Fathers are an ubiquitous presence in people’s lives. Contained by years of moulding, into a patriarchal stereotype, they remain in the background as providers, benevolent (or boorish) ‘master’ of the little families they raise. So, a special day to celebrate this underestimated family member brings about debate on the many kinds of fathers in society; the strict patriarch, the friendly buddy, provider, the nurturer, the autocrat. Times have changed. With the emergence of the ‘woman’ of the house capable of being the provider, the father’s role is now extended in different directions. Slowly but surely, there is a movement towards a ‘softening’ of the father’s profile.
Movies as they often do, reflect the evolving nature of fatherhood.
The Hindi film canvas on fathers started off with the character framework of the ‘strict’, upholder of culture, caste conscious, class conscious, protector and provider of his family. This spawned hundreds of movies on the conflict that ensued when any of his ideals were threatened by his children. Beginning with the era of ‘Mughal-E-Azam,’ the template of the autocratic father who placed his honour above his children had been set. ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’, in the 80’s, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ in the 90’s were tragedies fuelled by conflicts within the family dynamics between father and child, a challenge so to speak that was posed by a new generation.
Exploring the softer, emotional side of a father, came into focus with a movie called ‘Saaransh’, played by an actor (Anupam Kher) who has himself been at the forefront of breaking many stereotypes about father in the Hindi film scenario. A father can feel pain, loss of a child as much as a mother, the movie in its own quiet way broke a wall of perception. Around the same time, the movie ‘Masoom’ explored the tender relationship between a father and his illegitimate child.
From this point onwards, there was a shift in the narrative; an attempt to bring in a different facet to fatherhood. While the archetypal figure remained, there was a lot more added into the mix of this strong emotion called fatherhood. ‘Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi,’ introduced a father who was acutely aware of the type of life partner his daughter needed, and encouraged her to elope on the day of her wedding. ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ had two father figures – one a strict patriarch who had to let his daughter go to her love, and the other a buddy dad, who helps his son win his love, the underlying instinct of both fathers being love for the child. The narrative changed to first introducing the stereotype and then working on changing the parochial, conservative mindset by the end of the story.
One of the movies to portray this shift was ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania.’ Another underrated movie in recent times was ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’, where the hero (a young father) fights with his own father for his unborn girl child.
‘Piku’ starring Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan, presented yet another beautiful story about a father-daughter relationship. Here, it is the daughter who takes on the responsibility of caring for her aging father. Here, the theme meanders around the ‘heir’ of the family and the capability of the girl child to take over, as acknowledged by the patriarch himself! ‘Dangal’ worked around this theme of the father handing over the reins to the daughter, and his strong belief in them as equally capable of taking over the family’s legacy.
Last but definitely not the least, ‘Drishyam’, a thriller, depicts the ferocious, protective side of a father who is willing to stoop to any level to protect his daughter!
Such movies are on the increase, movies that emphasize the unique perspective and the responsibility of the father figure in the life of his children. Indeed, the change in the perspective of the way society looks at a father’s role has begun. Most corporates offer ‘paternity’ leave to new fathers! ‘The child is the father of the man’ goes the adage. Change begins at home.