"What am I without Dad?"
In the effervescent world of Bollywood, father-son dramas have always entertained and gripped audiences.
In the realm of familial ties and interpersonal relationships, Indian movies have explored many bonds with charm and sensitivity.
Whether it be through the lenses of conflict or love, Bollywood has produced countless odes to the complicated relationship between fathers and sons.
For those who loved Ranbir Kapoor’s enthralling saga Animal (2023), there will undoubtedly be a thirst to see more material that highlights the relatable father-son bond.
DESIblitz presents a cinematic journey that will introduce you to 15 compelling father-son dramas.
Aawaara was one of the first father-son dramas to place this relationship at the forefront of the material.
The film was directed by the iconic showman Raj Kapoor. He also stars as Raj in the film.
Raj Sahab’s real-life father Prithviraj Kapoor features as Judge Raghunath.
This epic film tells the story of Raj facing Raghunath in court, unaware that the man deciding his fate is his father.
The sizeable conflict between father and son is gripping and emotionally rousing.
When all is revealed, it makes for a heart-wrenching climax in which Raghunath finally accepts his son.
Discussing Aawaara, blue-chip filmmaker Karan Johar recommended the film to millennial viewers, thereby appreciating its elements.
Among those elements of romance and self-discovery, the father-son relationship is an undeniable highlight.
When it comes to the enduring classics of Indian cinema, few films glisten with glory quite like Mughal-E-Azam.
This historical drama narrates the love story of Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar) and Anarkali (Madhubala).
However, that story is incomplete without the complex layer of the mighty Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor).
An actor of humongous gravitas and incomparable talent, Prithviraj Sahab brings Akbar to life uniquely and unforgettably.
Furious to learn that his son Salim is in love with Anarkali, Akbar throws her in prison.
Determined not to back down, Salim declares war on his father.
Mughal-E-Azam is known for its breath-taking romance. However, the battle between father and son is what makes the romance all the more tragic.
One just has to see the rage burning in the eyes of Akbar and Salim to witness a hatred never seen before in Bollywood.
It induces just as much passion as the love between Salim and Anarkali.
Shakti is notable for being the first and only film to feature veteran actors Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan onscreen together.
The thespian Dilip Sahab disappears into the role of the unrelenting police character DCP Ashwini Kumar.
He is the father to Amitabh’s character Vijay Kumar. In his childhood, Vijay is kidnapped by criminal JK Varma (Amrish Puri).
Vijay is devastated to overhear that Ashwini will not release a prisoner to save Vijay’s life.
Tormented by his own father’s lackadaisical attitude towards him, Vijay grows up into a criminal himself.
The void between father and son is heartbreaking to see as both Dilip Sahab and Amitabh deliver career-defining performances.
During the climax, Ashwini is forced to fatally shoot his son. In Vijay’s dying moments, both father and son admit they had always loved each other very much.
Earning widespread critical acclaim, Shakti is one of Indian cinema’s most powerful father-son dramas.
For Shakti, Dilip Sahab won the Filmfare ‘Best Actor’ award in 1983.
Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom is filled with aching desire, shameful decisions, and moral dilemmas.
Masoom sees Devendra Kumar ‘DK’ Malhotra (Naseeruddin Shah) grapple with guilt as his illegitimate son Rahul Malhotra (Jugal Hansraj) disrupts his perfect marriage.
Harrowing scenes in the film show Rahul run away from home after discovering that DK is his father.
Unable to tolerate his sadness, DK’s wife Indu Malhotra (Shabana Azmi) stops Rahul and accepts him into the family.
The father-son relationship is underscored when DK goes camping and horse rides with Rahul – things he never did with his daughters.
Anupama Chopra, from Film Companion, comments on the emotion shown in Masoom:
“Masoom is designed to wring your heart like a towel.”
Filled with unnerving performances and adorned with a disarming story, the film is compelling and one of Bollywood’s unmissable classics.
Adhikar is one of Bollywood’s most charming father-son dramas.
The film perfectly encapsulates the undying love between a father and his son, with no external forces strong enough to intercept this bond.
In the movie, former racing jockey Vishal (Rajesh Khanna) lives a peaceful life with his son Lucky (Lucky).
However, he keeps him hidden from his mother Jyoti (Tina Munim). She re-enters their lives, leading to palpable courtroom drama.
The love that Vishal and Lucky share shines like a jewel in the film. It is the lamp that lights the iconography in several scenes.
This heartwarming relationship is underlined via Kishore Kumar’s chartbuster ‘Main Dil Tu Dhadkan‘.
Topped with an electric chemistry between Rajesh and Tina, Adhikar is an ode to the family.
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992)
Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar fabulously intertwines sport with father-son relationships.
