Bollywood's Famous On-screen Fathers
Unlike the mothers in Bollywood films, who are revered and invariably play an important role in the story, there are very few films that show a more idealized view of the role of a father. It is truly ironic that movies, which have a powerful role for fathers, are often those where fathers are in conflict with their children because of generation gap or the children going astray. The conflict between father and son is the most important factor in the story, where father plays an important role. A host of Bollywood super stars, including Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna and Sanjeev Kumar have been honored with awards for playing father’s role in movies. Here are some of the famous cine-fathers who play a powerful role in the story.
1. Chandramohan (Shaheed-1948): Shaheed is a nationalist film set in the context of the Quit India movement. Ram (Dilip Kumar) is the patriotic son of the colonial Rai Bahadur Dwarkadas (Chandramohan). He leaves home against his father’s wishes to join a freedom fighters’ group. Shaheed is held together by an extremely strong performance by Dilip Kumar as the revolutionary who becomes a martyr and equally strong performance by Chandramohan as his father. Chandramohan makes full use of his robust voice to create an extremely strong character that opposes his son joining the freedom movement. Consequently the father son conflicts give the film several movements of high voltage drama. The one scene of Chandramohan that stands out is the scene in the court where he defends his son as he switches sides and is now repentant. The scene got much applause in its time and rightly so.
2. Prithviraj Kapoor (Awara-1951): Mughal-E-Azam was undoubtedly the best amongst all the movies in which Prithviraj Kapoor played father. He does complete justice to his character as Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, who has to fight his own son for rebellion. However, I have preferred to include Awara in this list for the reason that in Mughal-E-Azam he is more of an emperor than a father where as Awara, starring Prithviraj and Raj Kapoor as father and son, is truly a story of father-son relationship vis-à-vis society. It was perhaps Raj Kapoor’s finest film, which also won the Grand Prize of Cannes Films Festival (1953). A promising and ambitious lawyer wrongfully suspects his wife, who had been kidnapped by a gang of robbers, of being pregnant with an illegitimate child and disowns her. Years later, the son (Raj Kapoor), now a petty thief, and the father now a high-ranking judge, will cross paths. The famous end shot shows the final reconciliation between father and son across the bars of a lock up.
3. Ashok Kumar (Aashirwad –1968): Aashirwad is a heartwarming story of father-daughter bondage. Ashok Kumar plays Shivnath, the genial zamindar who has major differences with his materialistic wife Leela (Veena). Their fragile marital bond is stopped from unraveling only by their love for their daughter Nina. After an ugly showdown with his wife, Shivnath flees to Mumbai. He makes a living by performing for children at a public park. He is drawn to a little girl with sunshine smile. She reminds him of his daughter Nina and shares her name too. But the girl dies after a bout of fever. Heartbroken Shivnath returns home to find solace in his daughter. But destiny has something different in store for him. Hrishikesh Mukherjee shows a marked talent for establishing lasting relationships and in this film he is bound to push audiences into ‘bidai’ mode and bring a lump to their throat in the climax scene. Aashirwad is undoubtedly Ashok Kumar’s best movie as a character actor for which he won Filmfare (1970) Best Actor award.
4. Sanjeev Kumar (Koshish – 1972): Sanjeev Kumar was one of those few actor-stars to whom the role meant more than anything in the world. He was willing to play any character of any age in a film. One of his finest work as an actor was in Koshish, which won him his second National Award (first was for Dastak). He played deaf and dumb man and it is amazing to watch him emote his feelings without the help of dialogue. His performance in the film is screen acting at its very best. The scene where he thinks his child is also deaf since he is not responding to a faulty rattle or the scene where he castigates his son for refusing to marry a handicapped girl show a supreme actor at the peak of his histrionic talent. The end is strong and touching. The son isn’t very happy but then he changes his mind when he realizes that deaf and dumb people like his parents also have hopes and ambitions and he aught to give the girl a fair chance.
5. Utpal Dutt (Golmaal – 1979): There are certain roles which if they had not existed in a movie the story would crash like a pack of cards. “Bhavani Shankar” of Golmaal was one such brilliantly sketched character. However, Bhavani Shankar would not have been the Bhavani Shankar as we know him, had it not been for Utpal Dutt to create the highest impact as the loving father who is looking for the best man for his daughter – the man who conforms to his own ideas and ideology on life. The story revolves around him and Amol Palekar who tries to change his personality to please Bhavani Shankar even if he has to invent a twin for him. The comedy confusion could not get better when Daddy dear wants his daughter (Bindya Goswami) to marry that invented twin while she is in love with Amol Palekar and not his invented twin. Undoubtedly, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal brought Utpal Dutt’s comedy at its best.
