13 June 2012

Baap re Baap

Fathers have a place in our hearts just as much as our mothers do. With reel reflecting real, and vice versa, scriptwriters wove their stories around this relationship too; however, the on-screen father never quite evoked the same emotions as the on-screen Maa. I cannot, off-hand, think of a catchphrase that cut through generations the way Mere paas maa hain did. Yet, there have been on-screen fathers around for just as long; and there have been many stereotypes that have plagued that role. Or perhaps, that has been the curse of our cinema all along - that every character eventually becomes a 'type' rather than letting them remain human with varying shades of good and bad.

And because there have been so few important 'fathers' in Hindi films, the ones that were there came to be slotted more or less into straitjackets. Unlike the mothers, the role of the father became particularly egregious - they were 'types' and particular actors became typecast as 'this' type or 'that'.

1. The comic father 
Who else? Even when he did not mean to be. Especially when he did not mean to be. With that characteristic dialogue delivery, and excellent comic timing (watch him in Pyar Kiye Jaa, for instance), Om Prakash delighted audiences just by his presence. Even when he was playing the henpecked husband who would support his children on the sly, he managed to keep his droll wit intact. In later years, Kader Khan would run him a close second; it helped that the latter was also a dashed good script writer, and wrote his own lines.

2. The I'll have a heart attack father 
Two contenders, both interchangeable. Usually the father of the heroine. Usually rich. (Corollary: If he is poor, then he turns into the suffering father, who also looks like he will soon have a heart attack, and quite often, does.)

He is benevolent, avuncular and spoils his daughter (usually Asha Parekh) silly. Until, that is, the daughter has the temerity to fall in love with a hero from the wrong side of the tracks. In which case, Nasir Hussain (Raj Mehra) either a) has a heart attack or b) looks like he is going to have one.
He will have one scene (at least) where he is togged up in a silk dressing gown (and is giving his offspring a dressing down). If he smokes, it will usually be a pipe.

If Raj Mehra (Nasir Hussain)  is the father of the hero, he will hide his love for his son under a rough exterior, and excoriate his wife for spoiling 'her' laadla, who, in his view is a wastrel, running around singing songs instead of joining the family business. He will also insist on sending said son to a hill station (where he can sing more songs) on business, and where the son will promptly fall in love with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. 

3. The Oops, I have an illegitimate son father 
There was no competition. If Nirupa Roy always lost her children, then Naseeruddin Shah always found some extra ones (and always sons) - though I'm sure he wished he didn't. Poor Naseer was always learning that old sins cast long shadows. He didn't seem to be a good student, though. I have lost count of the films in which his happy family is destroyed by an illegitimate son popping out of the woodwork. Off hand? Masoom, Najayaz, Main Hoon Na...any more? Even if there aren't, he is the 'face' I see every time I see a 'son searching for biological father' theme on screen.

4. The saintly father (alias the self-sacrificing father) 
He is the male equivalent of the poor mother slaving over her sewing machine to eke a living. This father will always have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He will be upright, honest, principled, with a personal integrity that cannot be compromised. And therefore, his family, more importantly, his poor wife already crumpling under the weight of her husband's sainthood, will suffer the consequences of his halo slipping down her neck and choking her.

Either his eldest offspring, or the eldest of his two younger brothers (did I mention there would always be two?) will leave to worship Mammon; the corollary is that it will always be the son / brother who leaves; not his daughter / sister, who is a true follower of Saint Balraj. Until the final reel, where the prodigal will be bludgeoned to death with the father / elder brother's sacrifice, and will fall at Balraj Sahni's feet in repentance. Cue saintly music, and a newly-minted halo around his head.

Ah, the cruel fate of true talent.

(Sanjeev Kumar was his modern counterpart, playing father or older brother to actors who were his contemporaries.)

5. The OCD father 
Ah, genius. He is usually the heroine's father. He insists on everyone reciting their full names, marks a moustache as the mark of a true man, insists that educated girls do not make good wives, will not allow his son to spend time with his daughter-in-law until his exams are done... you get the picture?

He is also prone to throwing tantrums in excellent English, insists that pure Hindi is the national language and woe to anyone who uses colloquial slang, and is usually a pain in the butt to the other characters in his films. 

But oh, what a joy to the viewer! They broke the mould when they made Utpal Dutt.

