Bollywood reveres mothers and mocks fathers. Mother India was a classic while Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri was a comedy. The trend continues to this day with titles like Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Mere Baap Pehle Aap and Buddah Hoga Tera Baap. They even made a sequel to Yamla Pagla Deewana just to drive home the point. But let's not crib. This is at least better than the good old days when we had movies like Kunwara Baap and Awaara Baap. With movie titles like those, it appears fathers have been treated as loose change in Bollywood, where we absolutely love, respect and revere our mothers. Indeed "Mere paas Maa hai" is far more emotional-sounding than, "Yeh police station hai, tumhare baap ka ghar nahi".
It is surprising that Bollywood hasn't explored the father-son theme the way Hollywood has. Out there, 'Father and Son' totally overshadow 'Mother and Son'. Large movie franchises like Star Wars and The Godfather have evident, underlying father-son themes. Major superheroes like Spiderman, Batman and Superman have father issues. Popular hit TV Series like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad have strong father-son themes. In comparison, Bollywood has always bet on mother-son relationships more than father-son.
While father-son movies pale in comparison to mother-son movies in Bollywood, there are certain common themes that run across typical father portrayals. Here are a few:
This is the most prevalent stereotype. A tough, unrelenting father who believes that the only way to bring up his son is by upholding high moral values. Think Dilip Kumar in Shakti who ultimately loses his son, Amitabh Bachchan, in the end. Or Mohan Agashe driving Ajay Devgn to become a criminal in Apharan. Or real life father-son Sunil Dutt-Sanjay Dutt in Munnabhai MBBS. Rich boy-poor girl romances have routine problems with these pesky strict Dads who believe that family honour matters more than their own children. As a result, lovers land up getting killed or committing suicide (from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to Ishaqzaade).
Of course, all fathers are protective. This is true in real life too. That's why the Protective Dad was best depicted in movies based on real-life events-like No One Killed Jessica and Jolly LLB-both of which featured influential fathers bending laws to protect their criminal sons. But protective fathers also make for repressed kids. Remember the immense melodrama when Amrish Puri, the protective father in Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, finally let his daughter live the life she wanted to?
DDLJ also featured a rich, indulgent dad who didn't make a big deal of his son's failure in studies. Anupam Kher, playing another indulgent dad also encouraged his daughter to run away from a marriage she didn't want in Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin. In Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Big B talks to real and reel life son Abhishek in "Dude" terms, and has dalliances with many women, much to his son's consternation. Obviously, the pre-requisite for an indulgent Dad is you have to be filthy rich because, well, if you're a poor Dad you live a measly life and your son lands up becoming a gangster (Vaastav, Angaar, Agneepath and other gangster movies). Which brings us to...
He can come in varying forms and shapes but is essentially a repentant father looking to make amends for messing up his son's life. Or so he thinks. Some examples: I will make sacrifices so my son can enjoy himself in Europe. (Farooque Shaikh in Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani). I will take back my son I threw out because he pissed me off: (Big B in K3G). I will return as a cyborg for my son because I died too early: (SRK in Ra.One). All is forgiven as long as everything ends happily ever after and we are all one big happy family.
A movie lasts only three hours while being a father is a role of a lifetime. I don't know of any father that models his parenting on a movie. And yet, as Oscar Wilde said, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." Bollywood stereotypes change as times change. The strict, unrelenting father of the 80s and poor father of the 90s gave way to the indulgent father of the noughties, as times changed. Only recently, has Bollywood has taken on the more challenging and complex father-son relationships with movies like Udaan.
The father-child relationship is anything but one-dimensional and it can hardly be captured within the confines of a movie. A movie sticks to a plot and a script and has dialogues. Our lives are largely unscripted and take unexpected turns as we go along. But there are some values that apply as much in reel life as they do in real life. These are simple, time-tested values of love, honesty, trust, understanding and responsibility. The only thing that changes is our society and the times we live in. Technology, for example, has bought us much closer, redefining the way we communicate and getting us closer to each other.
Our movies will also change and keep experimenting and redefining the father-son relationship. The list of stereotypes I gave above is merely indicative. There could be other fatherhood stereotypes perpetuated by Bollywood that reflect on society as a whole. I was a kid in the 70s and a teen in the 80s. Those were very different times. Today, at 41, I'm the father of a 5-year-old. I relate to my son at a fundamentally different level than my father did to me. When I travel, I speak to him on a cell phone. With my Dad, I needed to hunt for an STD-ISD booth in the middle of nowhere during some of my travels. Just like some movies resonated with my dad, some others resonate with me, as I'm sure many movies will resonate with my son. Both of us enjoy superhero movies, by the way.
What movies do you enjoy?