dil dhadakne do - hindi films on dysfunctional families

Movies about dysfunctional families are a genre unto themselves. You’ll usually find fractured parent-child relationships, secrets, maybe an ex-marital affair, a dark past, angry confrontations, and a reunion at the end. Five years ago, Zoya Akhtar created one of the finest dysfunctional families in Dil Dhadakne Do – the wealthy Mehras of Delhi. She packed in all the usual tropes but also gave us a layered and sensitive insight into Indian families and relationships. On the fifth anniversary of the film, we recommend 5 other Hindi films that did the same. Some of these explore dark and disturbing themes, and some are light entertainment. But all of these are worth a watch.  

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

Director: Mira Nair 

Mira Nair’s superbly observed behind-the-scenes portrait of a Delhi wedding reveals the inherent irony of the Great Indian Family: Overselling functionality is, in itself, the loudest sign of dysfunctional life. The Vermas jump through status and ego hoops only to realise that their hidden flaws – now out in the open – are what make them human.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994) 

Directors: Karan Johar and Sooraj Barjatya

Both these films probably didn’t set out to be ‘dysfunctional family movies’. In fact, they were meant to set of the bar high for every big Indian family. But on hindsight, a family that pushes their recently widowed son to marry his sister-in-law so that she could raise his child (HAHK) and a mother who can sense her sons footsteps from a mile away (K3G) is pretty… dysfunctional. 

Udaan (2010)

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane 

The alcoholic father’s (Ronit Roy) brand of dysfunctionality is a toxic blend of regressive small-town mentalities and the violent streak he picked up from his own demanding father. He orders his sons to call him ‘sir’, cruelly snuffs out their dreams and beats the younger one so brutally, he’s taken to the hospital with internal bleeding. The result is two children who alternate between being shellshocked into silence or getting into fights of their own, perpetuating the cycle. Now on his third marriage, there’s little hope of the cycle being broken, until his sons finally manage to escape his iron fist.

Titli (2014)

Director: Kanu Behl 

Kanu Behl’s deep dive into the dark underbelly of East Delhi depicts the most primal dimension of dysfunctional life: the violence of survival. The story of a boy struggling to escape the brutal “family business” of car-jacking subverts the coming-of-age urban narratives in which young protagonists embrace the idiosyncrasies of imperfect lineage.

Kapoor & Sons (2016)

Director: Shakun Batra 

Dysfunctionality is so embedded into the DNA of this family that even when they set out to do right, their efforts create discord. The mother’s (Ratna Pathak Shah) bid to kick-start one child’s career sows the seeds of years-long distrust and suspicion between him and his brother. While the father (Rajat Kapoor) finds solace in that fact that he isn’t physically abusive, he fails to recognize how cheating on wife and belittling his younger son could produce equally long-lasting scars. Even outsiders aren’t impervious. Watch the scene with the plumber to see just how contagious the family’s unrest is.

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