(Utpal Dutt could speak 8 languages, had directed more than a hundred plays, was one of the founding members of IPTA, and one of the greatest dramatists of progressive Bengali theatre.)

6. The benign father 
He behaved more like an affectionate dadaji than a father (same difference). He is nominal head of the household, ruled over by a usually-affectionate-but-domineering wife, and only wants to be left alone to his hobbies (usually gardening) or his petty foibles (smoking). He is not averse to a little mischief himself, or to spoiling his children a little bit.

Khatta Meetha, Khubsoorat, Mili... and then, Ashok Kumar segued effortlessly into playing grandfather - an extension of his earlier role. 

7. The I'm your buddy, yaar father 
It must be an irony of sorts that a young Anupam Kher made his first successful appearance as an old man devastated by his son's death, and fighting an uncaring bureaucracy. Of course he got typed into 'father' roles. Hindi cinema truly has no imagination. And so, he played father to a succession of actors who were his age or just a few years younger. He was always the young-at-heart father, the one who understood his sons, poured out a drink (or two) with them, didn't mind if they didn't graduate as long as they had fun; he was the one who told them to follow their heart, and supported them through any endeavour, even if it were as stupid as to follow a girl across a continent with hardly any idea where he was going to find her. 

8. The Rajshri father
Like Reema Lagoo, a staple in 'family' films as the kind, benevolent, progressive-traditional (and if that is an oxymoron, pardon me) father who delights in being provider, while his wife is the nurturing hand and his main support. I suppose there is a tinge of envy about living in such an uncomplicated world, where everyone and everything is 'nice' (for want of a better word). I cannot imagine any other reason for the thumping success of these films. Fact is that Alok Nath is a very talented actor, and anyone who has seen him in Buniyaad, a television serial from Doordarshan's golden years will not forget a certain Masterji.

9. The How I wish he wouldn't play father father 
True confession, I hate Amitabh Bachchan in these roles. Oh, I know the story of how he went to Yash Chopra to ask him for a role after the debacle of ABCL, and how Chopra gave him Mohabattein (in which I actually agreed with him that students should come to school to (gasp!) study, but that's a rant for another day). And of course Karan Johar chipped in to give him Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham - where Amitabh, SRK and Hrithik individually cried more tears than Jaya, Rani, Kaajol and Kareena combined. And then we were stuck with Amitabh as (grave) paterfamilias! Over and over and over again. 

Give me a Nishabd  or a Cheeni Kum (excluding 'Sweety' who, as AKM put it so succinctly, was so diabetically sweet that I yearned to commit murder) or Dev, or Khakee or even an Aankhein,  which for all its flaws still had flashes of the actor whom I adore. But, no! We were to be hit on the head with Babul, Aetbaar, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (though I must admit he was a hoot as Sexy Sam), Waqt, Kyun, Ho Gaya Na...   

The imperious father 
Talk about being the heavy-handed father, and the one person who comes to mind is old Papaji.  I often wondered if Prithviraj Kapoor was the same in real life, because he seemed to delight in playing the father whom his sons (or daughters) dared not cross. Or if they did, they ended up (at best) being thrown out of the house, or (at worst) being sentenced to execution for sedition. 

Awara, Jaanwar, Ghazal, Jahan Ara, Rajkumar, Kal Aaj aur Kal... the list is endless. But like Nargis in Mother India, there is one definitive film that crowned him the baap of them all -  Mughal-e-Azam, where he played Akbar, the emperor who puts his duty to his kingdom above his love for the son for whom he had prayed so many years ago.

Yves, if it wasn't for you, I would have dropped this post. (And he had Lalita and Bombaynoir to back him up.) Note to readers: Any complaints may be directed in that general direction.


  1. Complaints? (I'm referring to that footnote of yours). Anu, how could anyone have any complaints about this post? Much as I loved the maa post, this one is better, in my opinion. I agree with every single pita type you listed, and your descriptions had me giggling all the way. Utterly bookmark-worthy post, to be savoured again and again and again. :-)

    Thank you!

  2. What with most films being directed by men and they having their mother complex. It is mostly mothers who play an important role in Indian films. There is Son of India but no Father India. Mahesh bhatt's Daddy being an exception. There are hardly any songs like 'eh baap teri surat se alag bhagwan ki surat'.
    That is why more the important your contribution to the classification of Hindi film dads.
    Thanks Anu!

