Movies are usually good, bad or average. Those that fall in the space between ‘good’ and ‘average’ are normally the most frustrating to watch. These films have the potential to be good; you may even root for these to be good, but certain factors weigh them down. Hence, they remain firmly entrenched between ‘good’ and ‘average’. Ashim Ahluwalia’s ‘Daddy’ is one such film.
Based on and skewed heavily in favour of gangster-turned-politician Arun Gulab Gawli, ‘Daddy’ primarily functions as a vehicle of exoneration. It serves as a medium to justify his heinous acts of terror and wrongdoings by using circumstances as context. The efforts to justify his deeds are so overt that it strips the film of the credit it otherwise deserves. Surely, a ruthless mobster with over 120 cases against him is unlikely to be a ‘good man’?
Gawli is showcased as a victim of circumstance, with the underworld having picked him from the abyss of poverty, rather than an unemployed man with a choice when placed in an economically difficult situation. Extraneous factors lead him to rise up the ranks as a mafioso. We’re led to believe that Gawli killed reluctantly, perennially sought to exit the world of violence he had involuntarily entered and had no interest in attractive women shoving their hands up his pants.
Ashim packages this preposterous propaganda with an ensemble of realistic characters and authentic settings. Each frame is constructed with a terrific eye for detail, which indicates that hours of research went into making this film. From the guns and clothes to the locations and music, Ashim achieves awe-inspiring perfection. Such indubitability is unheard of in Indian cinema and merits high-praise. The casting is spot-on too, as dramatis personae look eerily similar to the people they represent. Arjun Rampal as Gawli is stoic with a nerve of vulnerability that aptly shows at opportune moments. He brings credence to the role, although his intimidating stature is contrary to the five feet three-inch man he is supposed to recreate.
The narrative is haphazard, bouncing about inconsistently throughout the film. This is perpetuated by fluctuating timelines, as the film moves in a nonlinear manner, chronicling different periods in Gawli’s life. The role of his arch-nemesis, Dawood Ibrahim, is played somewhat tepidly by a prominent Bollywood celebrity. The performance, weak and unidimensional, comes across as being awkward and caricaturish.
‘Daddy’ could’ve been an iconic film, as it possessed the material that many movie-makers would give their all for. Sadly. the striking lack of objectivity cripples the movie, reducing it to being a lukewarm spectacle.