This cycling drama sees Aamir Khan take on the role of Sanjaylal ‘Sanju’ Sharma.
Sanju and Ratanlal ‘Ratan’ Sharma (Mamik Singh) are sons to Ramlal Sharma (Kulbhushan Kharbanda).
Ratan desperately desires to win the annual cycle race and Ramlal works hard to support him.
This support creates a distance between Ramlal and Sanju. The latter believes that a cruel partiality is created in favour of Ratan.
Saurabh Garg, from aboutSG, shines a light on Ramlal’s character as a father:
“He’s saving as much as he can and for that, he’s literally pinching pennies.
“If this is not how a father ought to be, I don’t know what could one be.
“And despite the flaws, he is perfect and commands respect.”
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar has the journey of sons at its core. It is thus one of the greatest father-son dramas in Bollywood.
Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995)
Continuing with the ace actor-director duo of Aamir Khan and Mansoor Khan, Akele Hum Akele Tum is an underdog of father-son dramas.
Adapted from Kramer vs Kramer (1979), this film sees Aamir as the struggling singer Rohit Kumar.
His self-centered ways cause his wife Kiran Kumar (Manisha Koirala) to leave him.
This makes Rohit the sole carer of their son Sunil ‘Sonu’ Kumar (Adil Rizvi).
The love and sacrifice for Sonu changes Rohit. By the latter part of the film, the thoughtful, caring father seems a far cry from the egotistic singer.
When the teary-eyed Rohit takes the stand during the custody battle, the audience immediately feels anguish at the prospect of him and Sonu potentially separating.
It is surprising that Mansoor initially wanted Anil Kapoor as Rohit.
Aamir brings complexity and depth to the role. When one talks about Aamir Khan films from the ’90s, this is somewhat underrated.
However, the truth is that Akele Hum Akele Tum is a triumph of familial love over materialistic aspiration.
Helmed by Ravi Chopra, Baghban is often touted as a romance between Raj Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan) and Pooja Malhotra (Hema Malini).
Despite this, in its heart, the film is one of the most powerful father-son dramas.
Baghban seamlessly melds love, turmoil, and dependence through a lens of generational difference.
The film sees Raj and Pooja feel abandoned by their four sons and their wives. The children separate their parents and view them as nothing but burdens.
Raj only experiences a son’s love from his adopted son Alok Malhotra (Salman Khan).
In a scene of Baghban, Hemant Patel (Paresh Rawal) emotionally talks about the ungrateful sons of Raj.
He declares: “If children are like this, it’s good that we don’t have kids.”
This signifies that relationships, though created by blood, are crafted and built by love and respect.
Waqt: The Race Against Time (2005)
Waqt: The Race Against Time follows the story of Ishwar Chandra Thakur (Amitabh Bachchan) and his spoiled, self-entitled son Aditya ‘Adi’ Thakur (Akshay Kumar).
Ishwar throws Adi out of the house when the latter finds out he is going to become a father.
This is so Adi can understand his new responsibilities and forthcoming challenges.
Although Adi does become a dutiful and conscientious man, he resents Ishwar for the harshness that he exhibited to him.
All of that changes when a dying Ishwar bonds with his son, as Adi prays for his father to see the birth of his son.
Film critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh from Bollywood Hungama praises the film. He mentions the familial chord struck in the film:
“On the whole, Waqt: The Race Against Time is a well-made family entertainer that makes you laugh and cry, thanks to the strong emotional quotient in the film.
“Here’s a film that should strike a chord with every family.”
Gandhi, My Father (2007)
Feroz Abbas Khan directs this biographical film.
Gandhi, My Father displays the intricate relationship between freedom fighter Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Darshan Jariwala) and his son Harilal Gandhi (Akshaye Khanna).
Gandhi, My Father abandons unconditional feelings of respect to create a layered and strained father-son relationship.
Harilal and Gandhi have different dreams – Harilal wants to become a barrister while Gandhi nurtures hopes that his son will join him in his quest for freedom.
Gandhi’s abandonment destroys Harilal. It ruins his marriage and financial security.
Amidst political tension and patriotic complexity, Harilal and Gandhi grow further apart. This leads to Harilal attending his father’s funeral as a stranger and not as a son.
The tragic saga ends with Harilal departing the world alone and destitute.
Philip French, from The Guardian, describes Gandhi, My Father as “one of the most revealing and courageous movies ever to come out of India.”
Brushed with tragedy and ego, the film has established itself as one of the most despondent father-son dramas.
Wake Up Sid (2009)
For Animal lovers, it will be exciting to know that that film is not the only father-son drama Ranbir Kapoor has starred in.
Ayan Mukerji’s coming-of-age tale Wake Up Sid is a testament to growing up and appreciating one’s family.
