Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone in 'Piku' (screen shot).
‘It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.’ - Anne Sexton.
Fathers can be loving, exasperating, over-protective, stern, inspiring, annoying and sometimes misunderstood. We are observing Father's Day today, Sunday, June 20th, for all the usual reasons. Plus, as a mark of reverence to those fathers who have been taken away from us during the pandemic.
Up may be an animation film but it reduced everyone to a mush puddle. Every time I see my own father, I see Carl Frederickson, balloon salesman in him. No other Pixar movie checks emotional boxes like this film does. In fact the first 13 minutes of the film will make you wonder how Pixar knew the life your parents had. The film takes us on a wild adventure trip with a young, persistent lad called Russel and his dog called Dug. But if you are looking for someone as perfect as your dad, then Mr. Frederickson it is.
How far will dads go to be with their children? Robin Williams showed us in Mrs Doubtfire how joyous fatherhood can be in spite of all obstacles. Mrs Doubtfire is available on DisneyPlusHotstar and it will bring you the happiest dad moments. Of course, our homegrown Hindi version - Chachi 420 - brings you Kamal Haasan as the dad who pretends to be a babysitter (this was a remake of the Tamil version called Avvai Shanmugi). Both are available on Amazon Prime Video.
Don’t leave Amazon Prime Video yet. You have to go back in time to pick out a wonderful film about fathers who are fallible. When we watched Mare of Easttown recently, we saw a father take the blame for his son’s crime and go to jail. We also witnessed him ask his wife, ‘Will you take care of my baby as our own?’ Our heart goes out to Lor in Easttown and to Shabana Azmi who plays the wife in Masoom, because they have to deal with a constant, living reminder of their husband’s infidelity. They both know it isn't the child’s fault, but still…
Gulzar’s adaptation of Eric Segal’s Man, Woman and Child is simply incredible. Although Naseeruddin Shah’s character seems so flawed here.
4. Captain Fantastic
In our next pick - a must watch for this special day - you worry for the whole family because Viggo Mortensen, who plays the father and Captain Fantastic, wants to create a different kind of world for his children.
5. Leave No Trace
Should fathers protect their children this much? Who is right, and who isn’t? In real life, in the wilderness near one of my favourite cities in the whole world - Portland - a father and daughter lived wild for years, living off the land, until they were caught. Their story has been turned into a movie called Leave No Trace which is on YouTube if you wish to see a wonderful yet dangerous story of a father and a daughter bonding.
But what do you do when you are trying to make something of your life and are at the beck and call of a crotchety father who has mostly scatalogical concerns? Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone in Piku are a delightful pair. Father and daughter on a road trip that is unforgettable. The film is available on Sony Liv. Sometimes you will be the wry observer like Iffran Khan, and at other times the father and mostly the daughter. Enjoy the banter and the love.
7. The Pursuit Of Happyness
Speaking of restrooms, you have to be some sort of stone-hearted person to not understand the downright despair mixed with hope in the film The Pursuit Of Happyness. Will Smith tries to get himself a job at the same time, taking care of his son. Initially, you wish he were a dad who could hold on to his job, but as the film moves ahead, you realise that your cup of coffee is turning saltier with all the tears you are shedding and you find yourself praying for those who have lost their jobs because of a string of ill-luck and now during the pandemic and who seem to just not succeed in their efforts to get out of the failure cycle. The film is on Netflix.
Sometimes, though, fathers are indeed fallible. Their demons affect everyone in the family. And they begin to build fences around themselves. A wonderful play of the same name has been made into a very powerful film called Fences starring Denzil Washington and Viola Davis. ‘You are my son, I don’t have to like you.’ That’s one way of looking at the responsibilities fatherhood bestows on you. This film will shake your core beliefs. Where do lines between duty and love intersect?
9. Fathers and daughters
If your father were a writer, would he write about you, his daughter? Many a times people wonder if fathers look at their daughters differently. Fathers and daughters. That’s a lifetime of stories in three words. Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried explore the intricacies of this relationship in a beautiful film that’s on Amazon Prime Video.
10. The Place Beyond The Pines
What would you do if you found out that your father was not just a motorbike stunt rider but lived a life of crime? The Place Beyond The Pines celebrates fathers and sons in a story that is at once bleak and violent and yet fill your heart with empathy. This film showcases the talents of Ryan Gosling, Mahershala Ali, Ray Liotta, Bradley Cooper as well as Eva Mendes. The film is available on Netflix.
11. Hair Love
A shout-out to all the dads out there who are looking after their kids while their wives are unwell. This next film won an Oscar and also many, many hearts. We see a lifetime of memories being created in this short animation film. The animation style of Hair Love is simple, but there’s so much love in it, the film makes for a viewing that you first watch for the smiles, and then you watch it again and again for the love with which the story was written.
12. The Father
But what happens when you discover that your father has become old now and needs care? The Father is this year’s Oscar winner with Anthony Hopkins playing a father who is slowly giving in to dementia. It’s not yet released on any viewing platform, but the trailer is enough to make us call our ageing parents and say, ‘I love you’, before they forget who you are or where you are…
Ewan McGregor is Oliver in the film Beginners. He’s mourning his father’s death (Christopher Plummer) and on the road he meets Melanie Laurent who plays Anna. Their road trip creates a fantastic world of understanding relationships. This is a very special film because it deals with love, loss and helps create new connections in order to move forward.
Sometimes, a father can be like Mufasa in The Lion King, dying so that his son can live. And sometimes, a father can be like the dad in The Savages who teaches his estranged sons the meaning of family after his death… There are single dads, like in 10 Things I Hate About You who put forth impossible dating conditions on daughters, there are fathers like in Drishyam who will not allow their daughters to be molested, and there are fathers who will finally admit that they were wrong about love and say, ‘Ja Simran ja, jee le apni zindagi’ as in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge. There are mean dads and funny dads, ambitious dads and, yes, henpecked dads in the movies as well. But the coolest dad will pick up the phone and dial the kidnappers to tell them that he has special skills and he will find them. Watch Taken:
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.