Film: “Daddy”; Director: Ashim Ahluwalia; Cast: Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajessh, Farhan Akhtar, Nishikant Kamat, Anand Ingale, Rajesh Shringarpure, Purnanand Wandekar, Anupriya Goenka, Mir Sarwar, Usha Naik and Deepak Damle; Rating: ***1/2
Narrated in a non-linear manner, “Daddy” is a biopic of Arun Gawli, a mill worker’s son who became a gangster and then metamorphosed into a politician.
The story, packed with all the ingredients of a classic best seller, is written by director Ashim Ahluwalia and producer-actor Arjun Rampal. They have done a good job by brilliantly highlighting Arun’s character.
The film captures the milestones of Arun’s life right from 1976, when he lay wasted as a youth in Dagdi Chawl in central Mumbai to his sinister rise in the ranks of the underworld. The narrative displays a fine balance of Arun’s persona as a son, lover, husband and father. It also gives you an insight into the rules regarding their families and profession that bind the gangs and their rivals.
It also tells us how this Robin Hood got christened Daddy. It is also interesting to note how he stood against all odds in the state Assembly.
Apart from the narrative, what keeps you hooked to the screen are the production values. The sepia tinted frames by cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar handsomely capture the era created by the production designers. The artistic effects, hairstyles, costumes and props here show some sort of antiquity which no longer exists.
The action, packed with chases, fisticuffs, gun battles and gruesome murders is typical of gangster films. The two songs “Qawaali” and “Ala re Ganesha” integrate seamlessly into the narrative and are excellently picturised.
Arjun Rampal plays the title role in a restrained manner. This does not leave any scope for his emotions to betray him. The only time he lets himself loose is in the scenes where he is seen as a family man, which are few, but prominent.
He is aptly supported by Anand Ingale, Rajesh Shringarpure and Purnanand Wandekar as his friends Babu, Rama and Vijay aka Kalia. Aishwarya Rajessh plays his wife Asha Gawli with equal gusto.
Nishikant Kamat is striking as the policeman Vijaykar Nitin who hounds Arun. How he penetrates into Arun’s fiefdom and tirelessly works towards ensuring that Arun is punished, is worth watching.
The only actor in this ensemble who does not fit the bill is Farhan Akthar who plays Maqsood the dreaded “Bhai” aka Don of Mumbai. With a weak voice and clumsy body language, he seems apprehensive about his portrayal.
Overall, “Daddy” is a well-made film that gives a humane perspective to a hard-core criminal and is worth a watch for the period recreated.