The underworld that ruled Mumbai at one point has spun many films over the years. But surprisingly, no film was made solely on Arun Gawli, who has also been a prominent figure in the city’s underworld and politics and continues to be. Director Ashim Ahluwalia takes the challenge and comes up with DADDY, and makes an unconventional choice of having a suave Arjun Rampal for a character that’s diametrically opposite to his persona in all aspects. So does the risk pay off or does DADDY turn into a disappointing gangster fare, let’s analyse.
DADDY is the story of the roller-coaster life of Arun Gawli. The story begins in late 70s when the mills in Bombay (present day Mumbai) get shut, rendering lakhs of people jobless and even homeless. In a locality in central Mumbai, Dagdi Chawl, three youngsters get lured into the underworld. They form the ‘B.R.A. Gang’ which is the acronym of their names – Babu Reshim (Anand Ingle), Rama Naik (Rajesh Shringarpore) and Arun Gawli (Arjun Rampal). Arun Gawli however becomes quite prominent and soon enters politics. How he becomes a boon for the Dagdi Chawl residents and a bane for the police force forms the rest of the story.
DADDY begins on a shocking note and you expect the film to be a fast-paced, well-preserved gangster drama. The film however falls a bit immediately but still, the scenes of the 'B.R.A. gang' are engaging. But as the film progresses, it becomes too confusing and incoherent. Too many things are packed in the film's 135 minutes run time. Also there are far too many characters. One fails to understand who exactly is the villain and if it’s the system that’s the villain, then it’s not established very well. It is mentioned that poverty drove Arun to crime but one never gets to see his family struggling due to poor economic conditions. Moreover, the film suffers from another strange problem – the background score and sound design at places is too loud because of which certain dialogues are inaudible.
Arjun Rampal and Ashim Ahluwalia's story is weak and should have been detailed. The screenplay is average as it fails to put together the life of Arun Gawli in a cinematic format. Ritesh Shah’s dialogues are strictly okay and fail to register.
Ashim Ahluwalia’s direction is the biggest culprit. He fails to do justice to the script, however faulty it may be. With his execution, he could have taken the film to a great height. But barring few scenes and the finale courtroom sequence, he misses the mark. Few scenes are quite bewildering. For instance, the encounter attempt on Arun Gawli at the 'nakabandi' failed to make an iota of sense. And why was Arun using paper ballot to vote when EVMs had already been introduced by then?
Sajid-Wajid's music is average. ‘Eid Mubarak' and ‘Aala Re Aala Ganesha' are relegated to the background. ‘Zindagi Meri Dance Dance’ however is quite impressive and reminiscent of the bygone era. Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor's background score has an 80s touch and is entertaining.
Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar's cinematography could have been better. There are far too many close up shots. Deepa Bhatia and Navnita Sen Datta's editing is disappointing. Despite being 135 minutes long, the film feels like a 3 hours+ fare. Parul Sondh's production design is authentic. Nidhi and Divya Gambhir's costumes are also straight out of life but the wigs worn by the characters look fake. Sham Kaushal's action is gory but it was the requirement of the film.
On the whole, DADDY is a poor show due to its incoherent script and weak direction. Arjun Rampal’s performance is the sole factor that makes the film realistic. Watch it if you are a fan of Arjun Rampal or gangster flicks.