'Dear Dad': What if your dad is gay? (Review By Subhash K. Jha ; Rating: ***1/2 )
It takes a whole lot of guts to make a film on alternate sexuality in India, specially when you are a first-time director. Tanuj Bhramar has pushed the envelope out of the closet as far as possible. And then some more.
It's impossible to imagine a debutant director going so far down the road of unorthodox sexuality when he knows the pitfalls ahead. This road movie, shot in scenic mountainous spots in and around Mussourie, opens a can of worms. It's the story of a happy successful seemingly functional family falling apart when the patriarch Nitin Swaminathan decides to come out of the closet.
The judiciously cast Arvind Swamy boldly goes where no Bollywood actor would venture. He takes off on a journey, both introspective and literal, with his teenaged son Shivum. When the shocking life-changing revelation happens, all hell breaks loose.
The director refrains from throwing judgement values in our somewhat shocked faces. His characters do what they do, are what they are... We are persuaded to enter their troubled, torn world with no room for moral evaluations. The fact that Arvind Swamy and young Himanshu Sharma play the father and son with pitch-perfect anguish, makes the director's job so much easier.
For most of the 90-minute soul-searching excursion, the director gives his characters room to breathe easily. Apart from the father and son, an interesting third protagonist enters the plot to stir up the simmering cauldron of the confessional.
He is a reality television winner, strutting around like star in a world obsessed with illusions. Before the film ends, this reality TV brag-product becomes a more real and bearable entity.
Aman Uppal plays the character's journey from insufferably self-obsessed to sensitive with plenty of conviction and pleasure. His reaction when Nitin tells him that he is gay is partly incredulous ("But you're married, with kids!"), and partly unaccepting. Fully credible.
The film's picaresque design and picturesque locales (well-shot by Mukesh G) has several heartwarming stopovers. When father and son take a break to visit the father's parents -- the affable mother (played by Indu Ramchandani) nursing a vegetable husband -- tells Arvind Swamy, "I never thought I'd reach a stage in my life when just hearing your father fart is reassuring."
While such moments reveal beautifully written lines, well-delivered by under-used actors, a whole episode involving Shivum's attempts to find a "cure" for his father's homosexuality from a weird godman is so obtrusively out of step with the rest of the serene narrative that you wonder why any director would attempt to kill the impact of such an venturesome story with such tacky humour.
Luckily, "Dear Dad" is strong enough to withstand extraneous attacks. It is a strong subject and a potentially powerful film replete with the tenderness and brutality that those whom we love tend to thrust on us when pushed to the wall.
My favourite exchange in the film occurs towards the end when Nitin's ex-wife (Ekaval Khanna) retorts cruelly to Nitin's dislike for her new husband.
"Well, at least he's straight," says the wife, not unreasonably.
"Ouch," says our hero, now happily out of the closet, though still single and a devoted father. Though this is a film about painful revelations, "Dear Dad" is not a sad film. It doesn't celebrate human frailty. But it tells us it's okay to be what we are, who we are and never mind why we are what we are.
Good performances keep 'Dear Dad' afloat ( Review By Troy Ribeiro, Rating: **)
After all the brouhaha last week about Mother's Day celebrations, Tanuj Bhramar's "Dear Dad" comes in time to cheer dads, especially those who have a secret to share. It is a story about acceptance.
A father-son bonding film that takes place on a road trip from Delhi to Manali, the tale revolves around a family, whose bubble of happiness is about to burst soon.
Nitin (Arvind Swamy) and his wife are to part ways. His teenaged son Shivam (Himanshu Sharma) has to return to hostel. Nitin insists on driving him there with the aim of breaking the news along the way.
En route to Manali, the duo take a break at Nitin's parents' place so that Shivam can meet his grandparents before his school semester starts. It is when Nitin spends a few minutes with his ailing father that he shares a secret that is bothering him for a long time. Unfortunately, Shivam happens to overhear the confession and this creates an abrasion in their relationship.
How Nitin deals with his son forms the crux of the tale.
The story written by Gadadahari Singh is simple and straightforward. But the script falters when Shivam plans the redemption of his dad. The complexities of the situation are ironed out in the screenplay, making the plot seem unrealistic and farfetched. But that is a minor scuff in the otherwise unpretentious and modest narration.
Though predictable in its approach, the scenes make your heart warm up to the father and son, whose characters are well-chiselled. The rest of the cast all play secondary characters.
Arvind Swamy, who makes an appearance in a Hindi film after a long hiatus as Nitin, is endearing and soulful. He is so natural with his character that he makes the atmosphere believable and acceptable. His chemistry with his young co-star Himanshu Sharma, who plays his son Shivam, is also unassuming and real.
Himanshu Sharma matches Arvind in histrionics displaying especially his naivette and the enthusiasm of the younger generation. The way he questions his father is adorable and the conversations between them are also relatable.
They are well supported by the rest of the cast, especially, Aman Uppal, who plays the frothy celebrity Aditya Taneja. He is a competent actor and delivers his part with equal gusto.
Shivam's principal in a two-scene role leaves her mark and equally charming is the child artiste who plays Vidhu, Shivam's sister.
Visually, Mukesh G.'s cinematography beautifully captures the locales and the mood of the tale. His frames are brilliantly layered with Karan Gour's background score comprising mostly of Indian instrumentals.
The film includes tracks put together by Raghav-Arjun and Ujjwal Kashyap. These well composed songs "Ghira", "Chhota hoon main" and "Jo bhi ho" mesh well into the narrative.
Overall, "Dear Dad" is a sweet film. Watch it if you are an Arvind Swamy fan.
'Dear Dad' is a bittersweet coming of age story; involving a father-son duo-14
year old Shivam, and his 45 year old dad Nitin Swaminathan. The father-son
duo embarks on an impromptu road trip from their home, in Delhi, to Mussorie
(Uttarakhand), where Shivam attends boarding school. Unexpected confessions,
weird strangers, accidental meetings, a drunken escapade and singing in the
rain- all these add up to a complicated and sweet tale.