ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Father’s Day 2024: How On-Screen Dads Changed With Evolving Ideas of Masculinity

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

Published
Bollywood
5 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large

If there’s one thing Bollywood movies love, it’s ‘family’ but the way ‘family’ has looked on screen has constantly evolved, especially when it comes to the character of a ‘father’. This change has also coincided with changing ideas of masculinity on screen.

The simplest way to explain that would be to look at two roles Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan have played and the kind of ‘heroes’ they stood for in their prime.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Bachchan, in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, is a good example of how ‘fathers’ in Bollywood usually looked – strict, dominant, and practically averse to vulnerability and affection. Khan, in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, plays a doting (albeit still controlling), caring, and vulnerable father.

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

Amitabh Bachchan's dialogue from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

(Photo Courtesy: X/ Altered by The Quint)

Bachchan the ‘angry, young man’; Shah Rukh the ‘King of Romance’ who flipped ideas of masculinity in cinema.

‘Mere Karan Arjun Aaenge’: The Mother-Son Duo

There was a clear contrast in the ways audiences saw ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ in Bollywood in the 80s. While mothers usually played crucial roles in a characters growth – they were caring, supportive, and could be the ‘damsels in distress’ for their sons to rescue.

Fathers were either uber-masculine and controlling (or sometimes even the villains). The role that patriarchal society assigns to the sexes was visible on-screen as well. If a man showing emotions is frowned upon, he cannot be vulnerable. This also means that ‘father’ characters in films would either be the ones controlling – usually their daughter or wife’s – lives or be practically absent from their kids’ lives.

Remember how common it was for a father’s role in a film to be the one who had to find someone for his daughter to marry? Even “Jaa Simran jee le apni zindagi” is enough to illustrate the point.

Evolving Shades of Fatherhood

The truth is, not every family is ideal – parents do have toxic relationships with their kids and often, they exist in patriarchal settings. However, that doesn’t have to be the only form of representation on-screen. Changing the way we look at fatherhood and masculinity makes it easier for people to explore a father-child equation with more nuance; no matter what the equation looks like.

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

Amitabh Bachchan's dialogue from Deepika Padukone-starrer Piku. 

(Photo Courtesy: X/ Altered by The Quint)

For instance, one of the best films about a father and a daughter’s relationship is Piku and it is not a healthy relationship. But both characters are so beautifully textured and nuanced that you actually understand them as characters instead of tropes – and we get to see the actual impact Bhaskar (Bachchan) has had on Piku’s (Deepika Padukone) life (both negative and positive). Despite all his (glaring) flaws, he never lets Piku settle for less.  

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Where Tropes End & Stories Begin

If there was one example to truly drive home the point that fatherhood on-screen has evolved in leaps and bounds, it’s Champak (Irrfan) in Angrezi Medium. This is a father who will do anything to make sure his daughter’s dream comes true – and yet, they struggle to actually communicate or understand each other.

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

Irrfan's dialogue from Angrezi Medium.

(Photo Courtesy: X/ Altered by The Quint)

Do we see typical ideas of masculinity come into play here? Yes, we do. He does sometimes judge his daughter’s choices because he is after all a product of his circumstances but the film gives both him and his daughter Tarika (Radhika Madan) the chance to ‘grow’.

Then there are dads like Sachin Sandhu (Kumud Mishra) in Thappad and Narottam Mishra from Bareilly Ki Barfi. Taapsee Pannu-starrer Thappad is a brilliant film as is but it is made better by parents who stand by their daughter’s side as she fights an unequal fight for justice. And yet, the film doesn’t whitewash Amu’s (Pannu) mother’s (Ratna Pathak Shah) struggle in her marriage.

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

Kumud Mishra's dialogue from Taapsee Pannu-starrer Thappad.

(Photo Courtesy: Instagram/ Altered by The Quint)

Then there’s Mishra whose Wikipedia description reads, “Bitti's father who wanted Bitti to do whatever she wanted to do”.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

It is both that simple and not. Mishra is a pillar of constant support for his daughter. More often than not, this ‘support’ for daughters would come from the ‘mothers’ in films or the dad would be the stereotypical strict patriarch with little to no regard for anybody else’s wishes.

But as we continue to dissect patriarchal ideas of ‘masculinity’ and take a deeper look at ‘fatherhood’, we realise that characters like Sachin Sandhu and Narottam Mishra can exist alongside characters like Nandkishore from Taare Zameen Par. The difference, of course, is that earlier characters like the latter were the ‘norm’; the ‘this is just how things are’.

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

A dialogue from Taare Zameen Par.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube/ Altered by The Quint)

Now when we see characters like Kamal Mehra from Dil Dhadakne Do, we view them as grey characters. From being painted as ‘stereotypical dads’, they become studies into the human psyche. They become a medium through which to criticise that behaviour. For instance, in Mr and Mrs Mahi, the majority of Mahendra’s (Rajkummar Rao) arc revolves around winning his father’s ‘respect’.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

You will notice that he never once asks for his father’s ‘affection’ – he has been conditioned to not even expect that. But the audience isn’t just expected to ‘accept that’; in fact, the message is the actual opposite.

Another example would be Prem Singh (Nitesh Pandey) who plays Suman’s (Bhumi Pednekar) father in Badhaai Do.

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

A dialogue from Badhaai Do.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube/ Altered by The Quint)

The film’s closing sequence is its most powerful because we see a father stand by his daughter’s side – after much personal growth – even as it puts him in a difficult position with his superior at work. His acceptance comes from love and the act of admitting that he was wrong – both things we’ve rarely seen fathers on-screen do.

And yet, unlike older films, his daughter doesn’t rely on his acceptance or his ‘permission’ to live her life – it’s just nice to have her father’s support.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The same way it helps Bunty (Ranbir Kapoor) from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani to have a honest conversation about their aspirations and expectations with his father (Farooq Sheikh). And if you watch Sheikh in films like Saath Saath, and Chashme Buddoor, him playing a father like Thapar won’t be surprising.  

Dads in films like 'Piku' and 'Angrezi Medium' are proof that the way we view 'fatherhood' in cinema has evolved.

A dialogue from Sonam Kapoor's Aisha.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube/ Altered by The Quint)

And who can forget Aisha’s (Sonam Kapoor) father encouraging her to express her feelings over gajar ka halwa? There has been a conscious shift in the way we portray fathers on-screen by writing fathers who make an effort to be present in their kids’ lives, who go the extra mile to understand their family, and ones that try to be the best version of themselves.

The fathers that cry, the ones with unconditional support and advice, and fathers who treat their children like equals – this is the Bollywood we love to see.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More
×
×