A grimy atmosphere coupled with some fine – if not perfect period – recreation of the 1970s and ’80s and some solid performances still fails to compensate for the uneven telling of the story of Arun Gawli (Arjun Rampal), a mill worker’s son who become a dreaded don of Mumbai’s underworld.
There is much that Ashim Ahluwalia’s Daddy has going for it. A well-mounted gangster saga of Gawli, who ruled from Byculla’s Dagdi Chawl, it reaffirms Ahluwalia (Miss Lovely, John And Jane) as quite the visualizer and craftsman who has a strong sense of just how to stage and film his material in front of the camera. The film sees some superb on-location filming with the shootout at the Ganapati festival a major highlight of the film.
Where the film falters is in its layering of the story. The 1970s and ’80s underworld scenario in Bombay, the intertwining of the gangs at play, the police, the politicians, the businessmen and even the film world lend itself to a far more entangled scenario against which Dawood, Gawli and other gangsters operated. Here, the film seems a tad too uni-dimensional biopic set in an otherwise complex world. And in its treatment not being obviously ‘filmi’, the film, in spite of some truly interesting off-the-cuff storytelling, does suffer from not having enough crests and troughs in its narrative flow. Its other shortcoming is the depiction of Dawli himself. You don’t quite know how to take to him and are just not invested enough in his character to keep your engagement level in the film going.
No complaints about most of its acting though. The supporting players are cast brilliantly and are the characters they are playing. Without having to mention any one particular performance, let’s just say the entire secondary cast is not just spot on but fleshed out beautifully as well. This is a big, big plus for the film.
Technically too, the film is undoubtedly polished. The fine production design, richly textured camerawork, raw action, deft editing and the evocative sound design all help to perfectly create a murky, noirish world in the sleazy underbelly of Bombay. There are the odd glitches here too though. Even as the film swings from 1976 to about 2012 or so, we don’t really see the corresponding ageing in any of the characters, especially Aishwarya Rajesh. And for a film highlighting numerous events that took place around 1987-8, the costumes and hair dos seem more from the late 1970s and early 80s. While the songs in the soundtrack are extremely well chosen, the background score could have done with some restraint.
But finally for all its pluses and minuses, it’s the two star performances that let the film down a notch as both actors are inherently average performers. Arjun Rampal’s sincere act of the reluctant Robin Hood like don seeking to go legit via politics, though easily one of his better performances, still makes Gawli come off as one of the duller characters of the film. But to be fair to him, Gawli’s characterization too plays a hand in this. And Farhan Akhtar’s casting as Dawood (called Maqsood here) just doesn’t come off. Script problems aside, just taking care of these two issues could have resulted in a cracker of a film. As it is, Daddy ends up as an undeniably good effort but has you ruing that it could have been so much more.
Hindi, Action, Drama, Biopic, Color