Not sure if the movies, Aligarh as well as Kapoor and Sons paved the way to the entry of the gay theme as an important subject in Bollywood or not, but Dear Dad brings in other issues faced by the married gay men in India. It was quite a welcome relief to see another side of reality, which is very much prevalent in India, but has been for long swept under the carpet accompanied with an eerie silence vis-à-vis the same.
A dad who is gay man tries to explain his sexuality to his son while on a road trip to drop him off at his boarding school. The dad (Arvindswamy) is overheard by his son while he is speaking to his own dad (who is a paralytic) and in the story eventually has to run after his son in order to win back his love. It’s a story about father-son relationship and that of a gay husband – wife one. The reality show host is also thrown in to bring out the general opinions and the notions that normative stereotypical heterosexual men have towards gay men.
The story is very well done – very natural. The theme gets clear in the beginning itself and doesn’t let the viewer guessing what our Dear Dad is being pushed to tell his son by his own wife. So, from the beginning, as the frame opens it’s more about trying to help the little boy overcome his anxiety and fears. Fears one would have as a child, when one’s parents were on the verge of separation. The main plot flows easily and doesn’t stress you much. The innocence of the teenager also is portrayed well in the way he tries himself to help find a cure for his gay dad through a local druid sort of person. A much-needed response to all the quacks we face in today’s India who claim they have cures for homosexuality. Of course, the alternative cure only upsets the dad’s tummy when he unsuspectingly drinks water that was mixed with the curative powder. The way the story ends overwhelms and makes one choke a bit with a tear or two here and there every time either parent, spouse or child owns up to their mistake and are honest about their intentions.
Most issues faced by gay married men (either because they have been forced to marry a girl due to societal and family pressure or by choice, since they hadn’t figured their own sexuality themselves) are very beautifully seen in the way Arvindswamy struggles to explain things to his son. When he answers his angry son’s questions patiently, you can see the struggles he must have faced by doing what he did – marrying a girl. The son’s life is pretty simple – he doesn’t think his dad would be so complicated. He is not ashamed to share this reality with his best friend too. Such is the openness and the honesty of the child. Also, the way he makes up with his dad and understands that nothing can change his relationship with his dad shows how forgiving children can be when they are taught to accept things the way they naturally are. In this context, accept his dad’s sexuality.
The stranger (who I feel represents society and the general ignorant heterosexual Indian male) also undergoes a change of heart after listening to Arvind’s coming out story with his son. He also has fears that every gay man who pounces on him and gets a bit scared when he learns his temporary roommate is gay. The temp roomie has to re-assure him that first of all, he is not his type of guy and next that there also needs to be love in a relationship for a gay man too. This is the primary fear why our male dominated hetero-normative society feels insecure about any other sexuality. A fight we stand up to every day of our lives. Some give in. Some prevail.
The wife’s reaction too is wonderful. She is portrayed as a mature, rational person who is free to make her choices and be with the man she wishes to be. She does sound a bit patronising and pushy at times especially towards Arvind, but, hey! she was dealing with his problem and she also wanted an end to it so that she could carry on with her life too. What a welcome relief from the usual melodrama of breaking bangles and a sorrowful song with a smudged bindi this wife was!
Please watch it. If I remember right, it is rated U. Children should be exposed to such topics and sensitized at an early age. Films like these should be welcomed to be watched, since it brings about awareness and perhaps, one fine day, social change too. The point, I think, the film was making was that sexuality needs to be treated as a natural thing and should not be treated with much disgust and loads of drama.