‘Daddy’ cool

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Sep 2017 10:34:44


By Subhash K Jha

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 scrutinised 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 Gawli as a Devganesque 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. 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 character's world.

Arjun goes right in. He is the only recognisable 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, the director builds the quirks around 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.

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 Tarantino, Coppola and nearer home, Mukul Anand and Mani Ratnam have specialized in.

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.

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's 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.

IANS Rating: O O 1/2