There were many reasons for watching this movie on the underworld gang lord-turned-politician Arun Gawli one of which being my roots in Mumbai city and Gawli’s charisma as a gangster-turned-politician. I was tempted to call Daddy a ‘biopic’ but it takes a rather beaten path than following facts, a lot of creative freedom has been taken to weave a dramatic story. But it’s based on the characters around Gawli and I’m a huge fan of movies that bring the retro look alive on the big screen, in particular my favourite decade, the 80s. The other reason for my anticipation of Daddy was the director Ashim Ahluwalia. I was very impressed with his previous classic ‘Miss Lovely’ which catapulted a lesser known Nawazuddin Siddiqui onto the international stage. It was a brilliant movie set in the 80s Bombay just like Daddy.
Bombay city of the 80s was marked by historical movements especially the mill worker’s strike that shut down several textile mills and resulted in unemployment & poverty. One such disillusioned youth was Arun Gulab Gawli (played by an amazing Arjun Rampal) who joined hands with Ramabhai Naik (Rajesh Shringarpure) and Babu Resham (Anand Ingale) to form the dreaded B.R.A. gang. They get involved in grisly crime to earn quick money but are later spotted by Maqsood Bhai (Farhan Akhtar playing a character loosely based on Dawood Ibrahim) who hires their services to assassinate his rivals and spread fear in their rank and file. However, due to ideological differences Gawli decides to part ways with Maqsood and start his own gang which operates from his fortress-like bastion at Dagdi Chawl in suburban Mumbai. While all this is being unfolded in the open gaze of Inspector Vijaykar Nitin (a surprisingly lean Nishikant Kamat) pursuant to bringing Gawli to justice and putting a permanent end to his underworld activities. Gawli turns ‘daddy’ for his constituency, a messiah of social justice, after turning to politics and winning an election for the Maharashtra assembly. He keeps his battery of lawyers ready to bail him and his men out at every whiff of police trouble. The turn of events overall depict a sad bloody episode of gang wars and daylight shootouts on the streets of 90s Bombay which is unthinkable for today’s Mumbai.
Ashim & Co’s detailed restructuring of the Bombay of the 80s in Daddy is laudable. The particularly intriguing casting of characters from Gawli’s inner circle including Aishwarya Rajesh as Gawli’s sweetheart-turned-soulmate Zubeida and Anand Ingale (Babu Resham) who has carved a niche as one of the foremost comic actors of Marathi television and cinema. The symbolic use of disco music by Alisha Chinai and Vijay Benedict, the voices which defined the 80s Bollywood music was another detail worth noting – if you remember Mithunda’s (Chakraborty) rather peculiar dance moves to Bappi Lahiri hits in movies like ‘Kasam Paida Karne Waale Ki’ and ‘Disco Dancer’. Daddy is a typical gangster flick but unlike any other with the absence of any foul language which has become a norm today. Personally, it’s not just the craft of making this movie that reflects a bygone era which makes Daddy a compelling watch, if nothing just have a look at it for your love of the maximum city!