Raised in Mumbai's Dagdi Chawl, which was home to the mill workers in the 70s, Arun Gulab Gawli(Arjun), a local went on to became a dreaded don and later a politician. Not to forget...Dawood Ibrahim's chief adversary.
Mumbaikars are well-versed with the rise of Gawli, an out-of-work mill worker's son who resorted to extortion, gambling and murder to ultimately become the face of the underworld. For those who've tuned in late, this film serves as a refresher course on the life and times of the infamous gangs of Bombay. Arun, along with his two friends—Babu(Anand) and Rama(Rajesh), formed the BRA gang and reigned terror in Central Mumbai in the 70s-80s. Gawli's meteoric rise to the top also meant that he would eventually confront his contemporary, Dawood Ibrahim, referred to as Maqsood (Farhan) here.
Since most of this is documented, the screenplay of this biopic offers no surprises. At times, it even feels like you're being lead from one point to another, almost blindfolded. Ahluwalia deliberately adopts a flat narrative and takes the viewer through the dark, gritty world with minimum dramatization. As a result, there are fewer earpiercing emotional outbursts, but also fewer moments of dread. Once your eyes get adjusted to the drab chawls and dimly-lit gullies, where the gangs operate like ghosts, chased by just one greedy, over-ambitious cop, Vijaykar Nitin(Nishikant), you become complacent watching the crime patrol episode. The sepia-tone/minimum-colour frames stay muted and never leap at you. As a result, you don't feel the tension, even when some brutal killings play out. However, it is infuriating that most of the actors mumble their dialogue and you have to strain hard to hear their intention.
The first half touches on Gawli's growth as a don and the second half attempts to stay with his life as a family man and politician. Married to a Muslim girl, Zubeida (Aishwarya), his secular streak is subtely touched. Though he converts his wife to Asha, he is large-hearted enough to play a benefactor to both communities during the Mumbai riots. In fact, the maximum drama here is depicted through the protagonist Arjun's own performance graph. Besides obviously altering his features to match Gawli's prominent forehead and nose, the actor cleverly imbibes his grunt and soft-spoken singsong manner, lending complete credibility to what is a first-rate act from the actor. If you like crime drama, Daddy is bound to fuel your imagination. Gawli is a part of India's crime-history. And this is the closest you will come to 'encountering' him.