New-Age Cine Fathers Bring A Radical Change

He was either a billionaire always having a problem with his daughter’s choice of a life partner or a poor honest man often caught in a fake corruption case or murder trial serving a jail term. His family would wait for the sons to grow up and revenge the wrongs done on him or his death, in case that that was part of the plot.

Cut to the late 90s, he moved to US or UK with his baggage of Hindustani sanskar, living in palatial mansions where having a helipad was as normal as having a parking space with one monologue to his credit generally during the climax, only if he was a big star like Amitabh Bachchan. Yes, we are talking about the daddy’s, babuji’s  or fathers in Indian cinema.

Ever since we remember, mothers have dominated any discussion on cinema. We all remember Nirupa Roy, Sulochana and later Farida Jalal or Rakhi but how many of us remember who played their husbands in the movies. Some vague memories take me back to names like Satyen Kappu, Ashok Kumar , AK Hangal and Amrish Puri. The man in the family seldom or rather hardly had a role to play in most films.

Reject or Redemptive Fathers?

A content analysis of portrayals of fathers in top box office ‘Family’ films in a paper published by Brigham Young University in 2015 goes to state that while popular cultural representations portray the ‘new father’ of the past two decades as more involved, more nurturing and capable of co-parenting, actual fathering conduct has not kept pace. Mothers continue to be positioned as primary parents. Support for father involvement, to the extent that it exists, occurs within the framework of fathers as part-time, secondary parents whose relationship with children remains less important than mothers. The same seems to be case with our cinemas.

Thanks to the crop of new writers and story tellers, this is one character which is gradually changing on celluloid. Sample this:

  • Two years back the audience loved a constipated Bhaskar Banerjee in Piku- a man in his 70s constantly complaining about his health and being selfish to the extent of not wanting his daughter getting married.
  • Then came the blockbuster Dangal starring Aamir Khan as Mahavir Phogat, the real-life wrestler-turned coach to his daughters.
  • Some other examples that comes to mind are Ronit Roy in Udaan where the father’s disappointment with his son takes the form of verbal and physical abuse and constant humiliation.

Another character who will easily go down in stories of cine fathers is Soumitra Chatterjee in the Bengali film Posto, which deals with the unusual  subject of a custody battle between the grandparents and the father over the 7-year-old grandson. As a father in movie of two sons (one who commits suicide for not being able to cope with pressures of daily life and the other who takes life way too lightly), Chatterjee’s character has no qualms about scolding and abusing his son in front of the entire family or even humiliating him in the court room so that he learns to take life seriously.

So what makes these fathers different? Well, just one thing – they are normal, human and as realistic as it can get. They are just like our fathers who not only gave us good education and upbringing but also gave us a mind of our own. These characters are well-written and essayed with a touch of reality-sans drama-sans melodrama. Yes that is how the Daddy of Indian cinema has changed over the years and we hope he keeps getting better.

– NILANJANA GHOSH CHOUDHURY

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