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Daddy movie Review: Arjun Rampal Gives Gawli A New Life In Daddy!




Starring: Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajesh, Nishikant Kamat, Farhan Akhtar’

Directed by: Aushim Ahluwalia

Rating; ****(4 stars)

Ask any actor of some worth. It is not easy  to play a known  living character . Audiences and the character  that you are playing, plus their close associates, judge the performance with scrutinized harshness and normally find it wanting.

Not this time. Not  Arun Gawli. Not Arjun Rampal who has shaped into one of Hindi cinema’s most dependable actors who does his roles with such smooth efficiency and such noiseless excellence that we are liable to miss the point.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing  Arjun’s laidback wisdom in portraying the gangster-philanthropist-parliamentarian-convict Arun Gawle ,as a Devgan esque laziness. This  is a power-packed implosive performance.Rampal plays Gawli as a time bomb waiting to explode. There are no extra toppings , fringe benefits , perks or bonuses to this performance.

Rampal plays it straight . Auteur director Ashim Ahluwalia  gives  the actor no room  to stretch out his character’s inner world.Fleeting looks and fugitive gestures add up to making Rampal’s Gawli one of the most comprehensive projections of  guilty gangsterism  in recent times.

Comparisons are not called-for. But I can’t help compare Rampal’s Gawli with Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees . The two sagas of Robin Hoods with furious FIRs on their wanted heads, bear many similarities. Except  that Shah Ruh could  never enter his gangster’s character’s world.

Arjun goes right in. He is the only recognizable face(provided his physical and emotional transformation leaves any room for recognition) in the vast cast of what I suspect to be several real-life anti-socials.  Cannily, director AshimAhluwalia builds the quirks killings and feuds of criminal clans through actors who surrender to their characters with a brutal velocity .

Watch out for Rajesh Shringapure as Gawli’s accomplice Rama and Farhan Akhtar  playing Dawood as so  cool you may confuse the jungle for  the greenery.  There is  a brilliant conniving female character Rani (played with smouldering slyness by Shruti Bapna) who uses sex as  an ATM machine.  Rani  tells part of Gawli’s stories. Other people associated with his life tell the rest.

The editors piece together the saga with layered urgency. This is not an easy story to tell or for us to comprehend. There  is no room here for any actor, least of all Rampal, to  strut with guns and appear even remotely macho .If you are looking for a stylish take on  gangsterism, look elsewhere.

Besides its technical excellence the  biggest achievement of Daddy is its  portrayal of violence  as swift repugnant and utterly ugly.The shootouts—and  here I would like  to commend  action director Shyam Kaushal—are brutal terse and to the point. The killers do their business with swift professionalism leaving no room  for self congratulatory paeans  to violence that Tarrantino, Coppola and nearer home, Mukul Anand and  Mani Ratnam have specialized in.

In one notably savage attack  a petty gangster infiltrates a  jail cell and  pounds an inmate to a  pulp after shooting him. What we see is the gut-churning fury of violence in all the graphic sequences  of  gangrenous  gang wars where we hear every bone crunch with the wince-inducing impact of a blow delivered in our  popcorn-munching faces.

For me  the real hero of Daddy , besides Rampal(and some, not all, of his  co-actors) is the sound editor Sangik Basu followed by the cinematographer Jessica Lee Agne aided by Pankaj Kumar who  bring to the frames a sinking feeling of  an unwashed blood-soaked doom.

The narrative spares no smiles and laughter in portraying Gawli as a reluctant gangster forced to  pull the trigger against his better judgment. There are smirks galore, though. I’ve yet to see a  film that has more  characters displaying sneering contempt  for their adversaries. If there are five characters on screen  each one is doing something that will drive the plot forward.

In  one brilliantly conceived encounter the cop Vijaykar(Nishikant Kamat, unrecognizable) ceaselessly on Gawli’s trail , interrogates Gawli’s mother(veteran Usha Naik).

“Does he owe you money? Why are you after his life?” she mumbles.

Strain hard to listen. The sounds of  death, violence, corruption and decay are omniscient in this saga of a man who would rather be a messiah.The problem here is  there are so many characters colonizing Gawli’s  perverse kingdom played by actors who don’t  act, and the unsparing editing(Deepa Bhatia, Navnita Sen Dutta) that won’t let the audience breathe in the toxic fumes of fury for long.Consequently  many of  the dark disturbing characters are lost to us.

So here’s what we  do: watch the film very very closely. It is  a difficult but finally hugely rewarding experience. The performances are so  minutely non-bravura, the characters are so into their world of self-destruction that we are left looking in without ever being allowed to be  part  of the design of doom.

See the  film , maybe twice over to get the nuances. See it for  the austere unflinching portrayal of  violence. For  sounds and  visuals that do not afford us the luxury of aesthetic gratification.And most of all,  for Arjun Rampal powerful performance that creeps up on us without warning.

I would call  it a tour de force but for the abject absence of flamboyance in the presentation.

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