A day before Arjun Rampal’s much-awaited Daddy hits the screens – a movie that Rampal insists he wanted to make without falling into the Bollywood claptrap of romanticising a gangster – it’d be interesting to know who the gangster in question really is. Daddy is a biopic of one of Mumbai’s most feared underworld dons, Arun Gawli. Here’s taking a look at his rise (and fall):
Gawli was born in Kopargaon in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra; his father Gulabrao had moved from Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra in the early 1950s. Much of the Gawli clan – including Arun’s father Gulab Gawli – worked in the mill industry, but the latter was eager that his children acquire a good education.
In fact, Arun did manage to complete his matriculation – which was a big deal in the sixties and seventies – but once his father left his job, he had to look for work himself. He joined Shakti Mills in Mahalaxmi right after – but it was in 1977 that he joined Crompton Greaves and first shook hands with the burly Sadashiv Pawle (later called Sada Mama). It was in Sada Mama’s company that Galwi first turned to anti-social activities.
The Rise of a Criminal…
It was at Crompton Greaves that Gawli ran (once again) into Rama Naik, who he had gone to school with. It was in the 1980s, then, that Gawli joined the “Byculla Company” gang led by Naik and Babu Reshim, and supervised their illegal liquor dens. Their gang would go on to be called – and feared – as the B.R.A. gang (Babu, Rama and Arun).
The Dawood Connection…
In 1984, Naik helped the infamous Dawood Ibrahim eliminate his then arch rival Samad Khan and thus began a flurry of activities carried out in consult between Dawood’s “D-Company” and the “Byculla Company”. From ’84 to ’88, the Byculla Company supported Dawood’s local criminal activities – even as the latter himself escaped the police and settled in Dubai. In 1988, however, Naik had a major falling out with D-Company gangster Sharad Shetty and it was to Shetty that Dawood lent his support. This enraged Naik, who, in turn, insulted Dawood. In late 1988, Naik was killed in a police encounter.
Gawli now took over leadership of the Byculla Company, which had its base in Dagdi Chawl.
Gawli believed the encounter that killed his schoolmate had been engineered by Dawood himself, and thus began a bitter and acrimonious battle between the two gangs. Gawli’s gang was reportedly so brutal during this gang war (that stretched till the mid-90s) that many D-Company gangsters like Sharad Shetty, Chhota Rajan and Chhota Shakeel had to flee Mumbai for Dubai.
The battle only got more and more gruesome with each passing year. In the early 1990s when Arun Gawli’s brother Bappa Gawli was killed by Dawood Ibrahim’s men, a grief-stricken Gawli retaliated by killing Dawood’s brother-in-law Ibrahim Parkar.
Gawli, the Neta…
Arun Gawli’s first stirrings into politics were through the Shiv Sena, or more specifically through the then chief Bal Thackeray, who, in the 1980s, criticised the Mumbai Police for taking action against Hindu gangsters like Gawli and Sai Bansod – calling them amchi muley (our boys). The Sena and Gawli fell out in the mid-90s – following which Gawli murdered a number of Shiv Sena men. He eventually formed his own political party – Akhil Bharatiya Sena – and contested Assembly elections in 2004, getting elected from Dagdi Chawl.
The Long Hand of the Law…
Gawli was arrested by the police several times – and imprisoned for 9 years under the TADA – but could not be detained for too long any of the times since most witnesses were scared of deposing against him. He was finally convicted of the murder of Shiv Sena leader Kamlakar Jamsandekar in 2012. Gawli is currently serving a life sentence in jail.
Gawli’s Own Defence...
There are several fascinating interviews of Arun Gawli from the 1990s – during the lead-up to his political career – where he was constantly asked about his surreptitiously well-known gangster roots. During one interview to Rediff, Gawli argued:
How can you call me a gangster until you prove that charge against me in court? I don’t even have a gang, so why do you call me a gangster?Interview to Rediff
He went on to state:
The police were the ones who branded me a gangster. I’ve never said that I lead the ‘Gawli gang’; it is the police who say that. The people on the street do not call me a gangster; only the police and the press do so. At one time, they called Dagdi Chawl a deadly place. Today, the situation is different. Today, people from all over Maharashtra come to Dagdi Chawl without fear. If I were still in jail, everyone would have still feared the name of Dagdi Chawl.Interview to Rediff
Gawli was also questioned, in the same interview, about wearing a Gandhian topi during his rallies. He replied saying he believed in “some Gandhian principles”.
Arjun Rampal (Screen ‘Daddy’) on the Real Daddy…
Gawli, who became a sort of Robin Hood figure for his followers – particularly, the residents of Dagdi Chawl where he lived – was known as ‘Daddy’. It was but evident that Rampal’s production, which is a biopic of the man, would be called the same. Said Rampal in an interview after meeting Gawli:
Everyone has a different opinion about him. The police… the public… I found him to be a very normal and soft-spoken man which is an exact antithesis of everything anybody else was saying about him. He was very well-mannered. I found him to be a simple and endearing person.Interview to Indian Express
In another interview to Firstpost, Rampal also expressed his fear of shooting in areas that were predominantly D-Company territory, while looking scarily like Gawli:
His (Gawli’s) 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.Interview to Firstpost