. The first half deals with the growth of Gawli and his famous tussle with Dawood Ibrahim (here, named as Maqsoud) while the second half deals with personal life and wearing a white collar.
Director Ashim Ahluwalia’s second directorial film is as dark as his previous National award-winning “Miss Lovely” (2013). Here, he sets up the dark period of the late 80s where the mills were shutting down and the gangsta(er)blues were painting the skies. This was the period where Dagdi Chawl (a locality in Mumbai) had Arun Gawli rising and Dongri had Dawood Ibrahim roaring; a period where crimes would take place in daylight easily, where children were trained to use “kattas”(local pistol) and a period where the economy was fluctuating. The tight and claustrophobic atmosphere (and frames) created for an intense story-telling works well. The captivating Cinematography by Jessica Lee Gange and Pankaj Kumar narrows us towards the personal agendas. For an instance, after his first killing Arun is running and in a tight and low lit frame he is blurred while a distant ladder is in focus- that’s the rise of the storytelling.
Here, the factors bringing the film down are the thick plot and the tedious (back and forth) narrative. Why would a Cop who is behind the gangster since 3 decades would (re?) investigate and know the whole story again? The film could have been crispier and effect if the narrative was straight. The deliverance of the present narrative gives a little scope and the biopic somehow is told from others point-of-view (why don’t we get to see Arun’s story in his own words?). Yet everything is summoned by the Cinematic Excellency. While the character motives are clear, the film makes us believe in Daddy’s innocence (a man whose daughter is lying on the bed with toys and guns and the man who picks his daughter with a toy in one hand and a gun in other).
The film comes across as a self-respected gangster biopic in a way. I would prefer “Raees” though it was much fictional but dealt with a rise of a gangster, as it delivers openly what the gangster has to offer. Here, it looks like Arjun Rampal and Ashim Ahluwalia had to comprise their film (since Gawli is alive). The periodical setting, costumes and the overall ambience is aptly marked with at par direction submerging us into the personal life as well as the 80s-90s.
Arjun Rampal terrifically swipes into the character and shines throughout getting every move right. The South Indian Actress Aishwarya Rajesh makes a fabulous Hindi debut and would love to see her in coming years while she has few amazing films lined up Down South). Nishikant Kamath, Shrikant Yadav and Rajesh Shringarpure give a tussled support. And yes, Maqsuod (Dawood Ibrahim) is played by a star that is totally miscast. He has around 10-12 scenes but is quite ineffective in his act though the tension between their characters is on point.
In an early scene, Arun Gawli asks his daughter the meaning of Robin Hood. But we don’t perceive him as it since this is much of a self-respected gangster drama which wants us to believe that Arun Gawli is the Robin Hood somehow.
Release: 8 September, 2017
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
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