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Daddy Review: Arjun Rampal’s film is a damp squib

Sluggish screenplay, loud background score and very predictable story line makes Daddy a very half-hearted attempt, says Shomini Sen

Arjun Rampal

Arjun Rampal in Daddy

The premise is all too familiar in Ashim Ahluwali’s new film Daddy. A story of an ordinary man who turns into a small time goon and eventually rises to power and becomes one of the most dreaded gangsters of Mumbai, is a tale that has been told in Bollywood many a times. Based on Arun Gawli’s life, the film spans over four decades and covers- strangely- the human side of one of Mumbai’s most dreaded underworld don.

The Robindhood style gangster, popularly known as Daddy by the people of Dongri chawl, the place from where he rose, eventually floated his own political party- Akhil Bhartiya Sena, and even won elections in 2012. But he was given life sentence soon after for murdering a Shiv Sena MLA. Gawli, now in jail, maintains he was innocent and the court never really had enough proof against him.

Gawli’s story and his rise as a Don is known to many, so when you enter the theatre to watch Daddy you are somewhat aware of what to expect. But considering its a film on a gangster, it is expected to be engaging despite its known premise. Unfortunately, the amount of detailing that goes in proving how Gawli was a reluctant participant to the petty crimes right from the beginning slackens the pace majorly. By the time of the interval, I had already suppressed a few yawns. It is only in the second half near the climax that the film slightly picks up and marginally salvages the film. Several good films have been made in this genre in Bollywood itself where the viewers, despite a predictable plot, were glued to the film from beginning to end. Unfortunately, Daddy isn’t one of them.

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Gawli’s progression from a small time goon to one of the biggest dons of the city is shown over a span of nearly two decades. His initial interaction with ‘The’ bhai, Maqsood (Farhan Akhtar in a cameo) to  eventually the two turning rivals and Gawli’s resistance to succumb to Maqsood’s domination and subsequent rise of Gawli as a leader of the underprivileged is what the rest of the film is about. Funnily, Ashim Ahluwalia and Rampal- writers of the story- right from the beginning make Gawli appear as a reluctant participant to all things wrong. Gawli’s loyalty towards his friends, his love for his wife (Aishwarya Ganesh) and his eagerness to turn his back towards crime every now and then is highlighted far more than the gangster journey.

It is also bizarre that a film which is known to be a biopic on a person, and which uses actual names for almost all the characters resorts to call Dawood as Maqsood. Farhan Akhtar looks the part but the story never lets the looming presence of Dawood aka Maqsood take centre stage. It is the story of Gawli and it remains so with far too many details thrown in.

Arjun Rampal – a tad good looking than the actual man, gets a prosthetic nose and delivers a restrained performance. The film also has some strong performances from Aishwarya Ganesh, who plays Gawli’s feisty wife, director-actor Nishikant Kamath who plays a corrupt cop out to get Gawli and Rajesh Shringarpure who plays Gawli’s aid and friend Rama. But performances alone cannot make the film good. Sluggish screenplay, too much close up shots, loud background score and very predictable story line makes Daddy a very half-hearted attempt.

The music is also just about average; there is a disco number which made me fall asleep with its dullness. Many of dialogues are not audible and characters mumble them out and the some of low light shots seemed a bit unnecessary.

Daddy could have been a slick gangster film but turns out to be an emotional journey of a man who desperately wants to prove himself innocent.

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