Mahesh Bhatt’s Daddy (1989) was a seminal film of its time; a time when romance was returning to Bollywood, with films such as Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Chandni being top grossers, marking the end of the violence and kitsch that characterised the 80s.
In stark contrast, Daddy was dark and borderline depressing.
It centered on the complex relationship between Pooja (enacted by Pooja Bhatt in her debut role) and her father, a former music legend Anand Sareen (played by veteran actor Anupam Kher), whom she hadn’t met since her birth as she was brought up by her grandparents following the untimely — and mysterious — death of her mother, Priya. Pooja meets her father as the movie begins, and she starts to realise that he isn’t the monster her grandfather (Manohar Singh) had said that he was, although he is, undoubtedly, an alcoholic.
Pooja’s mission in life becomes curing her father.
The theatrical adaptation of Daddy was held over the course of three days as part of the NAPA International Theatre Festival, on March 30, 31 and April 1. Written by Mahesh Bhatt, adapted by Raajesh Kumar and directed by Dr Danish Iqbal, it was performed by actors from India.
Mahesh Bhatt and his daughter speak at a press meet before the play in Karachi
The play hinges on pretty much the same storyline as its cinematic counterpart, revisiting a classic film with new actors.
The result? Simply put — disappointing.
This was mainly because the cast, for the most part, was a severe letdown, especially Imran Zahid who plays Anand Sareen.
The actor is clearly much younger than the role he played, but that could have been rectified with better makeup and a more marked concentration on mannerisms and posture. However, that wasn’t the only problem: Zahid was extremely wooden, unable to communicate the subtle nuances that were required of a complex character such as Anand Sareen’s.
Bharti Sharma who plays Pooja, was considerably better, and as the play progresses, she got into the skin of her character, as did Danish Iqbal who played her grandfather and also directed the play.
A poster for the 1989 film version
While comparisons may be odious, they cannot be avoided sometimes. The actors of the play were no match when compared those of the film, be it Anupam Kher, Pooja Bhatt or the late Manohar Singh. Perhaps people who hadn’t previously seen the film would have found the play to be passable, given that the audience did applaud frequently, but that wasn’t the case for me.
However, the play wasn’t a total flop and the reasons for this were the memorable dialogues and compelling storyline, which clearly managed to captivate the audiences, lending credence to the belief that a good storyline can salvage a production, be it a play or film, despite mediocre performances.
For me, the best part of the evening arrived once the play ended; it was then that Mahesh Bhatt and Pooja Bhatt came on stage and spoke.
The former confessed that nearly three decades ago he was on the verge of being an alcoholic, and gave it up; he added that Daddy was therefore partially autobiographical. Pooja Bhatt, in turn, mentioned that she was closer to her father than her other siblings, and among many reasons as to why this is the case, she mentioned that Pakistan is something that binds the two people together.
While this may seem a tad farfetched, given the emotion in her voice it seemed that she meant every word.
On my way home, I picked up the DVD of the film and watched it — and was pleasantly surprised that film is still as gripping as it was when I first watched it. Of course, the production values make it seem dated, but that is to be expected, given that it was not only what was considered an “art” film at the time, and hence had a limited budget, but was also made nearly 25 years ago. However, the film is a definite must-watch for anyone who has any interest in films; and as for the play, it is best forgotten.