Come for Shahid Kapoor, stay for Ronit Roy in an outrageous velvet suit saying, “I’m not a bad guy. I just sell drugs.” Roy’s kitsch —later combined with Sanjay Kapoor’s — kept me awake and entertained through Bloody Daddy (out on JioCinema). The film, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, teeters between action and comedy, while self-consciously avoiding the tag of an ‘action comedy’. The film wants to be taken seriously, even praised as a slickly violent Hindi action offering, and that is the rub. I enjoyed the laughs — one character is funny simply because he talks almost exclusively in English — but accepting Bloody Daddy at face value is a big ask.
In post-pandemic Delhi, anti-narcotics cop Sumair (Shahid Kapoor) and his partner (Zeishan Quadri) waylay a car and confiscate Rs. 50 crore worth of cocaine. Their interception angers Sikandar (Roy), a Gurugram kingpin and hotelier. Over the phone, he informs Sumair that he has kidnapped his son, asking him to return the bag of drugs in exchange for the boy. Sumair turns up that night at the Hotel Emerald Etlantis. He has a gut-wound to nurse, and a gameplan; he will rescue his son without returning the drugs.
Bloody Daddy (Hindi)
The premise of a lone-wolf father fighting for the release of his child is as old as action movies themselves. Bloody Daddy is a remake of the 2011 French film Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) — Kamal Haasan earlier adapted it in 2015 as Thoongaa Vanam — though, as was evident from its trailer, it aspires to ape a different franchise: John Wick. Zafar is so keen to appropriate the visual grammar of the Keanu Reeves/Chad Stahelski franchise he forgets something crucial: Gurugram is not New York. Emerald Etlantis — teeming with boisterous wedding revelers and actually shot in Abu Dhabi — lacks the menace and mysticism of the Continental Hotel. Weirder still is a sequence where Sumair, plodding through strobes of harsh disco light in John Wick-fashion, does a quick heel turn and, to conceal himself in the crowd, breaks into Bhangra.
Sumair desperately needs his own identity as an action hero, and the film struggles to give him one. Initially, I presumed Zafar was deferring the big action set-pieces to the film’s second half to build suspense. In truth, he was just delaying the inevitable. The fight scenes, though increasingly brutal, contain little originality or invention (2022’s An Action Hero, while essentially a satire of the genre, was a league above). The film’s idea of ‘realistic action’ is to have characters improvise with everyday objects. Thus, when Sumair fights in a gaming arcade, he picks up a striking club; when the setting changes to a kitchen, he switches to rolling pin and chopping board. This goes for a toss in the climax when he magically procures a flamethrower (perhaps to burn out the Badshaah guest track that plays).
Shahid — spry, springy, slender and sharp-jawed — is a better tool in Zafar’s hands than someone like late-career Salman Khan. Kapoor fights with a mean streak, even if his opponents, minus perhaps only Rajeev Khandelwal, are undifferentiated bags of blood and air. What ultimately hobbles Kapoor’s performance is the film’s drift towards emotion. Sumair is portrayed as a deadly fighter with a heart of gold. Each time he gazes over at his son, the music turns emotional (even in the midst of an action scene). He helps out two Nepali immigrants with rent — after racially profiling them — and a scene where he schools a woman’s pushy date is like a little olive branch extended to the detractors of Kabir Singh.
Sanjay Kapoor, playing a crime boss who wears red sunglasses at night, as if he belatedly walked in from a 3-D show, has great fun growling and cussing at Ronit Roy. Diana Penty plays anti-corruption officer Aditi; she’s the only major (and wholly perfunctory) female character in sight. There are a few interesting ideas. Delhi’s Connaught Place — not an uncommon location for a Hindi film — is shot in the eerie hours of dawn. Other famous locations (Majnu-ka-tilla, Palika Bazaar) are baked into the dialogue, earning laughs by recognition. Sumair is addressed by his son as ‘bro’; indeed, they look more like siblings than a conventional father-son duo.
Throughout, I kept looking for Shanker Raman’s name in the credits list; both Gurgaon (2017) and Love Hostel (2022) appear to be strong influences on this film. Raman’s films are bolder, grittier examples of Haryana noir. It’s a witchy sub-genre marked by feral characters, unhinged brutality, and pitch-black humour. Bloody Daddy at best has a one-night stand with this terrain. It can’t fathom settling in.
Bloody Daddy is currently streaming on JioCinema