Two movies. Two fictional fathers. Krishnan from Vaaranam Aayiram (2008), written and directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon and Bhairav Singh from Udaan (2010) directed by Vikramaditya Motwane (co-written with Anurag Kashyap). If you have watched both of these movies, you may have a slight idea why these two might be brought into a comparison here. To be honest, it's not the movies we are comparing but two fictional fathers, who might help us delve deeper into the concept of fatherhood in India and what we can learn from these two amazing stories.
There is a blink-and-miss line in Varaanam Aayiram where Krishnan offers a mild apology to Surya for using his room when he was out. Menon touched a minute chord there. Our Indian mentality teaches us not to even allow children to close their doors, even if they have a separate room. And here's Krishnan who apologises to his son for using his room in his absence. On the other hand we have Bhairav, who constantly reminds his sons Rohan and Arjun, 'My house. My rules.' Krishnan's household shines brightly almost all the time with laughter, soirées and light-hearted romance. Even during times of distress, there is a ray of hope. But Bhairav Singh's household felt good only when Rohan and Arjun left its door. This says a lot about why the environment we grow up in matters the most.
The Hostel Phenomenon:
In Vaaranam Aayiram, we can see Krishnan leaving Surya at his hostel with a great conversation. He says 'You're on your own now. En nizhal-la ne inime illa (You're not in my shadows anymore). We're two grown-up men now, okay?'. Whereas in Udaan, Bhairav wants to pack Arjun away at the age of six, as a way to deal with his silly shenanigans in school. On closer inspection, we can always see the reluctance in Bhairav regarding parenting and how he strongly believes that paying the bills for the minors in his house is sufficient parenting. One father (Krishnan) views the hostel as a place where teens have the space to grow up, away from the family safehold, and he believes in his child's ability to turn out good, in the face of a drastically different environment: Hostel life vidhyasama irukum. Nalla paiyana iru. Romba maaridatha, he says (Hostel life is different. Be a good lad. Don't change too much). He actively acknowledges the changes his child may go through. He only wishes for these changes to make him better. Whereas Bhairav views the hostel as a place that takes care of food and accommodation for his children and because they should require nothing more than that, they should concentrate on their studies. He didn't visit his son for eight years. Krishnan recommended his son write a letter to him daily — though, not in an imposing manner.
The Heart vs. The Mind:
As you must have already guessed, Krishnan represents 'The Heart' and Bhairav represents 'The Mind'. A classic battle that almost everyone wages at some point in their life. Being a father like Krishnan is always going to be a tough affair. Sometimes, when one thinks about their kids and their future, there is always a big chance the Bhairav side of us might overtake the Krishnan in us. And by doing so, crush a dream too many. These two movies are an example of what might happen if we push our Krishnan and Bhairav to their extremes. What will be the outcomes? Truthfully, it would be impossible to come up with a concrete answer. But we can compare and see Surya and Rohan's childhood to arrive at a starting point.
Idealism vs. Realism:
All these arguments of these two fictional fathers, Krishnan and Bhairav take us back to some of the basic philosophies based on which the world works: idealism vs. realism. Krishnan is the idealistic father we want or we want to be and Bhairav is the realistic portrayal of most Indian fathers. And as for all other things, we should always acknowledge the real while progressing toward the ideal. There are one too many Bhairavs in our country, fathering children who either break away from following the same path, like Rohan or end up turning exactly like their father. Once we acknowledge the real, the journey to the ideal lies ahead of us. And for the question 'What is ideal?', there is always the bespectacled Krishnan, smiling at the far end.