  3. Hear! Hear!

    Anu, seconding Madhu I have to say that I'm loving this series of posts. The categorisation and comments on the various stereotypes are spot on!

    Keep up the good work! Cheers!

  4.  Thanks, Madhu. :) That's indeed high praise. Needless to say, you've made my day, which was beginning to be gloomy, dark and depressing (migraine + rainy day = ugh!)

  5.  Thank you, Anoushka. And to think I was planning to drop this post because I was beginning to be fed up. :) So, now, I should thank Yves, Lalitha and Bombaynoir for keeping me going.

  6.  Yeah, the poor fathers are a neglected lot; the ones who are around seem to be the bad ones in need of redemption. Chalo, I have done my little bit towards their cause. :) I'm glad you liked the post, Harvey.

  7. Thanks, Anu, for this wonderful post, which had me smiling even as I was reading and wondering which of the actors was most like my Dad, whom I would describe as a combo of Om Prakash (minus the balding head), Ashok Kumar (but no singing and no pipe, thank you!) and finally, Nazir Hussain in his last days.  And I doubt if there will be any complaints coming my way about this post celebrating a figure who is seldom celebrated in our films but should be celebrated much more often.   Thanks again, Anu!

  8.  You're welcome, Lalitha. When I see the response, I'm so glad I wrote it. You are right, you know, about the father being seldom celebrated in films. It's like he is just an accessory, a fringe element because of course, a woman (in those days) *needed* a husband.

    From your description of your father, I had imagined him as an Ashok Kumar / Alok Nath mix.

  9. -giggle- Yay! Awesome post! I laughed so hard at the, "Oops, I have an illegitimate son" part. Hahahaha! But I think you're right about Amitabh playing all those fatherly roles... ugh. Just... no. No. (Thank goodness Dev had the good sense not to do any of that, even if he kept making terrible films and all!)There should be one more! The deserting father, like Raaj Kumar from Mother India or who's that guy from Deewar!

  10.  Thanks, Bombaynoir. I'm glad I could up the laughter quotient. 'The deserting father' - umm, there wasn't one actor who continued to ditch his women through several movies. Mostly, what I have found with father roles is that the actors chosen to play a particular type of fathers got stuck playing the same 'type' right through. It was very rarely (if at all) that the comic father became a villain, or a benign father turned into a monster in disguise.

  11. Poor Naseer though! Got stuck with that kinda role! Lol!  And that's very good - no one was so heartless to ditch his wife movie after movie. But if the comic father became a villian, well, uh... o_o -faints-

    Quick question - which pair, Manoj - Sadhana or Joy - Sadhana? :P

  12.  That's a sitter! Joy-Sadhana, of course. (You can tell I'm not a great Manoj Kumar fan.)

  13. Didn't Naseer ditch his son (Farhaan Akhtar) in 'Zindagi Milegu Na Dobara' as well? Another addition to the list!

  14. Oops, that was meant to be 'Milegi,' not 'Milegu!' Darn this old keyboard...

  15. Dear Anu,
    I'm very pleased too, like the others, that nobody but you has decided to make this very readable post, what a laugh! I enjoyed most of it (because my knowledge of Bollywood isn't at all as extensive as yours, and I couldn't refer to all the movies or references you made). For example Anupam Kher as the born father: you know, I agree about Hindi producers not being very inventive, because this devil of an actor could have done amazing films had he been born (even a father) in France. Much as I regret to say, it is probably only his baldness that made him used as a father all those years!
    One regret however in this very nice list: why no Om or Amrish Puri? (I suppose I have to direct the complaints to myself! Aaargh!)

  16.  Really? I think he was okay till he got started on all that patriotism. Geez. But there, I told you, no one likes the heroes I like! :( XD

    Now can I ask you one thing? Joy - Sadhana or Rajendra - Sadhana? Don't say it's cos you don't like Rajendra! I'm doing this blog post about filmi couples and I'm... stuck.

