Unlike the mothers in Indian cinema, there haven’t been as many iconic father characters in Bollywood. However, Nitesh Tiwari is a filmmaker whose films – from Bhootnath Returnsto Dangal – have always had fathers play a key role or the main protagonists. In an exclusive conversation with CineBlitz, Nitesh talks about the characters that have inspired him to sketch his screen fathers and also reveals the films that make him cry each time. Excerpts:
Fathers have been the main protagonist in most of your films, where does the affection for the character come from?
Dangal is a personal experience. It was a story of these girls and their father Mahavir Singh that actually happened in real life. We had to do justice to what he had done in real life. It was not about how we think of him, but how he is in real life. Apart from that yes I create fathers in my movies. I create it on the lines of what I have observed, what I have lived and what I would what them to be. There is a personality that should come into account before creating them and not just be a character.
Who are the screen fathers that you have been inspired from?
I am in awe of three father characters – one is Dustin Hoffman from Kramer vs. Kramer, Sean Pen in I am Sam, and Roberto Benigni from Life is Beautiful. I completely relate to them as fathers because what happens with me is, I cry every time I watch Kramer vs. Kramer.Dustin Hoffman is not sort of involved in his kid’s day-to-day life. After the tragedy, he starts understanding his son and starts building a bond with him and the kind of journey they travel together. In the scene where Meryl Streep has left him and in the climax, the father and son are making the breakfast and he knows that this is the last time that they are together and he will go with his mother leaving the father behind. See you don’t need to be a superman to be a super father, you just need to do the regular things that fathers do and that is what makes you a great father.
It’s the same with I am Sam, how a mentally challenged man turns the whole world upside down for his daughter. Life is Beautiful is one of the most heartwarming story coming out of the World War and Renaissance. How the father makes sure that the son never realises what has happened and that is so beautiful and that is what every father tries to do.
Your story as a real-life father is also unique?
So, me and my wife (filmmaker Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari) we take turns. When she is travelling around, I am with the kids and vice-versa. And I love spending time with my kids.
Which scene from your films do you relate to as a parent the most?
If I have to tell you a scene that I completely relate to is from Dangal, it has to be by the climax where the father who is this strict person all the while kisses his daughter’s forehead. It is so relatable that we have seen our dads being tough, but they are sweet inside. And that is what makes fathers so special. Even with my kids wherever I need I am tough on them but apart from that it’s always love. I have to do that because kids don’t really know what is right and what is wrong. Also if you ask me about my characters, Pankajji’s (Pankaj Tripathi) character from Bareily ki Barfi is also dear to me. You see him, he doesn’t need to do too many things to prove he is a good father. He takes pride in his daughter in what she is. Even with all the unconventional things she does he allows her to do. Not just allow but he is cool with it.
What do you think has changed about fathers in cinema from yesteryear till now?
Emotions are universal, there is no benchmark as to how a father should be showcased. Different people will showcase their father characters in a different way. So, I don’t think fathers were any different in the past. Fathers were always fathers! It is just the time in which they were made. Looking at the cinema now maybe there is a realistic portrayal which is closer to your life. If you ask me my favourites from the old cinema – it would be Amar Akbar Anthony or a Waqt. Maybe I cannot relate to them but they are iconic.
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