June was the month of Father’s Day. And the internet was flooded with everything from the soppy to the funny in terms of father-child relationships. What’s been Malayalam cinema’s track record in depicting single fatherhood on screen? There have been quite a few amazing films dealing with the intricacies of being a single father, but it appears that most of the narratives have been stuck in a time warp – stereotypical, unduly romanticised and tied down by the burden of forever pain. Here’s a quick look at some of the most memorable depictions... do you see the pattern?
Anoop Menon plays a single dad in Trivandrum Lodge, a film directed by VK Prakash and coincidentally written by Menon himself. He is designed as a Mills & Boon fantasy – rich, desirable and someone who still lives in the memory of his deceased spouse. When writer Dwani (Honey Rose), a divorcee, tries to seduce him, Menon’s Ravishankar tells her, “I know I can easily get you into my bed. But then I am a one-woman man.”
Single dads, like most of the roles allotted to men in cinema, are typically patriarchal in nature. They are seldom judged, questioned or viewed through a moral compass, unlike single mothers in cinema. They also have the privilege to choose and decide their own destinies. But they are often the long-suffering, loving but flawed single parents trying their best to save their kids from evil doers.
Often single dads are given this badge of desirability and availability which are not what one can say when the gender is reversed. Pappayude Swantham Appoos, perhaps the most popular single dad depiction in Malayalam cinema, has Mammootty playing a widower with an adolescent son. He hasn’t really moved on from the memory of his dead wife and is unable to find time for his only son, who has been put in a boarding school. During every vacation the son comes to a home filled with domestic workers and finds solace in his mother’s videos, where she is singing lullabies for him as a baby. The kind of situation that would have come under the scanner had it been a single mom. There is a young girl who falls for Mammootty’s charms and he eventually ends up marrying her, because he believes she fits the bill of his son’s mother, not because he desires a wife.
In Amaram, Mammootty’s single dad is a fisherman who loses his wife to childbirth and singlehandedly brings up the daughter. Though there is a love interest, the narrative is more focussed on his complexities as a dad who weaves big dreams for his daughter but ends up feeling betrayed as she opts to marry the man he doesn’t approve of. Though the film doesn’t go deeper into the intricacies involved when a father raises a girl child, it’s still considered an emotionally knotted father-daughter bond.
In Bhoothakannadi, Vidhyadharan (Mammootty) is a single father, a vulnerable, tender man who is unable to watch the local goldsmith piercing his daughter’s ears. As a man with an impaired relationship with reality, he is the kind of father who huddles with his daughter in the attic after witnessing the death of his lover’s daughter.
Mohanlal plays a single father in Soorya Gayathri, and the narrative flows evenly, without complications. There is a warm friendship between them, lots of conversations and the son even tries to play matchmaker to his father, but there is a palpable void that is left by the mother in their relationship. When the son is killed during ragging, the father plots revenge but eventually realises the futility of it.
Istham is about a son’s attempt to reconcile his elderly father with his childhood sweetheart. While the father-son bond is a sight for sore eyes, it’s interesting how they kept the lady single, making the path towards marriage hassle-free.
On the other hand, Bhaskar The Rascal is about a single father and single mother who find themselves being thrown together by their respective children, who want to see them get hitched. While the mother remains a stereotype, who is vulnerable and helpless in spite of being independent, the father is a rugged hero who turns her saviour at a crucial juncture.
Uyare has a father who stands by his daughter Pallavi despite knowing that her choices aren’t always what he would approve of, including the boy she chooses for herself. There is a beautiful, open bond between them that still falls within the father-daughter dynamics. The most heartbreaking scene in the film is the one where Pallavi, after undergoing an operation following an acid attack, gets her stitches removed and the father (beautifully played by Siddique) simply stands there broken, unable to say anything.
Prithviraj has fancied himself as a single father in quite a few films. Be it Adam Joan or Nine, he is a brooding, unhappy dad who takes his own time to shoulder the responsibility of fatherhood.
Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal’s leading man is a single parent by choice, after walking out on a marriage when he finds himself feeling neglected (or when he is unable to handle the sudden upshot of his wife’s fame). But then as usual, once single, he is coveted by the young neighbour girl who is enamoured by him. Since the film had real-life father and son (Jayaram and Kalidas) playing the roles on screen, the chemistry was immensely lovable as well.
Sreenivasan, in Ennum Nanmakal, is a widower, who seems to be recovering from the loss of his wife, and father of an infant daughter.
Nombarathi Poovu’s Mammootty is a single parent after his wife walks out on him when she is unable to take responsibility of a child with special needs. And the protagonist of Manivathoorile Aayiram Sivarathrikal almost never recovers from the loss of his wife and is unusually attached to his daughter.
Interestingly Malayalam cinema hasn’t had an urban single dad like a Ted Kramer of Kramer vs Kramer who burns his toast and gets all stuffy and anxious when things go wrong. And here’s one helpful suggestion: next time, how about trying funny, quirky dads who aren’t weighed down by stereotypes?
This article was originally published on Fullpicture.in. The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.