8 Sep 2017

Movie Review: Daddy: Cautious, Doctored Gangster Biopic


Daddy is a tampered, mildly-impressive recreation of key events in the life of the dreaded Dagdi Chawl don, Arun Gawli (Arjun Rampal). From the closure of mills to youngsters taking to crime, Gawli is depicted as an unwitting victim of circumstance.

Arun Gawli becomes a reluctant BRA gang member, teaming with the notorious Babu (Anand Ingale) and his close friend Rama (Rajesh Shringarpore). The wannabe big gangster Maqsood (Farhan Akhtar! in a Dawood Ibrahim-inspired role) tries to rein in BRA. A bloodbath follows, and as Gawli finds himself alone and cornered, he plots a desperate escape.

Safe and Low-Impact 
Despite the authenticity and grittiness powdered into each scene, Daddy doesn't offer any relief from the dark, violent proceedings. Post two hours the constant grimness makes the film a slog in its final hour.

The film was understandably made in consultation with the Gawlis. The abundant source material makes for rich detailing, but also clearly favors Arun Gawli as a misunderstood murderer-turned-social worker. A vengeful police inspector (Nishikant Kamat, stand out act) is blamed for Gawli's enduring criminal reputation.


Wanted: Sharper, Edgier Take
Daddy needed a courageous, straight take rather than a doctored one. It could have been a more free-flowing movie if the film makers had the dare to call a spade a spade. For Miss Lovely director Ashim Ahluwalia has the atmosphere, characters, and realism cut right in. The 1980's streets and Mumbai bylanes come alive on the big screen. This could have been stellar cinema. But clearly, a lot more was at stake here.

Performances, Music 
Arjun Rampal has a little whiff of his urban mannerisms as a young Gawli but in the final hour, he plays Gawli with a haunting Xerox similarity. A grounded, and sincere performance, easily Rampal's career best.

Farhan Akhtar as Maqsood is a big casting misfire. Akhtar tries propping up his voice with help of repartee dialogues and sunglasses-aided menace, but it doesn't hold. Aishwarya Rajesh as Gawli's wife is rusty and real. The rest of the cast stands out as flesh and blood characters. The hair styling reminded me of countless, hilarious bad hair days. The art design is solid.

But Daddy fatally reeks of a starch stiff crampiness. The script and screenplay stand charged as guilty.Almost no humor, barely any insights, and a disturbing murder scene that needed a teeny-weeny trim courtesy the censors.

Sajid-Wajid's background score is a joy, drumming in the 80's mood with celebratory zest. Very commendable stuff.

Good in Scraps 
Daddy's held-back compromised approach brings it down as a notch-above-ordinary Hindi gangster flick. But barely anything redeeming here, nothing stand-out memorable.

Meanwhile, we hope Ashim Ahluwalia will put his mercurial talent in evoking timelines, spaces, and achingly real people in a better, braver endeavor.  

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