Daddy Review

Arjun Rampal as don Arun Gawli in "Daddy." (photo provided)

Kundalini Entertainment and Karta Entertainment presents “Daddy”

Produced by: Arjun Rampal

Directed by: Ashim Ahluwalia

Written by: Ashim Ahluwalia, Arjun Rampal & Ritesh Shah

Music: Sajid-Wajid

Starring: Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajesh, Nishikant Kamat, Farhan Akhtar,

Rajesh Shringarpure, Purnanand Wandekar, Anupriya Goenka, Anand Ingle, Shruti Bapna, Usha Naik, Deepak Damle, Natasa Stankovic & others

May we, at the outset, ask what is wrong with our film folk? Biopics are suddenly so hot a fad that we have started being indifferent about who we make them on – disguised or otherwise. If we have covered Sardar Patel, Veer Savarkar, Nehru, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Dadasaheb Phalke (in Marathi), Mary Kom, Bhagat Singh and many more eminent Indians, we are also looking at people like Dawood, Haseena Parkar, Veerappan and others who were a menace to society.

The argument that they had a good side, known or otherwise again, hardly holds water. Even the greatest men had a negative side, and the flipside is true as well. We only need to remember the side on which the scales were heavier like we would hardly look at the weaknesses, gray areas and foibles of a Gandhi or a Phalke. Similarly, a man a despotic as Hitler must have had people he demonstrably cared for and loved as against his psychopathic genocidal tendencies.

So, do we humanize a terrorist, a don, a criminal, a gangster, or any negative element that is a threat to society, spend a booty to make a film on him, and expect the people to pay Rs 300 per head or thereabouts to look at his life?

Based on the sporadic successes of (cinematically superior) films as varied as “Deewaar” and “Satya” or the average fate of the whitewashed “Sarkar” (all of which were INSPIRED by true characters and their sagas), we conclude that people must always love to read, hear and watch about negative elements in society – like Arun Gawli here.

Gawli, the son of a millworker, grew to be a small-time contract gangster and then a don and a politician, and Arjun Rampal, who plays him, produces and co-writes the film, decides to “humanize” (sic) him as an unwilling victim of circumstances and a reluctant renegade. He even sets out to reform but returns to his world after his mate is gunned down. But let’s begin at the beginning.

In midtown Mumbai’s Dagdi Chawl, three youngsters get lured into the underworld to form the BRA Gang, made up of their names B-abu Reshim (Anand Ingle), R-ama Naik (Rajesh Shringarpore) and A-run Gawli (Arjun Rampal). Gawli towers among them.

As a film, we expect a lot, however, after a fairly riveting opening murder, but the movie begins to peter off immediately, taking recourse to gangsta pic clichés more than going by the detailed researching that seems – to give the filmmaking devils their dues – to have gone into the making.

And so, the loopholes and gray areas keep spiraling. Arun does not exactly have a family in dire financial straits, considering they were mill workers and not rich people, to begin with, but financial distress is implied as the reason why he stepped into crime. Now, now, by that logic, we should have criminals in multitudes of those who are there.

The storyline is flawed, and the screenplay fails to build up a crackerjack tempo and intensity – the only cinematic virtues that can justify such glorification of social menaces. The talented Ritesh Shah seems to be at sea here – his lines (dialogues) match the required idiom but lack the fire. Maybe he is better off writing for patriotic fiction like the “Commando” franchise.

To an extent, Arjun Rampal succeeds at a role in which he has miscast himself! He fails to look like a lower-class, humble Maharashtrian gone wrong from the grassroots (the prosthetic nose barely makes a difference). His performance lacks the impact he made in films like “Om Shanti Om” and “Rock On!!!,” almost entirely because the fundas were wrong.

Another laughable miscasting is of Farhan Akhtar as Maqsood, the disguised version of someone we have all heard of as the man with the ‘D’ word in Indian organized crime. Aishwarya Rajesh scores among the actresses as Arun’s wife, Zubeida.

Rajesh Shringarpore as Naik and Anand Ingle as Reshim are impressive. Nishikant Kamat as inspector Vijaykar is a scene-stealer in many sequences. Purnanand Wandekar (Vijay), Raj Arun (Rafique) and Deepak Damle (Phamplet Bandya) also score in their smaller roles.

The songs are average, largely superfluous and so lost in the narrative. Naren Chandavarkar’s and Benedict Taylor's background score has a surfeit of influences from R.D. Burman and Bappi Lahiri. This, to today’s ignorant audience, is supposed to demonstrate the ‘70s, which was dominated by Kalyanji-Anandji’s background skills, Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s style as well as the ‘60s Shankar-Jaikishan-led fashions in BGM, ALONG with RD’s patterns.

The camerawork (Jessica Lee Gagne and Pankaj Kumar) is passable, but editors Deepa Bhatia and Navnita Sen Datta fail to give grip and pace to the film so that at 135 minutes it frequently induces ennui as there is nothing standout in writing.

However, the production design (Parul Sondh) and costumes (Nidhi and Divya Gambhir) do seem in sync with the ‘70s. As for the violence, well, we have Vishal Bhardwaj, Sanjay Gupta, Ram Gopal Varma and Anurag Kashyap as inspirations, so please do not look at healthy inputs. It’s all about realism, see?

Director and co-writer Ashim Ahluwalia could have made this an exciting and outright fictional crime drama with an earthy touch but fails to either generate sympathy for his protagonist or any audience connect.

And, of course, whatever I said at the beginning, adds to the negatives. When I came out of the movie hall, I found myself mysteriously humming the 1991 Hindi film hit, “Aaina Mujhse Meri Pehli Si Soorat Maange” (The mirror asks me for my past reflection).” I suddenly realized the connection: I remembered the old (but unsuccessful) Mahesh Bhatt film of that name subconsciously with this perennial song.

The new “Daddy” was already being forgotten, and some mirror in my mind was asking me, perhaps, to recall the older Anupam Kher cauldron of identifiable emotions in a genuinely fallible, normal human being!

Rating: *1/2

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