A father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes more so. Since ‘cinema is the mirror of our society,’ Bollywood has always been in the forefront when it comes to movies portraying fatherhood. Whether it is a serious Manmohan Krishna, a bed ridden Nasir Hussain or an oppressed A K Hangal, who personified the true image of father through many decades of their stint in Hindi cinema, the fathers have always been an essential role.
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. 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 a more chilled out mode. A good change we believe! Fathers in Hindi cinema are perhaps the most complex and intricate of all the characters in films often saying yeh shaadi nahin ho sakti hai. 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 favourite father figures in cinema: Amrish Puri, Alok Nath, Anupam Kher, Om Puri, Amitabh Bachchan and so on. Each of them 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 humourous 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 cinemas. In the more recent Waqt, Amitabh Bachchan who has spoilt his son Akshay Kumar realises he too must wear the stern mask to teach his son a lesson or two about responsibility and the value of money. 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. It couldn’t have got more dramatic and nothing less of a cinematic grandeur when two towering film personalities Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan played father and son in Shakti (1982). The drama explored the troubled relationship between the two and the father being a dutiful cop choosing his ideals as a police officer over his smuggler son. The film Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995), shows the problems faced by a struggling singer who loves his son beyond limits. Inspired by this movie, other movies based on the same theme were released much later like Rahul (2001). Meanwhile, The Namesake (2006), directed by Mira Nair and starring Irfan Khan and Tabu focused on the father-son relationship with a distinct subtlety interspersing it with a mix of topics like immigration, identity crisis and generation gap. In Anil Kapoor’s production Gandhi, the focus is on Gandhi’s troubled relationship with his son Harilal Gandhi. The film starred Darshan Jariwala as Gandhi and Akshaye Khanna as his rebellious son. While, Ferrari Ki Sawari (2012) depicts the life of a father who is not ready to compromise with honesty, but goes against his principles to fulfil his son’s dream. While discussing about the role of father figure in Hindi Cinema who can leave aside Saaransh, where 28-year old Anupam Kher played a retired middle class Maharashtrian man who has lost his son. Saaransh is a story of an old Maharashtrian couple living in Shivaji Park, Mumbai, coming to terms with the death of their only son who is killed in a mugging incident in New York. The are devastated to learn that their child has been killed. One poignant moment is when Pradhan (Anupam Kher) is haggling with the customs officials to recover his son’s ashes. Anupam Kher played the role of a retired stubborn old man with aplomb, thereby establishing himself as a great actor. Though compared to Saaransh, Viruddh differs in story and treatment. A retired couple with life revolving around their only son, their daily routine and their daily interaction with neighbours and surroundings are penned with zeal. Their tragedy and their fight for what is the truth is touching and brings many a heart-rendering moments. Apaharan is story of a complex relationship and clashing ideologies between a father and son set in the backdrop of the kidnapping mafia in Bihar.
Similarly the father-daughter relationship has been highlighted in various films which ultimately cause tears to fall because of its sensitivity. Who can forget the lyrics of the song Babul ki duaein leti jaa which is still played for every girls bidaai . This song has very beautifully captured the emotions of a father when his daughter is leaving her maternal home after her marriage. One of the earliest films that touched upon the tender ties between a daughter and father was Anupama (1967). The same decade, Hrishikesh Mukherjee paid another ode to fatherhood with Ashirwaad (1969). The film had Ashok Kumar playing the father who yearns to see his daughter, from whom he was separated after being convicted for a crime. One of the finest role of father was played by Balraj Sahni in M.S. Sathyu’s Garam Hawa where he played father to Gita Siddharth. But as this film did not get commercial success most people do not know of it. On the contrary people remember him for his film Waqt where he played father to Raj Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Shashi Kapoor.
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. Moving away from tear-inducing dramas, Aisi Bhi Kya Jaldi Hai (1996), was a breezy movie about an overprotective father, who is unable to accept the fact that his daughter will leave him after marriage. More recently, Well Done Abba (2010) by Shyam Benegal is another brilliant example of a movie on fatherhood.
From Babuji to Paa we have come a long way indeed! —Aniket Raja