Arjun Rampal wants to give his best in Daddy. After reading the “one-dimensional” script of a certain producer, he rejected the same and choose to write the script on his own. He found the subject very interesting that he decided to lock himself in a room for two months so that he could finish the script. He further, choose Ashim Ahluwalia to direct it and assembled the cast and crew, and this is how his journey as a producer also began.
Arjun stated, “When I was first approached, I did not like the script, it wasn’t exciting. The producer’s sensibility was different. It was a very typical portrayal of gangsters that we have seen in innumerable films. We were making a biopic so we had to be real and I didn’t find the level of realism in it, the incidents that had actually happened were avoided” continuing,”I decided to produce it myself and got the official rights for the biopic. I didn’t approach any studio to avoid restrictions, and sudden changes. I have experienced in this past.”
Once he assembled the main cast and crew, the actor-producer-writer stepped on for a staggering transformation to play the role. Arjun Rampal was showing mysterious resemblance to Gawli and he was almost unrecognizable in this getup.
Arjun said, “It was a huge process because Gawli has a distinct look. I had to shrink in size, lose about 11 kilograms and get a new nose. But when I went for the look test, I was very clear that if I failed test, we will get another actor and Ashim will still direct it. Luckily, this make-up artist from Italy worked on prosthetics and it went off well.”
When Ashim Ahluwalia was asked to release Daddy, he was crystal clear in his thoughts that he would do it on his own terms and not the way “Bollywood usually treats gangster films”.
From a long time, it is seen that Bollywood’s gangster movies have romanticised the criminal, or portraying the criminal as a person who has a golden heart but is wronged by the system or as the one who turns to crime reluctantly. For example, consider Amitabh Bachchan’s movies like Don, Deewaar or Agneepath. We can also consider recent movies like Once Upon A Time In Mumbai or Raees.
Arjun said, “There is no redemption in my film. What’s important was to tell a story and it was critical to show the human side of Gawli. People may feel, or may not feel anything. They will have to draw their own opinion about him”
Further, mentioning about Ahluwalia, he added, “Ashim is a kind of reluctant director and he doesn’t want to do typical Bollywood stuff. He was clear that we can’t put an item song in it nor have scenes of me jumping off roofs or have an eight pack abs. He didn’t want the character play a heroic guy, spinning out big fat dialogues because that amounts to glorifying a person. The film is not a fictionalised piece. It is a real story and we had to keep it real. We wanted to show an unconventional gangster or politician. When standing with other characters, they should not see Arjun, they should see Gawli. That process was tiring.”
Arjun has not just put efforts to transform himself physically and facial as Dawood but also shows his interest in understanding Gawli’s world. The time of mafia boss Dawood Ibrahim who later broke away and created his own gang was seriously challenging for Arjun. During the Mumbai textile strike, Gawli’s gang of extortionists and contract killers spread terror in and around Mumbai.
“I would go in his area, Dagdi Chawl, and mingle with the people who have lived that life and have known Gawli because he is not accessible and there is not much written about him. He is in jail serving a life sentence. So whenever he would come out on parole those were the golden moments for me as I would get to meet him, observe him” Arjun Rampal said but hastily added, “But even when I met him, I couldn’t read him. He would just gaze at you, he would listen to you. So we have taken point of views of the Dagdi Chawl, point of views of the family, of the rival gangs and of the cops. That is how you discover Gawli in the film and you either empathise with him or your don’t” uncovered Rampal.
To be very frank it wasn’t an easy task for Arjun and Ahluwalia to convince Gawli when they approached him for taking permission to make his biopic before shooting the film.
Gawli is serving a life sentence for murdering a politician from the right-wing Shiv Sena. He is seen as a Robinhood kind of figure and is called among his followers as “Daddy”. Gawli once had a stronghold in Mumbai at the Dagdi Chawl, which is a colony of seven buildings. His family still lives there.
Rampal mentioned, “It is not a biopic on a sports personality or freedom fighter or somebody who was extremely righteous. This person came from the world of crime. We told him that people need to know his story and that is what fascinates me and the director. We wanted him to allow us to show everything about how he became Arun Gawli. Initially, he had apprehensions about the portrayal of him and his family because they’re also part of the script. But later he probably saw our consistency, our belief in what we wanted to do. One day, he felt that we were right, that we should not be making a propaganda kind of film, and asked us to go ahead”
To let you know, the crew also shot in the areas were Gawli’s biggest rivals lived, it was an environment that was openly hostile for them.
Rampal said, “Locations chosen were really bizarre. I didn’t know these places actually existed. His area is Agripada and then you cross over to Nagpada which is Dawood’s area. When I would go dressed looking like Gawli into the Dawood area with a crew of 200 people I felt that hostility. Many times we had to stop the shoot as some guys would come and start inquiring. It was a bit scary, there was tension and we would take police help. But it was also quite exciting because that would bring the necessary energy into the film”.