  17.  Really? I haven't seen the movie (I prefer to stick to old films!), so. D'you remember any other fathers ditching wives/sons/daughters in recent movies? :P

  18.  Yes, but he was the 'deserting father'; at least, I don't think Farhan was his illegitimate son in ZMND.

  19.  The 70s and 80s were full of abandoned mothers. :)

  20.  D'you know, until you pointed it out, I didn't notice the misspelling? And I'm supposed to be an editor?

  21.  I would go on a limb and say Rajendra-Sadhana. They had a great chemistry; much more than Joy-Sadhana. Besides, I think Joy and she did only Love in Simla together.

  22.  Thank you, Yves. You made my day. :) I'm sorry I didn't give the film names: Nasir Hussain / Raj Mehra: All the Nasir Hussain (director) movies of the period. As 'father of the hero' I was referring to Shagird, Ziddi... interestingly, the father in both was Nasir Hussain, and the son was Joy Mukherjee.\

    Balraj Sahni - Do Raaste, Bhabhi, Shaadi...
    Utpal Dutt - Golmaal, Naram Garam, Kisise na Kehna, Hamari Bahu Alka...

    Anupam Kher - Saaransh, DDLJ, Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun...

    With Kher, it was the fact that he played an 'old' father in his second film, plus the fact that he was bald that slotted him neatly into 'father' roles. And then, because he actually was young, he became the 'dost' father.

    I haven't seen Om Puri as a father much - except in East is East, My Son, The Fanatic and some forgettable Priyadarshan comedies. *Shudder* at the last.

    Amrish Puri - hmm. Yes, he would have fit the domineering, lay-down-the-law father. 

    (I'm glad you have to direct your complaints to yourself. LOL)

  23. Another wonderfully written ROTFL post !!!
    The last post has Harvey & Madhu presenting unwed mothers, so allow me to present the "mother-of-all-dead-unwed-fathers" (paraphrased from Saddam Hussein, I wonder if there was a copyright on it)
    *** RAJESH KHANNA ****
    He made a career of out of it, Sharmila in Aradhana & Hema Malini in Andaz; but we got two great songs prior to the fathering event :))




    Like Harvey said earlier, "I hope this is not sexist" or politically incorrect :)

  24. Thanks, Samir. You guys are very encouraging! And yes, definitely Rajesh for that 'type'. You forgot Daag. (Oh, heck with being politically correct.) :)

  25.  I think he was, Anu. From what I remember of how Farhan Akhtar's character describes it to his friends, Deepti Naval's and Naseer's characters couldn't get married (parental opposition, I think) and he deserted her. So he's both, actually. Deserter and 'Oops..' :-)

  26.  I like Manoj Kumar in his non-patriotic roles, Sasha. So you have company there. ;-)

  27.  ... and Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, which has some of my favourite songs.

  28.  Okay, I forgot large chunks of ZMND. I mean, it was nice and all, but it reminded me too closely of DCH, and that, was an infinitely superior film.

  29.  Uff! I'm growing old! I completely forgot about this film - and I liked it better than I did Love in Simla.

  30. Hmm, okay! Stuff just got more complicated. If it's Rajendra - Sadhana then what's gonna happen to Joy?

  31.  Yay! Let's go watch Woh Kaun Thi together!

  32.  Must see that one too! Hey Anu, do you have it? :D

  33.  Oh dear. >_>" Poor mothers. Who else was abandoned?

  34.  Oh, yes! Another of my favourite suspense films, even if it has plot holes. Lovely. :-)

  35. Hahaha. Great post Anu. :-D
    I actually laughed loudly at;
    >He will have one scene (at least) where he is togged up in a silk dressing gown (and is giving his offspring a dressing down).

    LOL at switching between Raj Mehra and Nazir Hussain.
    There's also the father who becomes a widow and marries a young woman apparantly to get a mother for his, usually, young daughter, but the step mother makes a Cindrella out of the daughter, and the father is left looking sheepish.

    I haven't studied this in detail so don't know whether the role was repeated by any actor - but it's a type at least.

  36.  Hmm, good question. I haven't seen much of Joy-anybody pair to really think of it.

  37.  I liked that one too. :) Manoj actually smiled in the film! And danced! With Helen!

  38.  Oh, every heroine worth her salt must have done *one* such film! Sharmila in about five of them, Hema in Andaz, Mala Sinha in Dhool ka Phool, Waheeda Rehman in Trishul....

  39.  Mine too, Madhu (Surprised?) :) And the songs!!

  40. Thanks, pacifist. I'm glad you enjoyed my attempt at humour. :) 

    Yes, the type you mention is there - I'm wracking my brains trying to figure out who would fit that slot best. Hmm...

