'Dear Dad' review: This Arvind Swamy-starrer is well-intentioned, but loses steam
Aligarh, Kapoor & Sons and now Dear Dad – it’s heartening to see diverse films touching on the theme of alternative sexuality in a variety of ways.
While Aligarh was a hard-hitting real-life story about a simple man, professor Siras, persecuted for his private life and preferences, Kapoor & Sons had a handsome (Fawad Khan), successful, upwardly mobile character forced to come out of the closet to his family.
Writer-director Tanuj Bhramar explores a coming of age story as the father of a teenage son decides to come out to him during a road trip. Nitin (Arvind Swamy) drives his son Shivam (Himanshu Sharma) to boarding school in Mussoorie with the plan of sharing his secret along the way.
Bhramar does not drag along the moment of reveal for long, but once Shivam has learnt his father’s truth, the screenplay splutters along. It feels like there was a good idea at the core, but its effectiveness as cinema is limited.
Just when the script could have displayed emotional complexities and conflict between father and son, the otherwise clear-headed father, determined to keep his son’s faith, offers a lift to a small-time reality TV star randomly hitchhiking in Uttarakhand. Thereby derailing the exact function of the road trip.
Then, inexplicably, farce and silliness enter the narrative. Misconceptions and common narrow-mindedness are perfunctorily dismissed, such as ‘it’s an illness which can be cured’. But Google tells Shivam that’s untrue. There’s a gratuitous scene with Shivam and his best friend visiting a baba type who hands them a mixture designed to ‘cure’ Nitin.
Of course, its only outcome is a debilitating stomachache. Interestingly, it’s the ‘himbo’ reality TV star, played by Aman Uppal, who shows unexpected sensitivity and open-mindedness to Nitin’s hurt.
Shivam’s parents are headed for divorce. But the story is told only from the perspective of the father. The mother’s dilemma might make for a different film. Shivam goes back to school and, a few months later, is reunited with his parents at a prize giving.
And herein lies the disappointment with Dear Dad – besides denial, it shies away from addressing real issues such as coping, recovery and reconciliation.
Swamy, whose Hindi film roles include Bombay (1995) and Raja Ko Rani Se Pyaar Ho Gaya (2000), brings some import to his part, and shares a gentle and believable camaraderie with Sharma. But there’s only so much the actors can do with a script that started off boldly but blinked when it mattered most.