For years now, the 'overprotective father' has been a well-worn trope in Bollywood, both on screen and off it.
We've had a fair share of benevolent dictator-type dads on the big screen, who're all about watching out for their beloved betis by enforcing super-strict rules and ensuring their upbringing is full of the appropriate quantities of parampara.
By chance or design, there's a similar over-protectiveness when it comes to Bollywood's real life betis as well: At one point, there was a consensus that daughters from film families would not work in the industry, while sons would.
Shweta Bachchan Nanda didn't work in the movies — although she has clearly stated that it wasn't because she was held back by anyone, but because she didn't want to be part of the 'goldfish bowl' that an actor's life devolves into. Neither did Riddhima Kapoor Sahni (her cousins Karisma and Kareena did/do have successful film careers; it's ascribed to their mother Babita). While Neetu Kapoor has previously said, "Neither Chintu (Rishi Kapoor) nor I told Riddhima not to work in films. Perhaps, because I had quit films, she presumed we didn’t want her to. We’ve never discussed it, she never brought it up herself, maybe she thought it would hurt us if she did. It’s also a question of the way you are brought up" there is some indication in Khullam Khulla (the to-be-launched Rishi Kapoor autobiography) that this was not entirely the case.
Sanjay Dutt was one of the fathers who openly stated that he did not want his daughter Trishala to join the film industry. In this interview from 2011, Dutt was quoted as saying, "I am not encouraging my daughter to do films at all. It never happens with the Dutts. My sisters or my niece could have been in the movies too, but that is not the way my father raised us. This is the way he wanted it. She is keen, but then she has studied forensic science, which is also a great career option. She will have to listen to me."
He reiterated the point in a 2013 interview as well. Whether Dutt's views have changed in the intervening years isn't known.
However, 'new age' fathers in Bollywood seem to be stepping away from the previous norm.
For instance, Saif Ali Khan has spoken out in favour of his daughter Sara's in-the-making film career. "It's a very creative and a wonderful job. I bless Sara for what she has learned. She has wanted to do this since she was two years old, but I asked her to finish college first. In fact, she has done theater in the US as well. She wants to enjoy the acting and not treat it as a superficial, glamorous profession," he said in an interview.
He also provided a counterpoint to the "big bad world of Bollywood" when he said: "Sara doesn’t need me to be protective, but if she does, I will be. I am concerned and protective about her, but she can look after herself, and it’s not such a scary place. The world outside is scarier. We are still good and decent people in Bollywood..."
Anil Kapoor too has never expressed any reservations about his daughter Sonam Kapoor joining the industry; in fact, she made her debut at a much younger age (22/23 when she did Saawariya in 2007) than her brother Harshvardhan (26; with Mirzya last October).
But it is Shah Rukh Khan's recent statements regarding his daughter Suhana that most recently caught our eye.
In an interview with Femina, Shah Rukh spoke about Suhana's acting ambitions, and how she's working on her skills by being involved in theatre. (His son Aryan is currently studying filmmaking.)
While the entire interview has several quotable quotes, here are a couple where SRK explains his 'take' on Suhana being an actress:
"I’d like her to be on the cover of magazines like all my heroines are, wear any kind of clothes she wants to wear, and look sexy and beautiful. I want her to feel attractive, beautiful and respected, and more importantly, I want her to work hard. There are days when I feel down — the only reason I get up and go to work is when I think of her. I have only one mandate where she’s concerned: she can act, but she has to study first."
"She can be an actor if she has the passion and guts to work five times harder than me and get paid 10 times less than I do, if times don’t change for women actors. I want her to experience what my female co-stars have gone through. My daughter will be an actor like them and I want (her) to feel the pain."
But he also asserted that he's a typical dad when it comes to the subject of Suhana's prospective dates. In fact, he came up with this list of rules for those hoping to date his teenage daughter:
1. Get a job.
2. Understand I don't like you.
3. I'm everywhere.
4. Get a lawyer.
5. She's my princess, not your conquest.
6. I don't mind going back to jail.
7. Whatever you do to her, I will do to you.