10 Tamil Films That Gave Us Poignant Father-Daughter Duos Before Bommai Nayagi

Many say, "A girl’s first true love is her father." And over the years, Tamil films have managed to capture this beautiful emotion on screen. Here are some titles that set some major Dad-Daughter goals
10 Tamil Films That Gave Us Poignant Father-Daughter Duos Before Bommai Nayagi

Yogi Babu dons the hat of a father in Bommai Nayagi, which promises to be a deeply emotional tale about a father’s pursuit in finding his missing daughter. In the two-and-a-half-minute trailer, you get to see Yogi Babu set up a shop in her name and celebrate the moment his daughter speaks in English. Yogi and his daughter also team up to take digs at her mother, enjoy a glass of tea together and stride along the beach. 

Films like Bommai Nayagi that portray the bonding between a father and a daughter make for a relatable and emotional big screen experience. Several actors including Kamal Haasan in Avvai Shanmugi (1996) and Ajith in Yennai Arindhaal (2015) have revelled in playing the role of a doting father. As we gear up for the release of Bommai Nayagi on February 3, here are Tamil films that remind you of the special bond, along with the joys and sorrow that tag along. 

Avvai Shanmugi (1996)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video 

On first impressions, one indeed gathers that Avvai Shanmugi is a masterfully crafted film — the perfect convergence of Crazy Mohan’s inimitable writing and Kamal Haasan’s versatile acting skills. Peel the layers away, and the film reveals itself to be a very honest depiction of a desperate father who goes to any extent to be with his beloved daughter.

The KS Ravikumar directorial is about Pandiyan (Kamal Haasan), a struggling dance choreographer who is divorced, and longs for his daughter's company. This leads him to pull off an outrageous plan to disguise himself as a nanny to reunite with her. Crazy Mohan’s screenplay draws heavy inspiration from Robin Williamson's Mrs Doubtfire and yet seamlessly refashions the essential beats of the story to suit the Tamil milieu. 

Kannathil Muthamittal (2002)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

A distinctive feature of Mani Ratnam’s cinema is that he often focuses on deeply personal stories set against the backdrop of a charged socio-political atmosphere. Kannathil Muthamittal is one such film, with the director operating at the peak of his powers. Ratnam brilliantly makes viewers feel the gravity of the situation affecting war-torn nations and, with equal ease, makes one connect with the emotions of a nine-year girl who bears the weight of the world on her shoulders when she finds out about her adoption.

The film is about Amudha  (Keerthana), who, along with her parents (R. Madhavan and Simran), searches for her biological mother in war-ravaged Sri Lanka. R Madhavan excels in the role of a father who makes his daughter realise how important she is in his and his wife's life. Through the framework of a father-daughter relationship, the film makes a very stirring plea for humanity, peace, and acceptance. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The pivotal moment in the film where Madhavan opens the umbrella as Amudha hugs her biological mother is not just visual poetry but also a perfect encapsulation of all the film's themes.

Mahanadhi (1994)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Many films on this list make one appreciate the beauty of the relationship between a father and a daughter. Yet, no other film quite captures the sheer horror and devastation that can occur when the innocence and idealism that the relationship is founded upon, stand destroyed by a tragic incident. Kamal Haasan’s screenplay makes tragedy the singular basis for showing how transformed an individual becomes when the lives of his children are at stake.

The film is about Krishnaswamy, a wealthy happy widower who lives with his two children and mother-in-law in the town of Tirunageswaram. His life completely falls apart when a scamster cons him into investing in a chit-fund business. He soon loses all his wealth and is framed for the scam. When he is released, he discovers that his daughter is sold into prostitution in the red-light area of Calcutta. For a film that relentlessly throws one disturbing event after another, depicting the world in all its ugliness, the moment in which Kamal Haasan goes searching for his daughter in the brothel and gets beaten by the pimps is the most searing example of Mahanadhi shaking our beliefs, and leaving us with an experience we'll never forget. 

Abhiyum Naanum (2008)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Radha Mohan's directorial Abhiyum Naanum, brims with a certain freshness and sincerity that strikes a chord. There is nothing novel about the plot, yet the treatment of the film, which smartly uses flashbacks to convey key moments in the life of Raghuram (Prakash Raj), as he watches his daughter Abhi (Trisha) grow into an independent, free-thinking girl, invests audiences in their story. This is one of the most relatable films on the list, as there is an observational, yet slightly exaggerated quality to all the proceedings in the film. Fathers could relate to the sheer joy that Raghuram experiences when his daughter is born, and may even find traces of themselves in the character as they watch him pamper Abhi. And daughters could perhaps find a reflection of their own selves in an older Abhi, as she asserts her choices to an increasingly protective Raghu.

