Tamil society has always remained patriarchal with regard to family as an institution.Tamil films have not failed to project the father character as a symbol of love respect and dignity.Many famous actors have seriously taken to this role and added merit to the state of fatherhood.This article intends to showcase such men who successfully represented this masculine tribe on the higher ladder.
The movies of the early decades of independent India,depicted fathers as joint family heads being respected and adored by all their children.Veteran actors like S.V.Rengarao, S.V.Subbiah, V.K.Rama samy T.S.Balaiah V.Nagaiah and at times M.R.Radha were the usual father figures those days. S.V.Rengarao rightly fitted into the role of a rich aristocratic father commanding respect from all his children.When it came to daughters,he was mostly shown as a pampering dad.S.V Subbiah was a father of subdued dignity running the family with discipline and control.V.K.Ramasamy was ever a robust,humorous and at times noisy dad.T.S.Balaiah would appear as a tension ridden and occasionally even a comedy piece of father .Nagaiah usually showed his head as a modest father from a poor social back ground. M.R.Radha was always a combination of mischief and banter, in essaying his roles as the family head.All the father figures during this period,were leaders of the joint family system and any symptoms of its breakdown would put their spirits down.
It was Sivaji Ganesan,the actor par excellence,who surprised everyone by taking up elderly roles in his late thirties itself,as the father of grown up sons and daughters.Every such father role was an additional feather on his crown of acting potential.It is a delightful experience to recall his role in 'Paar Magale Paar', directed by one of his pet film makers A.Bhimsingh. In that film Sivaji donned the role of a rich,status conscious father of two grown up daughters [Vijayakumari and Pushpa latha]. The secret that only one daughter was his and the other girl born of a dancer had to be adopted by his wife because,the two nurses who took the babies for cleaning, died unexpectedly on account of an electric short circuit and the identities of the kids could not be established.Meanwhile the dancer also left the hospital not willing to take the kid born of shameful motherhood.The father was told that both the kids were his and finally when the truth came out,it created a storm in the family causing a great amount of emotional hurt and trauma to the family head. Sivaji Ganesan portrayed this character with his usual show of majesty and grandeur.
Sivaji's performance as a stylish father in Gemini Studios'Motor Sundaram Pillai' and later in
A.C Thirilokchander's 'Baratha Vilas' was equally commendable. In both the films,he was shown as growing to riches from scrap and the richness bringing with it the added evils of snobbery and arrogance of wealth. Sivaji was the aptest choice to play these roles and he made the characters live by his way of acting.But the best of his father roles was in his family production'Thangapadhakkam' that described the conflicting moments of an IPS father and his criminal son forming the plot for a memorable family drama.The movie was an emotional thunderstorm of the classic actor, categorically disowning his gangster son but at the same time melting down with the pressures of emotional attachment for his only son.When at the end, he had to either capture or kill his son it was the latter alternative he chose on confirming that his son had become irredeemably wicked.The father roared like a lion with paternal love on the one side and police pride on the other.The other impressive father characters of Sivaji include that of a disciplinarian father Prestige Padmanaban, in 'Vietnaam Veedu', a jealous father on the musical growth of his son in 'Mridhanga Chakravarthi' and finally the most affectionate father of Kamalahasan in 'Devar Magan' and that of Rajini in 'Padayappa',both, with poise and grace.
Among the new group of actors doing father portrayals, Prakashraj,Naasar Delhi Ganesh, Manivannan Vijayakumar ,Raguvaran and Rajkiran have been in their best, giving us a variety picture of father characters in each one's distinct attitude and style. Prakashraj leads the rest, by his vigorous voice throw and varied mood swings and he is another actor like Sivaji playing elderly roles much early in his life.He fascinated everyone by his most dynamic performance as family head in M.Raja's 'Santosh Subramanyam'.In that,we saw him as a father extremely concerned about the routine of his grown up sons and daughters to the extent of choosing everything for them as per his liking, without bothering about what actually they wanted.Ultimately, when his youngest son Santosh fell in love and brought his girl of choice home for a trial period to help his dad approve of his choice,there was a turmoil in the family.The climax of the movie showed how Santosh made his father realize, that the facts of life are as important as family affection and that in the family unit each one's aspirations, desires and choices should be respected instead of making authoritarian choices, in the name of parental love and control.
In 'Veerappu', [a remake of the Malayalam mega movie 'Spatikam']directed and acted by Sundar.C, PrakashRaj appeared as a rigid father and school teacher showing utter indifference to the dreams and aspirations of his son,crushing the boy's highly innovative brain and making him a street rowdy.As a rude and conventional father, tied to the traditional concepts of education, rather than the emergence of originality in a budding brain,he was almost a foolish father stunting the growth of his own son and spoiling his life.However, he realized the true value of his son and began to love him when the later developments brought home his own failings as man and father. Prakashraj gave a very impressive picture of the negative dimensions of fatherhood in 'Veerappu'.
Prakashraj,as a petty criminal with a heart full of love for his son[Krishna]in 'Alibaba',beautifully exhibited the fears and anxieties when he came to know that his son was going to be trapped in a third party banking fraud, indirectly entangling his son, by a gang of criminals.Hid did almost a similar role in 'Arindhum Ariyamalum' as a rowdy with norms and a soft heart for his son, from whom he had been separated long ago, by his wife and in laws, on account of his bad ways of life.It was an affectionate journey of a father shunting between his real son and the one he had adopted after his separation from family.