  41. Madhu, don't know if you will see this, but I left you a comment under my 'Maa' post re: your point about unwed mothers. 

  42. Hema wasn't ditched in "Andaz"(1971), right?

  43.  I know! He's kinda handsome! But not with him covering his face in anguish!

    And Sadhana steals the show! On top of that all, Raj Khosla directed! :DDD

  44.  Oh darn... I'm not abandoning Joy though!

  45.  Ohhum. -goes red at the mention of Dhool Ka Phool- Uh, Rajendra ditched her. So mean. >:(

    BUT TELL ME! Did Dev ditch anyone? In the 50's and 60's? (I don't want to know about the 70's, oh my. o_o -shudder-)

  46.  She was, kind of. Rajesh died. :P

    Coincidentally, my father's name is Rajesh. My grandma really really liked Rajesh Khanna.

  47.  Well, 'ditched' in the sense of abandoned - when Rajesh dies, and she goes to his father, Ajit, he throws her out.

  48. I think I can see where you get your craze for films from. :)

  49. Woh Kaun Thi was part 1 of a trilogy of suspense / horror...

    Mera Saaya and Anita completed the trio.

  50.  No reason why you should. :)

  51.  Dev did, in Manzil though that turns out to be one misunderstanding following the other.

  52.  Oh, I saw Manzil. Kind of, yeah, he did. xD But not as mean as Rajendra! :(

    Any other films?

  53.  Oh, yeah. My father gets annoyed at the mention of Aradhana. -laughs-

  54.  Can't think of any, no. Yes, Rajendra was bad, bad, bad. :) Dev, of course, it was all a misunderstanding!

  55.  Poor chap. Imagine being riddled with all of Kaka's idiosyncracies as well. When I was pregnant with my eldest, my nephews wanted me to name him 'Ajay Devgan', 'Akshay Kumar' or 'Sunil Shetty'.  (Surnames included.) If looks could kill!

  56. Awww. I'm watching Dhool Ka Phool now. If the father forces him to marry someone else and he doesn't object, I'll probably hit my head against the wall.

  57. LOL! Why did they want you to do that? -giggles- My grandma told me, "We (she and my grandpa) were sitting in the hospital room, and we didn't know what to name him. Then I just said Rajesh."

    Oh geez. xD Sometimes I play "Mere Sapnon Ki Rani" just to annoy him. But the song is awesome!

  58.  Why did my nephews want me to name my son that? Well, those were their heroes at the point. And all of those names were okay compared to another one they came up with - Hulk Hogan. *facepalm*

  59.  Oh my God. -facepalm-

    Okay, well, maybe I'm kinda guilty too. Cos I was thinking, if I have a son I'm going to name him Sunder or Raju or Karan. Uh, well. :P

    What did you name him in the end?

  60. None of the above. :) And nothing to do with films or heroes either. The name I had orginally wanted (if I had a boy) - well, my cousin had a son earlier and she named him that, so after I had my baby, I didn't have a boy name. Which is why all the 'Ajay Devgan' 'Akshay Kumar' 'Hulk Hogan' thing came up. :) They were very disappointed when the chosen name was not filmi. Or WWF. :)

  61.  LOL! :)

    Guess what? Yesterday we went to the beach (Just to see - I haven't seen Jacksonville beach), and while I was walking to the beach, a thought that Dev might have, er, er, romanced Zeenat on the beach crossed my mind. Uncomfortable thought - I pushed it away.

    Then when we got to the beach, my Aunty suddenly exclaimed, "Hare Rama Hare Krishna!" Oh my God, I thought she had somehow read my mind. But no, guess what? THERE WAS A PROCESSION BY THE BEACH!!! Just like at the start of the movie! Okay, I almost fainted.

  62.  *facepalm* Is there *anything* that does not remind you of films and Dev? :)

  63. Damn new Disqus or what! But anyway, I don't think there is anything that doesn't remind me of him. -giggle- So my Aunty told me to look up this website called Catty Shack (We're planning what to do) and GUESS WHAT? I go on the website and I'm greeted with this.
    "Yellow" is now named Amar (an Indian name meaning "eternal")

    One of the zookeepers has been watching Jewel Thief. I just know it.


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