Deiva Thirumagal (2011)

Streaming on: Mx Player

Can goodness and love conquer all odds? This is the central question that director AL Vijay’s Deiva Thirumagal seeks to explore. Vikram gives one of his best performances as a mentally-challenged father who struggles to get back the custody of his 7-year-old daughter. The film relies heavily on Vikram’s performance to convince us of its message, that the mentally challenged cannot be ostracised by society. This emotionally poignant film is a case study of how brilliant performances and earnest intentions can elevate a film's quality, and make it timeless, despite its flaws. 

Yennai Arindhaal (2015)

Streaming on: Voot, Hotstar, and Mx Player

If there was ever a poll made to pick an anthem defining father-daughter relationships, the song ‘Unnakena Vennum Sollu’ from Yennai Arindhaal would be a frontrunner. Trust Gautham Menon to imbue what is essentially a big star-led vehicle, with a degree of pathos, and sensitivity that enriches the overall quality of the film.

On the surface, Yennai Arindhaal plays out as a traditional cop vs gangster story with police officer Sathyadev (Ajith) being the embodiment of good, and Victor (Arun Vijay in a career-defining performance), the embodiment of evil. The story revolves around organ donation, and there is an element of revenge that propels the narrative. Yet, dig a little deeper, and one can argue that beneath all the “hero-hoot” moments, Yennai Arindhaal is a film about the relationship between a father and his daughter, with the father doing everything he can to foster the role of a single parent despite having no biological connections with his daughter. The scenes between Ajith and Baby Anika are very much the soul of the film. Ajith excellently portrays the conundrum of Sathyadev who is caught between fulfilling the responsibilities of a father and carrying out duties as a cop.  

Theri (2016)

Make no mistake, Theri is a big-mass movie, the kind where every moment where the hero is in action is a treat for the audience to celebrate their favourite star. Yet it is the way the film is structured that makes its emotional beats work. We are made to patiently wait, as the film takes its time and lets quieter moments dominate the narrative, as our anticipation increases for the “epic moment.” When the payoff does eventually come, it makes all the waiting time worth it.

The film is about Joseph Kuruvilla (Vijay), a former cop who goes into a self-imposed exile after the death of a loved one to take care of his daughter (Nanika Vidyasagar). But when his daughter’s life is threatened, he springs back to action. The chemistry between Nanika and Vijay works wonders, as the film displays the innocence and charm in their relationship, masking what’s under the surface, and acting as a perfect setup for all the mayhem to follow.

Peranbu (2019)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

The most disturbing entry on the list, director Ram’s Peranbu, is a deeply meditative take on acceptance and understanding, themes that make the film strangely hopeful despite the depressing subject matter.

The movie's basic premise is about a single father (Mammootty) who takes custody of his daughter afflicted with cerebral palsy and tries to raise her. Frustrated that society will not accept his daughter, he takes her to a place in nature that is removed from human interaction and brings her up. Unlike other father-daughter entries, the film is initially bereft of any emotional bonding between the two parties. Instead, we are dealt with a portrait of a hopeless father who has to come to terms with his daughter’s sexuality, undergoing a transformative journey in the process.

Kanaa (2018)

Streaming on:  Sony-Liv 

Some films are meant to be a celebration of life that turns even the most cliched, predictable storylines into a joyous big-screen experience. Kanaa is one such film. On one hand, the movie is an underdog tale of an underprivileged girl conquering all odds to fulfil her dream of representing the Indian cricket team. 
Even when following this largely predictable story, Kanaa manages to expand the scope of its narrative using a father-daughter relationship to explore issues that plague the farmers of our country. It is this ambition of Kanaa that makes it stand out in comparison to the regular fare.

Thanga Meenkal (2013)

Can a daughter be a guardian angel for her father who is struggling to make ends meet? The heartwarming story of director Ram’s Thanga Meenkal certainly suggests that.

Kalyani (Ram) who is in his 30s is constantly looked down by his father for his inability to find a job, and pay his daughter's school fees on time. Yet despite his problems, Kalyani’s only mission in life is to see his daughter Chellamma (Sadhana) happy at all costs. While Chellama faces the ire of her schoolteachers and classmates for being a slow learner, it is only Kalyani who understands her. The film is a testament to the strength of a father-daughter relationship and makes you believe in the power of love.

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