Films across timelines have portrayed the many shades of parenting. The four shorts in the recent Netflix anthology Paava Kadhaigal threw light on various styles of parenting — from fathers who crush their children's spirits and those who kill for honour, to one who nurtures a child who has been hurt. Tamil cinema has had its fair share of loving fathers, films that celebrated the 'appa sentiment'. Here's a list of Tamil films that ticked all the boxes for supportive, loving fathers.
Raghuvaran as Shekar
The late Raghuvaran is more known for his long streak as a menacing antagonist, donning roles such as the dreaded gangster Mark Antony in Baasha and tainted Chief Minister Aranganathar in Mudhalvan. But, Mani Ratnam's Anjali tapped into his soft side. Raghuvaran beautifully portrays Shekar, a father who makes a questionable decision about his third child to protect his family. Raghuvaran lends Shekar dignity and grace, and a tenderness when he bonds with his third-born. A huge departure from the over-the-top father characters that were the norm in the 90s.
Sivaji Ganesan as Periya Thevar
The legendary actor has revelled in roles where he plays the dignified elder, a person with principles. He's done them before, when much younger, in Uyarndha Manithan and Thanga Pathakkam, to name two. Things are a little different in Thevar Magan, though. Apart from playing father to his cinematic prodigy Kamal Hassan, what makes Sivaji's portrayal of Periyar Thevar different from the rest of his fatherly roles is the vulnerability of the character. From coming to terms with his elder son's alcoholism and younger son's progressive mindset to handling the family feud between his younger half brother, he delves into the nuances of the character. The confrontation sequence between Kamal Hassan and Sivaji Ganesan on a rainy night — colloquially known as the 'Vedha naan pottadhu' scene — is screenplay gold.
Prakash Raj as Raghuraman
Director Radha Mohan's adaptation of the 1950 classic Father of the Bride tells a coming-of-age story of a father and daughter, played by Prakash Raj and Trisha. The film is all about Raghuraman, an estate owner in Ooty who is very overprotective of his only daughter. Prakash Raj puts in a stellar performance as a father whose calm is disrupted when his daughter decides to wed a Sikh man. He tries hard to come to terms with it, tries his best to ruin things, before he realises his flaws and realises that joy lies in acceptance. The pride on Prakash Raj's face when his daughter does something well has to be seen!
Rajinikanth as Manickam
What's the common factor between Annamalai and Padaiyappa? Both movies starred Rajinikanth as a middle-aged father in the latter half of the film, and both took their plot reference from the 1984 blockbuster Nallavanukku Nallavan, directed by SP Muthuraman. This was an inspired remake of the Telugu hit Dharmathmudu. Nallavanukku Nallavan showed the viewer a different Rajinikanth. A substantial portion of the film deals with the tumultuous relationship between a father and his daughter. Though melodramatic, Manickam is still considered one of Rajinikanth's best performances. Even the 'Oru Pen Pura' song from Annamalai has similarities to the 'Chittuku Sella Chittuku' track in this film.
Kamal Hassan as Krishnaswamy
The gut-wrenching tale of a widower who is duped and put behind bars, before he finally manages to go in search of his kids. From the brutal abuse in jail to the congested gullies of Sonagachi, Kamal Hassan's Krishnaswamy goes through turmoil that can break any hard-hearted human. Director Santhana Bharathi explores the depth of paternal love through the wonderful performer that is Kamal Hassan. If you're in the mood for a good cry, revisit the Sonagachi segment of the film.
Suriya as Krishnan
Director Gautham Vasudev Menon took inspiration from real-life people, including his father, while crafting the character of Krishnan, the charmer who sways his girlfriend and then builds a life with her and their children. Suriya plays both father and son in this film, and as the son narrates the role his father played in his life, you see Krishnan in a new light. Suriya went through an intense physical transformation to play the ageing father and the rebellious son who later goes on to join the Army. This film was a lovely ode to fathers from a director who played the nurturing father in Paava Kadhaigal.
Vikram as Krishna
Deiva Thirumagal was an apt choice for Vikram to exhibit his histrionic abilities. As Krishna, a differently-abled father whose life is his daughter Sara, he stole hearts. Backing him was an excellent supporting cast in the form of Anushka Shetty, Amala Paul, Santhanam and Sara. Though the film takes inspiration from Hollywood courtroom drama I am Sam, director AL Vijay crafts an engaging fare with an impressive performance by its lead.
Dhanush as Sivasaami Kudumban
The film might be Vetri Maaran's most commercial attempt in storytelling, but it sure has its heart in the right place. If you analyse it closely, you might see similarities to Rajinikanth-starrer Baasha, which follows the "a man conceals his dark past for the betterment of his family" trope. Hot-headed Sivaswamy turns a new leaf and tries to keep his sons away from violence, and this transformation comes alive in Dhanush's performance.