Arjun Rampal’s Daddy traces the life of Mumbai gangster Arun Gawli and for the most part stays true to his life. From being a poor mill worker’s son, Arun Gawli turns into one of the most dreaded gangster’s in the city over a period of time. Director Ashim Ahluwalia in Daddy doesn’t give us a vicious, cold-blooded murderer but someone more humane who wants to eventually do good for society.
The director has chosen to narrate the story of Arun Gawli through various voices and perspectives – those of cops, gang members, friends, etc. This, the story has flashbacks and moves between the present and the past.
Arjun Rampal has not just starred as Gawli but even produced and co-written the story and screenplay for this film. It is evident the story is close to his heart as his performance, Marathi diction and look (prosthetic nose) in the film shows the amount of effort he has put in to essay this role. For the most part, Rampal does become Gawli for us on screen. In places though, we do find that he is not as hard-edged as one would expect. In fact, Rampal had met Gawli to understand him better. So could he have pushed the envelope more? Yes.
While the film takes us through Gawli’s journey from 1976 till life imprisonment in 2012, it doesn’t offer us anything new or surprise us. But Daddy is technically brilliant and that’s what makes it enjoyable. The cinematography by Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar makes the movie visually appealing and the images are etched in your mind even when you leave the theatre. Recreating the Bombay in the 70s has been meticulously done by the production design and given the attention to detail, the audience is actually transported to that era. At times, the music is a tad too loud and swallows the dialogues and at other times, the actors speak a little too softly.
Nishikant Kamat as the cop who tries his best to capture Gawli is apt for his role. Tamil actress Aishwarya Rajesh makes her debut in Hindi cinema with the role of Zubeida aka Asha (Gawli’s wife). Playing the strong and supportive role of Asha well, the actress also surprises us with her flawless Hindi. Farhan Akhtar as Maqsood (in reference to Dawood Ibrahim) also makes his presence felt in the film.
Daddy has tried hard not to make Gawli a Robin Hood and stay true to his gangster life. At the end of the day, this is one performance of Arjun Rampal’s that many will applaud him for.