6. Dilip Kumar (Shakti – 1982): Shakti starred two of the biggest actors in Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan was becoming the super star of Bollywood; Dilip Kumar was the ex-king of Hindi cinema world. It is indeed a feast to watch the performance of both the super stars – Dilip Kumar as an honest cop who declines to pay the ransom to free his child who gets away free somehow. The child grows up to be Amitabh who has this love-hate relationship with his father. The intensity of their hatred is very intensely presented. Dilip Kumar won Filmfare award for Best Actor while Amitabh Bachchan was also nominated for the same award.
7. Sunil Dutt (Dard Ka Rishta – 1982): No one comes close to genius of Sunil Dutt, when it came to portrayal of sensitivity. He made this movie in remembrance of his wife, Nargis, who died of cancer. Dr. Ravi Verma (Sunil Dutt) is a renowned surgeon working in New York. His wife Anuradha (Smita Patil) is a researcher on leukemia. Ravi’s dream is to return to his native India to use his skills to help patients there. Anuradha committed to her research work, cannot go with him. They get a divorce. Back home in India Ravi marries again but his wife passes away while giving birth to a daughter, Khushboo. When Khushboo is twelve, she falls sick. Blood test reveals she has leukemia. Ravi comes to know that a hospital in New York conducts bone marrow transplant. On reaching New York, Ravi finds that the doctor conducting this novel procedure is none other than his ex-wife Anuradha. The transplant is successful and Khushboo survives. The basic theme of the film is father’s love for his daughter who cannot imagine a life without her. DKR is one of those remarkable films that is a gift to humanity. It exhibits such strong emotional energy that it almost forces the viewer to become more human and a father more loving.
8. Rajesh Khanna (Avtaar – 1983): The heart and soul of Avtaar is Rajesh Khanna and his brilliant portrayal of the title role. Avtaar, a mechanic, chooses to live a low budget life but he spends more than his capacity on his sons. He gives them best of education and values till he realizes that they have their individual plans. His elder son, Ramesh, deceives and evicts Avtaar from his own house, while younger one, Chandan, decides to live separately as he thinks his parents are classless and lack modern tastes. While the going is getting tougher, Avtaar loses one of his arms in an accident and is lame for the rest of his life. Avtaar works day and night like one possessed and reaches the status of his sons to change their lives forever.
9. Naseerudin Shah (Masoom – 1983): One of the most sensitive films ever made in India on father-son relationship, even if the son is illegitimate. G.K. (Naseerudin Shah) was on business trip when he met a very attractive woman. He was married and had a baby on the way. But he could not resist the temptation. Years pass, GK has two little daughters. Then he receives the dreaded call. His then mistress is dead. She has a young son Rahul from him that GK will have to take care. Rohil’s presence is tearing his father’s family apart. The basic theme of the film is the power of love – GK’s love for Rohil battles against his love for his family. Naseerudin Shah is brilliant in his role as GK, perhaps his most sensitive performance till date. Jugal Hansraj is wonderful as Rohil. Masoom won Filmfare (1984) award for Best film and Naseerudin Shah won the Best Actor award.
10. Amitabh Bachchan (Sarkar – 2005): In recent years Amitabh Bachchan has been the most sought after super star for portraying father of the protagonist because of his powerful performance in Ek Rishta, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Waqt, Baghban etc. I have selected his latest hit, Sarkar, for including in this list. What makes Sarkar the most special achievement of Ram Gopal Verma’s prolific and path-breaking career? It’s the father-son combination of Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, furnishing Verma’s ebony vision of world gone morally awry with the kind of blazing and bridled intensity that one last saw when Dilip Kumar and Amitabh played father and son in Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti. Sarkar is a far more complex jigsaw of patriarchal intensity. No other actor could have played Subhash Nagre, frail and yet all-powerful man, or done the astonishing things that Bachchan has done to the character. Abhishek Bachchan as Shankar, the quietly faithful, dutybound younger son destined to take up the strange family business, is so in-sync with his character and the senior Bachchan’s prismatic persona that you wonder if genealogy and inheritance are an integral part of true worth as an artiste.
Any article on Bollywood’s on screen fathers cannot be completed without complementing and paying tributes to great character actors who have been ever familiar faces as fathers in film after film and who have given powerful performances even playing a generic father. These great actors include Balraj Sahni, Om Parkash, Nazir Hussain, Anupam Kher and villain turned character actors Madan Puri, Amrish Puri and Pran.