National Award-winning actor Arjun Rampal, who has co-produced and written Daddy, a biopic on Mumbai’s gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli, believes that the movie is unlike any other underworld drama. “The film traces the emotional journey of an individual, his life and times, and what makes a character like his from Dagdi Chawl stand out amongst others of his ilk.
He stood up and faced the law to serve a jail term. It’s a commercial film, but not a diluted fantasy gangster drama,” says Rampal. In a first of its kind, the actor took the rights for the film from Gawli because the attempt was not to glamorise or glorify the person but show the different shades of a non-conventional character.
It took over two years for Rampal to convince Gawli to let him make a film on him. “It’s a true story, not a biased version. I met Arun Gawli, but there was nothing much to refer to as far as research material was concerned. So I went to Dagdi Chawl, met people who know him and heard their stories. The film has many points of views—residents of Dagdi Chawl, cops, family members, rival gang members—to understand the real Arun Gawli, who is fondly called Daddy by all in real life,”
The biggest challenge was to keep the film real and entertaining and let the audience decide whether Gawli is a hero or a villain. “He has so many layers, and each one is so intriguing. We tried to show the realism of that world,” adds Rampal.
The actor’s reel resemblance to real Gawli is uncanny. Rampal adapted Gawli’s body language, accent and the physical appearance. “The task was to have the nose in place. He has a distinctive nose, for which we had to bring in a prosthetic artist from Italy. I lost about 11 kgs to fit into the character,” jokes Rampal. To get the physical appearance right to the T, the actor had to rely on camera tricks to make himself look smaller on screen.
Rampal, who had worked with Daddy’s director Ashim Ahluwalia in a couple of commercials, believes the relationship an actor has with the director is important for the way in which the film will shape on the screen. “It’s like a marriage, and there has to be some consonance between the two. Every director has a rhythm of his own, and Ashim has a rhythm I’ve caught. It works in the film’s favour,” says Rampal.
The film was scheduled to release on July 21, but was postponed to be timed with Gawli’s parole during Ganeshotsav.
Co-written by Ahluwalia, Daddy also stars south Indian actress Aishwarya Rajesh as Asha Gawli, and Nishikant Kamat, Anand Ingale, Rajesh Shringarpure and others.