Ranbir stars as Siddharth ‘Sid’ Mehra, the aimless, spoiled son of business tycoon Ram Mehra (Anupam Kher).
When Sid fails his college exams, a thunderous argument with Ram forces him to leave home.
He moves in with the ambitious Aisha Banerjee (Konkona Sen Sharma). In her company, Sid learns the value of hard work and sincerity.
During a heart-to-heart with her, Sid wonders: “What am I without Dad? What is my own identity?”
When Sid achieves his first pay cheque, he proudly reconciles with Ram who tells him:
“You have grown up, my son. Promise me that whatever you do, you will do sincerely.”
This scene is a classic example of conveying a lot through so little.
The relationship between father and son thaws and leads to Sid going back home.
Wake Up Sid proves that a son has to emerge from the shadow of his father to create his own identity.
R Balki’s Paa is described as “a very rare father-son-son-father story.”
Amitabh Bachchan undergoes a magnificent transformation in Paa which symbolises the art of prosthetics and make-up.
In the film, Amitabh plays Auro Arte, a 12-year-old cheerful schoolboy with a rare genetic defect known as progeria.
The disease causes Auro’s body to age rapidly, in complete contrast to his real age.
Auro is the son of MP Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan) and Dr Vidya Bharadwaj (Vidya Balan).
Amol disowns Vidya when he finds that she is pregnant. However, a series of events leads him to re-enter Auro’s life.
When Amol discovers that Auro is his son in the latter’s last days, he expresses:
“I’m so glad I didn’t have a condom with me.”
Paa is one of Bollywood’s original father-son dramas that sees an off-screen father-son duo swap roles on celluloid.
The film was one of the biggest successes of the year and earned Amitabh a Filmfare ‘Best Actor’ award in 2010.
Rajat Barmecha becomes Rohan Singh in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan.
In this painful saga, Rohan is forced to return home to his abusive father Bhairav Singh (Ronit Roy) who is also addicted to alcohol.
Rohan dreams of becoming a writer and tries everything he can to free himself from Bhairav’s clutches.
Udaan is an asymmetrical portrait of power, in which the beatings of Bhairav only strengthen Rohan’s willpower and resolve.
Film critic Rajeev Masand underlines the resonance of Udaan:
“Udaan is packed with moments that will resonate with every viewer because they mirror real experiences.
“It’s one of the best films this year, and one you will carry in your heart for years.”
Flavoured with powerful performances and important wake-up calls about violence and parental pressure, Udaan is imperative viewing.
102 Not Out (2018)
In 2018, veteran actors Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor came together for a witty and feel-good film.
They previously starred together in classics including Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), and Coolie (1983).
102 Not Out showcases the actors as father and son.
Amitabh plays Dattatray Vakharia – a happy-go-lucky centenarian who threatens to send his grumpy 75-year-old son Babulal Vakharia to a home in the guise of reforming him.
Babulal is fantastically brought to life by Rishi Kapoor. Both actors portray a charming, loveable relationship.
The film blends humour and emotion with an equal balance. It is a perfect suggestion of how age is not an obstacle in father-son dramas.
The protection that a father can feel towards his son is shown when Dattatray tells Babulal:
“I won’t let your son defeat my son.”
The beautifully choreographed number ‘Badumbaaa‘ is a fun-filled testament to the connection of a father and son.
Gadar 2 (2023)
The sequel to the 2001 mega-blockbuster Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Gadar 2 takes on a different approach to its predecessor.
Gadar: Ek Prem Katha gorgeously presented the love story of Tara Singh (Sunny Deol) and Sakeena ‘Sakku’ Ali Singh (Ameesha Patel).
Gadar 2 somewhat shifts the focus to the relationship between Tara and his son Charanjeet ‘Jeete’ Singh (Utkarsh Sharma).
Jeete travels to Pakistan to find his father, who returns home on his own.
After this, Tara arrives in Pakistan to rescue Jeete from the wrath of Hamid Iqbal (Manish Wadhwa).
Gadar 2 is packed with powerful dialogues, carefully crafted renditions, and soul-stirring scenes.
The bond between Tara and Jeete is cemented deep into the roots of Gadar. It is presented majestically in Gadar 2.
Gadar 2 became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of 2023.
That would not have happened without the impeccable father-son relationship between the characters.
Bollywood father-son dramas are known to lure audiences into a world of complexity and emotions.
They present characters who have love embedded into their souls.
They sometimes also have rage and power brimming at the surface, which increases the heartbreak and turmoil of the story.
In the realm of Indian cinema, this relationship is explored with originality and unflinching spirit.
So, gather your popcorn and prepare to embrace the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons.