By all accounts, coming out can be hard in a society still fixated on archaic concepts of what’s normal. All of us know a friend or have heard of someone who has struggled to let his or her parents, friends, or partner in on their closely guarded truth. Most of those stories tend to involve at least some drama.
In Dear Dad, co-written and directed by Tanuj Bhramar, Arvind Swamy plays Nitin Swaminathan, a husband and father of two who decides to drive his teenage son from their home in Delhi to his boarding school in Mussourie, intending to use their time together to tell him the truth about himself. Understandably, it’s too much to take in for Shivam (Himanshu Sharma), who acts out in all the typical ways, and wishes things could go back to being the way they were.
It’s an interesting premise on paper, but the script unfortunately isn’t adequately developed. We never really get a sense of why Nitin has decided to come out at this exact point in his life, or that it’s because he’s tired of living a lie. A scene in which he makes the confession to his mute, ailing father feels contrived and labored, as does his outburst to Shivam which fails to pack an emotional wallop.
At only 90 minutes, the film still feels unmistakably long because there’s not a lot going on here. A sequence in which Shivam seeks out one of those all-knowing babas hoping to find a cure for his father’s condition feels tacked on for the purpose of providing laughs, but it doesn’t work. A big problem with the film is that Arvind Swamy, the charming star of Roja and Bombay never lets you forget that he’s ‘acting’. The camera loves him and it’s brave of him to take the role, but it’s an affected performance, and a result it’s hard to be fully invested in the character. In contrast, young Himanshu Sharma has a natural presence and performs without inhibition. He’s instantly easy to relate to, and likeable despite his tantrums.
Dear Dad is a well-intentioned film that wants to make some crucial points. But it’s weighed down by clunky writing, and a tendency on the part of the filmmakers to try too hard where subtlety might have worked better. I’m going with two out of five.