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Movie review of 'Daddy' – a crime-biographical on a Gangster's occupational hazards
A hero, a hunk, an underdog, a villain – Arjun Rampal has splendidly played them all. In "Daddy" he comes out as an "anti-hero" with the part of one of the most infamous Indian gangsters – Arun Gulab Gawli.

Cast: Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajesh, Shruti Bapna, Mir Sarwar, Anand Ingle, Raj Arjun

Director: Ashim Ahluwalia

Genre: Crime/drama

Run time: 2h 14m

Spanning from the late 70s when Mumbai mills were shut-down, costing about 200,000 their daily wages up till a decade back, to legal-uproar in the aftermath of Maharashtra’s state elections – in which Gawli scored a landslide victory, after more than three decades of unlawful exploits.

What makes this film worth watching is the tale of a man who apparently rose ranks – unwillingly so – when times were perfect breeding grounds for crime. Gawli became a ‘criminal lord’ not just against his wishes but also against the underworld‘s biggest. From fighting for the better part of his life for the lion’s share of Mumbai’s underbelly, to rising in stature in the hearts of Dagdi Chawl’s slum-dwellers when his humanitarian efforts moulded his image as “Robin Hood”, a protector – a.k.a. “daddy”. Alas, the police and rivals’ tagged enmity got the better of Gawli, who attempted to mend his ways – unfortunately, fell from grace.

Arjun Rampal is tremendously influential in his mobster portrayal. His raw grit and volatility are inspiring; which goes the same for his arch-rival – Inspector Vijaykar (by ace director-actor Nishikant Kamath, “Force duology”, “404: Error Not Found”). Their tiff becomes the drive for the good, the bad and the ugly happening in this multi-character narrative.

In fact, the lesser known casting choices added needful leverage; be it with Gawli’s wife (Aishwarya Rajesh from Tamil cinema’s “Vivegam”), a snitch (Shruti Bapna, “The Lunchbox”), a firing fast-friend (Rajesh Shringarpore, “Sarkaar Raj”) or with the Dawood-fashioned nemesis (a surprising - Farhan Akhtar).

However, the valiant effort of the debuting co-writer and producer Rampal went off the road several times. The idea of many stories converging to tell one – was interesting; until too many plot points savaged the momentum. The homage to the 70s era songs, the lacklustre background-score and editing – don’t add up either.

The film gracefully attempted to portray a ‘mobster with a heart of gold’; but empathizing with a criminal might’ve only made a lucrative screenplay. The direction (Ashim Ahluwalia, National Film Awardee “Ms. Lovely”) has blunt visualization with guns, romance, lust, action and what not – but mostly in vain.

I actually hoped that it should’ve been more than an “occupational hazards of being a gangster” film. It wasn’t boring, but surely not captivating enough.

Sincerely hoping to see Arjun Rampal with more – a 6.25/10.

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