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Home > Mumbai Guide News > Things To Do News > Article > As Ranbir Kapoors Animal highlights troubled father son bonds experts discuss how to make amends this festive season

As Ranbir Kapoor's Animal highlights troubled father-son bonds, experts discuss how to make amends this festive season

Updated on: 11 December,2023 07:11 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Devashish Kamble | theguide@mid-day.com

As the recent Ranbir Kapoor-starrer sparks conversation around troubled father-son bonds, experts discuss how to make amends as the festive season reaches its crescendo

As Ranbir Kapoor's Animal highlights troubled father-son bonds, experts discuss how to make amends this festive season

Ranbir Kapoor and Anil Kapoor in a moment from the trailer of the movie, Animal. Pic Courtesy/Youtube

The truest reflection of the Indian masses probably resides within the walls of a cinema hall. When this writer had the misfortune of visiting one such hall to watch the newly-released Ranbir Kapoor starrer Animal last week, most scenes in the film that were labelled problematic and toxic by experts on social media, were met with roaring cheers, applause and an occasional whistle by the audience. Amidst this enduring frenzy, one act brought them to deafening silence. A neglected and overlooked son finally confronts his father, and in a rare moment, the father simply sits and listens. In a previously recorded interview that resurfaced recently, Kapoor shares his personal experiences while growing up in a troubled household, concluding with words that underline the issue’s supposed universal relatability — “Everyone goes through it.”


Psychologists and gender sociologists explore why the problem runs so deep in Indian households and how one can attempt to revive and foster better relationships as the upcoming festive season brings families under one roof.


Break the cycle


Unpleasant father-son relationships have been around for a while; portrayed in popular culture and mainstream media since time immemorial. Why do we fail to learn from our mistakes? Meghna Singhal, parent-child relationship counsellor, decodes the defining moment in a man’s life that leads him to choosing the same path as his forefathers.

Meghna Singhal, Ami Patel and Ayeshna DuttaMeghna Singhal, Ami Patel and Ayeshna Dutta

“Fathers often dismiss and belittle a son’s feelings and emotions to fit the patriarchal idea of a man. This teaches the child that expressing emotions does not get you anywhere. Gradually, the boys cut themselves off from their own emotions and become stoic. If a father is abusive, verbally or physically, it instils the idea that the ones closest to you will invariably hurt you; extending the gap between the child, and their emotions. These factors manifest themselves as and when they grow up and directly affect their partners and children; starting a new cycle of the same problems,” she reveals.

A two-way street

Ami Patel, psychotherapist, explains that both the problem and its solution lie in the way parenting is practised in India. She shares, “In our style of parenting, children are bombarded with expectations and a timeline to stand up to them. With sons, the timeline is sometimes even stricter. Conversely, there is no channel for the son to vocalise his expectations, aspirations and needs. They need a sense of autonomy and agency to truly flourish. Being independent, which is also frowned upon in Indian households, teaches them discipline and instils confidence in them in a natural and healthy manner.”

Singhal echoes the need for a revision of the concept of discipline, throwing some light on the toxic intertwining of fear and discipline. “There is a longstanding myth that showing affection is a gateway to spoiling a child. Following suit, fathers romanticise anger and fear and subsequently belittle and berate their sons in the pursuit of ingraining discipline. There is a fine line between discipline and punishment. Showing that you’re emotionally available by having candid conversations without coddling your child or being overprotective is the ideal middle road,” the counsellor remarks.

The bigger picture

Adding to her advice, Singhal points out the need for a complete reconstruction of a father’s role and duties as viewed by society at large, sharing that these changes can only come about when the constructs of patriarchy are broken. Gender sociologist Ayeshna Dutta offers perspective, “The most prominent marker is the portrayal of masculinity that a child experiences while growing up. It drives the way they perceive their role in their family and relationships. Running the risk of sounding too old-school, I believe that early exposure to violence, guns and the trending alpha male mentality inculcates these values deep into their psyche. Even institutions like schools, where children spend most of their developmental years, are clearly gendered with demarcated expectations for boys and girls. These lived experiences lead to the child becoming a toxic masculine figure later in life; which then impacts their personal relationships not only with their fathers, but also their romantic partners, mothers and sisters.”

Drive home the message

As the festive season continues, bringing families in the same room, and at the same table, navigating conversations can be tricky. Singhal suggests a fun game to lighten the mood at dinner ­— rose, thorn and bud. Taking turns, each family member lists their rose — something that put a smile on their face that day, thorn — a challenge they faced, and bud — what they are looking forward to in the coming days. “The game unveils struggles that the men are dealing with, which they might not vocalise otherwise at the risk of coming off as weak. It can kickstart conversations that can ease the tensions,” she notes.

Patel recommends a cautious approach to conversations around trauma and unhealthy histories during festivities. “Reopening old wounds at such times can be risky. Simple things like watching a family-favourite movie together, or playing board games can be a good segue to deeper conversations,” she suggests. The psychotherapist tells us that there is no better alternative to a candid conversation. “One may ask their father how growing up was for them, what their happiest memories were or what they wish they had done differently. This can possibly, in turn, open avenues for the child to express what they wish was different about their childhood,” she adds.

While years of trauma, spite, and guilt cannot be undone over one festive weekend; and a parent might not always agree to reconcile at the end for a happy ending akin to movies, the experts remark that starting a conversation is laying the foundation for tangible change. 

We can work it out 

. Be emotionally available: Have candid chats
. Fathers can avoid being overprotective or instilling fear that could reopen old wounds
. Indulge in social activities like watching a favourite movie or playing a board game together

Binge with dad

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
A  father-son bond is tested by the disappearance of a bicycle amid their poverty

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
A father goes against all odds to provide for his son in the face of personal distress

Pics Courtesy/Wikimedia Commons; YoutubePics Courtesy/Wikimedia Commons; Youtube

. The Godfather (1972)
In this tale of love, betrayal and drama, a doting father guides his son through the world of mafia

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