Character Decoding 101: The Father

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Fathers in Hindi cinema are perhaps the most complex and intricate of all the characters in films. They can be loving, fun, friendly and then can be strict, protective and scary. If you thought mothers in Hindi cinema were elaborate, it’s the fathers who take the cake in being difficult to understand. All Bollywood-Buffs have their favorite father figures in cinema: Amrish Puri, Alok Nath, Anupam Kher, Om Puri, Amitabh Bachchan and so on. Each of the actors have played the role of the father to a multitude of actors, and while they have been the stern and lovable, each time their fatherly ways were seen in a different light.

In the past, fathers were seen as strict, cold and unapproachable. Going back in time, Mughal-E-Azam saw Prithviraj Kapoor portray King Akbar — who forbade his son from falling in love with the in-house court dancer. The cold father-son relationship has since then been portrayed in various ways. The Raj Kapoor starrer, Awaara was essentially based on hatred between a father and his son, which eventually converted to dual love and respect. Utpal Dutt was the funniest and scariest father of the seventies. His dialogue delivery in films like Golmaal was humorous in a harsh fashion. The movie is now considered a cult and his role, one of the best fatherly ones till date. The idea of the hardhearted father has pretty much continued over time and till date is used in Hindi movies. In the more recent Waqt, Amitabh Bachchan who has spoilt his son Akshay Kumar realizes he too must wear the stern mask to teach his son a lesson or two about responsibility and the value of a dollar. Additionally, he was the upright proud industrialist in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum who may have adopted a son, but refused to let him marry a girl who was considered inferior in status.

Over time the paternal role has become more chilled-out and relaxed. Fathers in Hindi cinema believe befriending their sons and have learned to dance to the tunes which would perhaps be viewed as more relatable. Bachchan Senior is that very onscreen father who has epitomized the “Daddy Cool” concept in recent times. In Dil Jo Bhi Kahey, he was the sympathetic father who although understood his son’s feelings, explained to him the value of his mother’s sentiments. He later went on to be the ultra-cool Dad better known as “Sexy Sam” in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. His scenes in the movie were predominantly filled with flirtatious moments and a sentimental few between his real son Abhishek Bachchan and onscreen daughter-in-law Rani Mukherjee. Lastly, he played the father of his community in Sarkar and shared a relationship with his son based on trust and heaps of love.

Alok Nath is not only Rajshri’s favorite father, but is a popular father on television too. He began his fatherly stint as Bhagyashree’s father in Maine Pyar Kiya and since then hasn’t looked back. Interestingly, he has played a father-figure to many actors in films but didn’t adorn the “papa” tag but an uncle — Kaka, Chacha et al, instead. He took on the father-cum-uncle role in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Vivah which both evolved around weddings and incidents that lead up to the auspicious day. In Hum Saath Saath Hain, he enacted the role of a father who must choose between his son and wife’s unacceptable demands. Beautifully executed, Alok Nath in every form is a delight in his father avatar.

The father-daughter relationship has been highlighted in various films which ultimately cause tears to fall because of its sensitivity. Amrish Puri played the orthodox father residing in London with his family in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. His relationship with daughter Kajol was seen as strict and yet one of love. In Mein Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, Kareena Kapoor sang of being her “Papa’s Pari” (Father’s Angel) as her onscreen father Pankaj Kapur pampered her and understood her feelings for her love in yet another Rajshri production.

Movies dedicated to fathers are rare but do exist. Daddy, which highlighted a dejected relationship of children and their father in this Mahesh Bhatt production, was a tearjerker as Pooja Bhatt felt the need to defend her father Anupam Kher’s wrongful actions. The sensitive side to a father’s heart was depicted in the evergreen Masoom. Irrespective of the relationship, illegitimate or not, a child’s bond with their father is illustrate with great nuance in this 1980’s hit which won Naseerudin Shah many awards for his portrayal the young Jugal Hansraj’s father. Amitabh Bachchan played Rani Mukherjee’s father-in-law in Babul, which too can be seen as another angle to the fatherly character, and lands up taking her as his daughter after his son loses his life. While the film did not go on to win many accolades, the intention behind the movie was seen as genuine. Rishi Kapoor too as the cool and aloof father to Saif Ali Khan and was appreciated for his interesting role and enactment in the blockbuster Hum Tum.

The current lot in Hindi cinema take on their fatherly roles in a more modern act. Aamir Khan played a young father in Akele Hum Akele Tum who is left to bring up his son after a fallout with his wife. Later on, Anil Kapoor does the same in Rishtey opposite Karisma Kapoor. Ajay Devgan too played a mentally challenged father in Main Aisa Hi Hoon with ease in a movie which depicted the relationship of a young daughter with her father.

Father’s in Hindi cinema get little to no accolades unlike the mothers do. But they equally form the backbone of any story. While we may never hear the dialogue, “Mere Paas Baap Hain,” fathers in Bollywood are here to stay for eons. On a parting note, Akshaye Khanna did tell Paresh Rawal—his father in Mere Baap Pehle Aap, to get hitched before he did and Shah Rukh Khan did call his Daddy “Cool Cool Cool” in Chahat. Maybe fathers in Hindi cinema have gone from serious mode to chilled out mode. A good change we believe!

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