The terrific transformation of one of Bollywood's most handsome -Arjun Rampal from a 6 ft 13 inches (approx) tall hunk to a 5 ft 40 inches (approx) dreaded Mumbai underworld gangster turned politician - Arun Gawli surely romances your eye with its technical finesse, props, the big hairs, pants, those collars and that disco - ahua ahua (koi yaha nache nache). Does all the cosmetics and technical competence including that much publicized prosthetic nose gives hope of a taut retro gangster drama? Let's find out.
While DADDY certainly looks serious, dark and intense from those glossy presentations of our 70's in today's times and it's raw and edgy in appearance. Depicting the story of Arun Gulab Gawli (Arjun Rampal) son of a mill worker whose father loses his job due to strike rises above those shanty allies of the city's dagdi slums to become one of Mumbai's most dreaded criminal in the central areas of Mumbai during the late 80's and 90's.
There is something in the real life story of Gawli who posed a threat to India's current most wanted. In fact almost every Bollywood gangster drama follows the same terrain - from rags to riches structure, it's the characterization of the gangster, the ruthlessness involved in his appeal as a smuggler, murderer who goes through atrocities, sufferings to turn into a mobster (best example Bachchan in DEEWAR and of course AGNEEPATH). But DEEWAR, AGNEEPATH and many in the same category are fictional account of a gangster, here when a director like the MISS LOVELY fame Ashim Ahluwalia decides to frame the life of real time gangster like Gawli on screen, we look for a character graph, sketch and study other than those prosthetic and cosmetic authenticity.
Sadly, DADDY is more of how good a family man and a friend is Gawli in real life rather than the alleged notorious murderer and smuggler who ruled a part of Mumbai. It's a well shot frame but the perfect picture to fit in the frame is missing.
Ashim Ahluwalia leaves many things unanswered in this half-baked product which neither qualifies to be a dark intense gangster drama nor a biopic, it seems to be more keen to be how cool and rusty a gangster drama set in the retro era will look like.
It's loaded with everything as demanded by the template - guns blazing, intense action, women, booze, cops, and an item song but it searches for a coherent script to keep the audience glued.
Ironically, when supporting cast like Gawli's sidekick Vijay (Purnanand Wandekar) and cop (Nishikanth Kamat) are in force, the movie gets its artistic and edgy nuances the way a RGV's SATYA had it throughout its process.
Apart from the episode of Vijay and the undying will of Inspector Vijaykar Nitin (Nishikant Kamat), DADDY fails to get the insight of Gawli as a film. It is sad that Arjun Rampal who has come a long way to give his heart, soul and pocket to this ambitious saga fails to brighten the resume of the Bollywood hunk who has worked tremendously hard on his accent in order to give a performance of his life time till date packed with intensity and complete honesty.
The sloppy writing that focuses on Gawli as a robin hood like any fictional Bollywood gangster fails to generate the interest as required, Ashim Ahluwalia has made his intentions very clear during the initial reels when Arjun Rampal is introduced as the white kurta, pajama and topi clad Gawli who is now a politician.
On technical grounds it's a brilliantly crafted drama that posses an extra eye for details, Jackie Shroff's vintage Red & White cigarette ad at the back of a salon, those colored telephones, the dark shanty allies of Mumbai slums, etc is pitch perfect.
Supporting cast chips in with some valuable support. Aishwarya Rajesh as Asha Gawli is fine. Anand Ingale is fantastic, Rajesh Shringarpore is earnest.
Cinematography by Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar is brilliant and the way the movie gets its sepia tone is outstanding. Parul Sondh's production design and Prashant Singh's casting deserves special mention.
One more irony, DADDY's rivals in the movie bring in some surprises, Farhan Akhtar as Gawli's rival is menacing throughout with that glares visible in those fashionable goggles. Nishikant Kamat as the cop after Gawli for years is brilliant and of course Vijay (Purnanand Wandekar) is incredible in giving the film that single defining moment.
But the worse is still to come, in the end, DADDY tries to gain sympathy for the allegedly dreaded criminal. The dialogue 'gareebi uska sabsa bada mistake tha' may have worked in a routine fictional gangster drama but here it backfires.
Watch DADDY if you love Arjun Rampal more than anything else in this world.