Disappointed Fathers

I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

I have added Hum Tum, Kunal Kohli’s film about Karan, a cartoonist who is a playboy (Saif Ali Khan) and Rhea (Rani Mukherjee) in my shopping cast for one million original stories, simply because it deals with dreams that transcend being a husband and a father, a story that is seldom told.

In most Hindi films, the father is a responsible businessman, ordinary office worker or farmer. He is seldom an artist, like Karan’s father Arjun Kapoor (Rishi Kapoor) in Hum Tum who abandons his wife and child and roams the world working as a fashion photographer. Later on in the film we discover that Saif’s character Karan is a free spirit with no ties to any woman because of his father.

In Aa Ab Laut Chalen, directed by Rishi Kapoor Ashwin (Rajesh Khanna) survives a bus crash, but he does not go home to his wife, son and father, but leaves the country for the United Sates. There are garlands around his photo at home because they think he died in the crash. He grabs this opportunity to run away from his father (Aloth Nath), who wants him to follow in his footsteps and become a shop keeper. Years later, when he is a billionaire living in New York, he meets his son Rohan (Akshay Khanna), because of a locket with his mother’s photo Rohan gave to his girlfriend Pooja (Aishwarya Rai).

In Rohan Sippy’s Kuch Na Ka Ho, Sanjeev leaves his pregnant wife Namrata (Aishwarya Rai) and runs away with a girl he worked with. He turns up seven years later after she left him for another man, to claim Namrata and their son Aditya. Namrata in the meantime falls in love with Raj (Abhishek Bachchan) who lives in New York with his mother, a medical doctor.

Sanjeev comes back when Namrata is getting ready to meet Raj’s mother. He tries to force her to come back to him but she stands her ground and refuses to take him back. I also liked creative opening credits, that show me clearly who did what for example the editor’s name is next to a pair of scissors. Nice touch!

Ek Vivaah, directed by Kaushik Ghatak, is even more interesting because Prem’s mother (Smita Jaykar) is disappointed that her son Prem (Sonu Sood) ignores their fruit canning business because he wants to be a musician. The mother laments the fact that his late father also pursued his dream of being a musician at the expense of the business. All’s well that ends well, because Prem becomes famous and also finds his soul mate in Chadni (Isha Koppikar), another musician.

The ideal situation for most fathers across the world is for sons to take over their dreams, get an education and run the family business, as in Ab Tumare Hawale Watan Wathiyo, produced and directed by Anil Sharma. Vikramjit Singh (Bobby Deol) is in the navy because his father Amarjit Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) is in the army. He puts pressure on Kunal, his grandson, also played by Bobby Deol to serve India in the armed forces.

Kunal does not tell his grandfather that he wants to serve his country in a different way, making money. “Look at the Tatas and Birlas. Are they in the army? No. But they are still doing the nation proud,” he tells his friends. In Balki’s film Paa, Amol’s father (Paresh Rawal) is very happy that his son (Abhishek Bachchan) loves politics because of him.

Vijay, Anil Kapoor’s character in D. Rama’s film Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, is a father’s nightmare. He comes back from the United States to continue the life he lived abroad, partying, playing sports and no responsibility whatsoever, to this father’s disappointment (Anupam Kher). He even comes up with a plan where he will marry Megha (Kajol), his father’s secretary but divorce her after a year if they are not compatible.

In WAQT directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Aditya (Akshay Kumar) and his father (Amitabh Bachchan), are at cross purposes. The son wants to be a film star. The father wants him to take over the toy empire he has built. He does eventually, after his father’s death, much to his mother’s relief (Shafali Shah).

The negative side of ‘like father like son’ is seldom explored in cinema. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Devdas is a case in point. Granted, Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) becomes a lawyer like this father, but he is very abusive. He used to hit his childhood sweetheart Paro (Aishwarya Rai), something we discover later in the film.

His father beat him all the time because he disapproved of his relationship with her. When he comes back from the United Kingdom Devdas gives Paro his grandmother’s bracelet, but later writes her a letter saying there is nothing between them. Paro’s mother (Kirron Kher) accepts an alliance with a rich man. Devdas turns up on her wedding day and hits her on the forehead with a pearl necklace, leaving a scar.

The positive side about the son following in the father’s footsteps is that it created Indian cinema, the biggest film industry in the world. It has always been a family business whether it is the surname Barjatya, Chopra, Dutt, Ghosh, Johar, Kapoor, Kumar, Mehta, Murkhejee, Roshan, Sippy, Khan and many more. Amitabh Bachchan, in one of his blogs outlined the Kapoor dynasty, most of whom he has worked with. Critics mistakenly call it nepotism, when it is basically, succession or family inheritance. That is why most Hindi movies start with a dedication to parents that have passed away.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.


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