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Daddy  : What A Baddie
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Friday, September 8, 2017
Ashim Ahluwalia
Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajesh, Mir Sarwar

This is a classic case of over-cleverness. In an attempt to veer away from a conventional narrative, writers Ashim Ahluwalia and Arjun Rampal come up with multiple narrators and frequently flash the year they’re talking about to build the story of Mumbai gangster Arun Gawli. And the cinematographer forgets to switch on the lights. You know the effect: the dark, brooding, overused mood lighting that’s been done to death. One understands that the goal is to present several viewpoints but, irrespective of who the narrator is, or the year in reference, the scenes stay un-movingly similar. Dark, too many unknown, grimy, gritty gangsters coming in and out, gunshots, blood, and the viewer left wondering kya ho raha hai, bhai?


This non-mainstream genre of filmmaking leaves one knowing little about Gawli. For instance, the fact that Gawli had turned DagdiChawl into a labyrinthine fortress that no outsider, including the authorities, could enter or fathom,is known to most Mumbaikars who read. Or that Gawli married a girl called Zubeida who later morphed into Asha Gawli, is also common knowledge.   


So what more does the film convey? Every narrator, be it a gangster’s moll, a wife, a mother or a fellow criminal, brings in the angle that Gawli wouldn’t have turned gangster if it weren’t for his circumstances. The wife even spouts the ultimate profundity that if a cop had been in Dagdi Chawl, he would’ve been a gangster and if ArunGawli had been born in the cop’s house, he would’ve been a policeman.     


There’s also the doff to communal harmony with an Eid Mubarak number that must be followed by Ganpati celebrations. Does that make him innocent of the murder for which he’s still behind bars?


At some stage, Gawli donned a Gandhi cap and won an election by a handsome margin. So, was it political rivalry that did him in? Or, is he a killer who deserves to be where he is? If he’s innocent, the baffling storytelling unfortunately doesn’t do Gawli much justice.


Arjun Rampal’s make-up gives him an uncanny resemblance to Arun Gawli. But there’s no cinematic moment that makes him give a standout performance. It’s utterly strange why Farhan Akhtar strayed into this film to do a turn as a dreaded don. His presence too doesn’t brighten up the screen at any time.


Sajid-Wajid have an Eid number that’ll probably catch on. But they also have an item number that has words like zindagi and bandagi and sounds unforgivably like the Zindagi intefaq hai number from the 1969 film Aadmi Aur Insaan.


For a film whose structure confounds more than enlightens, Daddy gets a 2* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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