The film releasing this week, Piku, is about a father and daughter. From the look of it, their relationship is unusual, or least, not like the typical Hindi film baap-beti.
Most Hindi film father’s have been stern and forbidding patriarchs who ruled over their families with an iron fist—particularly controlling their daughters. Through the Sixties and Seventies, they puffed on pipes, dressed in silk dressing gowns or suits and threw blank cheques at their daughter’s impoverished suitors to get them to vanish. The most unforgettable father in the tyrannical list remains Chaudhary Baldev Singh of Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. He lives in London, but brings up his daughters like they were living in an Indian village. They have no voice and no control over their lives; he expects his wife and daughters to obey him without question, even if is about to ruin their future. He is not even addressed as Papa or Daddy, but Bauji.
In contrast was Kamal Haasan who went to great lengths to be close to his daughter in Chachi 420. When his marriage broke up and he wasn’t allowed to meet his daughter, he got into drag and took up employment as her nanny.
In the list of friendly dads, there’s Shah Rukh Khan’s Rahul Khanna in Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, whose precious daughter takes it upon herself to find a match for her widowed father, who still behaves like a collegian.
Roles were reversed in Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Daddy’, in which a daughter (Pooja Bhatt) discovers that her father is not dead, as she has been told. Her grandparents have kept him away from her, but when he reappears in her life, he is a hopeless alcoholic vagabond. Pooja defies her grandfather and puts her dad on the path to recovery, and also helps him regain his singing career. Anupam Kher has played a number of interesting fathers—a recent example is Daawat-e-Ishq in which he is very supportive of his daughter, even when she hatches a convoluted plot to trap and dump a groom, so that she can blackmail him for money.
Paresh Rawal played two very unusual dads in Mahesh Bhatt’s Sir, in which he was a gangster devoted to his daughter (Pooja Bhatt), andTamanna in which he was a eunuch who raises an abandoned girl (also Pooja Bhatt).
Ashok Kumar, Motilal, Balraj Sahni, Rehman, Nazir Hussain, Utpal Dutt, AK Hangal… to name a few, wonderful actors who played fathers to their filmi daughters, and left behind frames of memory.