The trend of adapting a real-life story for the big screen is not something new. And every time there's a life being adapted for the screen, the first thing one fears is if it will end up becoming another hagiography. If the person, irrespective of the ups or downs he or she has witnessed in real life, will be larger than life on the screen.
First thing first, director Ashim Ahluwalia has stayed away from letting that happen to Daddy, at least for most part of it, in his gangster saga about Dagdi Chawl's Arun Gawli (Arjun Rampal). Though there are scenes which force you to think whether he wanted to paint a positive image of the gangster-turned- politician.
But then, Gawli is human. He is the reluctant gangster. He has given a thought to quitting this life of a gangster, and has thought of leading another which is free of constant fear. He is egoistic. He, unlike his other friends, refuses to bow down in front of Maqsood bhai (Farhan Akhtar, modelled on Dawood). But it is not happen. And that is what, even with all the fictionalisation, keeps you interested in the film.
Two other admirable things are the detailing that has gone into creating the world in which the controversial gangsters of Mumbai resided and the narrative that the filmmaker has chosen. Daddy has become what he is because of the circumstances and the film gives us detailed glimpses of it — the life of the chawls, which though cramped and congested, is full of warmth and brotherhood. And yet, pushes one to the edge so much so that crossing over to a gang is easy.
As far as the narrative is concerned, Ahluwalia chooses to tell most of the story in flashback—through different voices, mostly Gawli’s family members and his long-time associate narrating their version of the gangster to inspector Vijaykar (Nishikant Kamath). The film opens in 2011 with the murder of an MLA, which Vijaykar is investigating. It may, at times, seem silly to have a cop taking you through the story of a gangster, but because it is coherent and seamless, it doesn't bother you much. It is interesting to note the changes in the landscape of Mumbai as the story switches from one decade to another—traversing four decades from the 1970s.
While it's real and gritty like his last film, Miss Lovely about the C-grade film industry of the 80s, Ahluwalia's Daddy falters because there's very little which is new. His victory, however, lies in the additional casting—Aishwarya Rajesh’s Asha Gawli is endearing, so is the portrayal of Gawli’s associates Rajesh Shringarpure as Rama Naik and Anand Ingale as Babu Reshim. However, Rampal’s prosthetic nose glares you in the face and is burdening, and Akhtar seems too reluctant to play a don. Thankfully, he makes only few appearances.
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
Starring: Arjun Rampal, Farhan Akhtar, Aishwarya Rajesh, Nishikant Kamath