Above all,Radha Mohan offered him the wonderful role of a soft father undergoing tormenting moments in the midst of arranging the marriage of his most beloved daughter whom he brought up as a a widower.Though he approved his daughter's love with a Punjabi guy,the agony of the impending separation from his daughter,more than the probable consequences of her marriage with a man belonging to an unfamiliar social group,dominated each and every movement of this most affectionate dad.The mixed emotions of joy [to see his daughter being married]and sorrow [the separation that the marriage would cause]were naturally delivered by Prakash Raj with ripeness and maturity, greatly required for that character delineation.The variety of emotions, the difference in character types and the ability of PrakashRaj, to easily fit into various types of characters and express emotions in their true form, made him an emphatic father figure.
Nassar has always been his natural stuff in his presentation of father characters. 'Emton Magan' of Director Thirumurugan presented Nassar as a father full of love, evenly blended with strictness, looking for simple submission from his devoted son[Barath] It was a beautiful narration of events, mixed with a right sense of natural family love, with an underlying fear for the family head.But the intolerance of the father against his son's unacceptable marriage, separated the father and son and finally the son's independent growth in business and life brought the father and son into a fine bond of love .Nassar was a communal father in Manirathnam's 'Bombay' rejecting his son's love marriage with a Muslim girl and refusing to own him any more.But the birth of grand children became a natural precedent to family reunion,made feelings of anger and hatred mellow down into an unbridled flow of paternal concern. Prabu Deva pictured Nassar as a dignified police officer, devoutly grooming his son in that line and protectively hiding his identity from the hell bent gangsters It was a role combining dedication to police service with deep love for his only son.In all the roles, he played, Nassar has never failed to reflect the subtle dimensions of fatherhood, with elegance and depth.
Delhi Ganesh with his modest voice modulation, succinct underplay of emotions and balanced approach, has drawn a specific line for himself as a preferred actor to do father characters in a real life mode. All those who saw 'Anadam' would have been carried away by his true portrayal of the head of a joint family, after a pretty long gap of watching a joint family show on the big screen.There are many father characters in real life, who literally belong to the chain of governance of families and happily refrain from owning full authority, for running the routine of a family, either big, or small. Delhi Ganesh is the true representative of this breed of meek fathers and he has never faltered to create a mark, how ever brief his appearance has been.One would see in Delhi Ganesh, a sweet mixture of S.V.Subbiah and V.Nagaiah,the veteran father actors of the previous millennium.
Director and actor Manivannan has been a lovely father, in quite a lot of movies.In taking up father characters,Manivannan seems to have T.S.Balaiah's frame of mind and M.R.Radha's form of delivery.His frequent mood swings belong to those of Balaiah and voice shift would echo those of M.R.Radha. Very often one can notice him, shuttling between humour and anger but it is his strong paternal show that matters for us.This is because,Manivannan shows his anger only to others and not to his children.In 'Vaanavil' he was a devoted father motivating his son [Arjun]in all respects,in order to see him as an IAS officer.He would passionately attend to all the needs of his son,sometimes making it delicate for his son. His paternal affection and friendliness made a sweep in films like 'Vaseegara','Minsaarakanna' [Vijay as his son]and 'Sullan'[Danush as son].But as a doting father of daughters,he would not hesitate to show his angry outbursts against their lovers in 'Ennavale' and 'Youth'.In 'Ellaam Avan Seyal' he was a poor helpless father like his predecessor father actor V.Nagaiah.
Vijayakumar revelled in father roles roaring like Sivaji Ganesan in 'Aaaha' [directed by Suresh Krishna],'Naattaamai',and 'Natpukkaga'. In a totally opposite frame, as a subdued father, he did a very good job in films like 'Mudhalvan','Aanadha Poongatre' .The pattern of his voice and its captivating modulation have been the supporting factors for revealing affection and authority in a clear presentation.
Raj Kiran a rugged hero of the Eighties has transformed himself into an actor capable of donning daddy roles with dignity,dynamism and a power source in films like 'Sandakkozhi' and 'Kaavalan' . The same actor beautifully portrayed the role of a most loving but disciplined father and police head- constable with the only ambition of seeing his son as a police officer and this film 'Kreedom' [of Balaji's Sujatha Cine Arts' production and a remake of a Malayalam movie with the same title] was an interesting addition to the list of films of this budding father actor.
Raguvaran's genuine portrayal of the softer side of fatherhood showed his uniqueness in doing father roles.He was a friendly, tolerant father enduring the sad impact of the vagaries of his sons both in 'Love Today'[Vijay as son] and in 'Yaaradi Nee Mohini' [Danush].In both the films,his sudden death brought a positive change in attitude and behaviour of his sons.The spirit of understanding and outstanding affection evinced by this endearing father made his sons long more for him in his absence Even as a father with a criminal background, one could find his love for his daughters as a redeeming trait in films like 'Amarkalam' and 'Baadsha'.Raguvaran's sudden death in real life too, has made us long for this tall man with talent for roles of fatherhood.
Along with this line of father actors have joined recently, heroes of name like Prabu and Bagyaraj to create paternal footprints of their own.But what has always surprised us is the puzzle of most villain actors doing wonders in father characters.How come, a mindset for villainy gets conveniently shifted to softer emotions like love,concern and sympathy mingled with the might of male authority. Starting from M.R.Radha to the latest Manivannan, all those who were distinct villains in their respective independent acting mode, have struck indelible impressions, each one marking an identity of their own .The inherent attributes of fatherhood are the ability to mix affection with authority in right proportion and govern the family with confidence in oneself and faith in the integral segments of the love-knit institution.If any actor is found capable of fixing his mood and attitude in a right mix and sells himself as a father with a pattern and punch of presentation,one becomes a perfect father figure.