Lokesh Dharmani gives his verdict on Arjun Rampal's Daddy

Arjun Rampal

Read more about Arjun Rampal

Director- Ashim Ahuwalia

Actors- Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajesh and Nishikant Kamat 

How do you make a biopic on a living gangster-turned-politician without ever glorifying the crime? How do you decide what events to document in a couple of hours without ever taking sides?

Daddy makes a fair attempt at telling a convincing story of former Mumbai don Arun Gawli giving different points of views that make for an interesting narrative. However this style of storytelling loses fizz in the second half.

A few characters converse with an investigating cop and give us valuable insights into Gawli’s life. There is an old lady, a sex worker, Gawli’s wife and two of his gang members who give us a peek into a character who is mostly non-committal and evasive.  Some of them work effectively, others don’t. For instance, the reason behind Gawli’s wife Zubeida’s (Aishwarya Rajesh) meeting with the cop Vijaykar (Nishikant Kamat) is not explained and it ends up becoming just a narrative tool without much context to the film. Even his gang members, Pamphlet and Sada’s flashbacks, as they are interrogated by the cops, come across as a bit forced.

Sans silly dialoguebaazi or bhaade ki intensity, Daddy at no point resorts to melodramatics. It in fact, establishes a human character in Gawli, who is as much a gangster as a lover or a husband, as much a politician as a father.

The film also scores on atmospherics. The art direction and the production design team have done a fabulous job in creating the right mood of the ‘70s and ‘80s Mumbai. Be it the use of red, garish seats for the bride and groom at a wedding or tube lights at a Ganpati sequence, every little detail builds the right ambience for the film.

A few scenes in the first half have been done really well. The gangwar scene in an elevator has been shot fabulously, keeping you on the edge of your seat. The bongo background score in chase sequences is effective too. The first half also offers you a surprise with a popular actor playing a don, Maqsood Khan, whose introduction scene shows him watching a cricket match and betting. It’s cleverly done as it hints at the real life don on whom the character is modelled after.   

The second half however is not as gripping. The transition of Gawli from a gangster behind bars to a sought-after politician is rather hasty. I wish the writers had explored that more and shown us what caused the change. The film also neon highlights a few instances rather than showing them in depth. The narrative then becomes too simplistic. There are too many characters played by not-so-popular faces, so keeping track gets a bit confusing. For instance, suddenly we are shown Gawli’s brother who is dead in the second half with hardly any reference to him in the movie at any point.

However, Daddy, packs some convincing performances. Arjun Rampal embraces the don’s character really well.  The accent is mostly consistent and the body language, on point. However it’s the supporting cast that takes the cake. Anand Ingale looks convincingly sleazy as Babu Reshim, one of the third muskeeters of the BRA gang (Babu, Rama and Arun, as they christen themselves). Nishikant Kamat plays the encounter specialist, Vijaykar (modelled on real life cop Vijay Salaskar) and lends him the right amount of grit. But my favourite is Shruti Bapna who plays Rani, the sex worker. She is a versatile actress who can easily play a grumpy college student in Wake Up Sid (remember Ranbir Kapoor’s stern classmate, Debbie?) and a sex worker in Daddy. We need to see her more often in leading roles.

Towards the end, the film sadly tries to justify the gangster and his criminal activities by comparing him with corrupt officials. A slicker second half and more insight into Gawli’s transition would have made Daddy a more engaging watch. However Daddy is a realistic movie, watch it if you are a big Arjun Rampal fan.