Animal: Decoding Complexity Of The Fearsome Father-Son Relationships

What really struck me during the entire three hours of the movie was, in fact, a strange sadness around the relationship depicted between Anil Kapoor (Balbir Singh), the father and his son played by Ranbir Kapoor (Ranvijay Singh Balbir).

Debarati Mitra
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Father-Son Bond Animal

A Still From The Film Animal

After a storm of reviews on the internet and bucket loads of criticisms right from the first screening of the movie, Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s new creation, Animal, has had its share of Gender Studies lessons. The objectification and unimportance of all women in Vanga’s movies are not new, with Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh already giving us a heads-up for what awaits in the theatres. This article, to even my surprise, is not just a review of the stereotypical gender roles portrayed - we have enough dialogues already going on around that. What really struck me during the entire three hours of the movie was, in fact, a strange sadness around the relationship depicted between Anil Kapoor (Balbir Singh), the father and his son played by Ranbir Kapoor (Ranvijay Singh Balbir).


One critic even called this sadness-inducing factor of the film, its real violence- more penetrating and effective than the visual gore on screen, which just got overshadowed by the exuberance of the latter. The critic even goes on to mention how those of us who understand the protagonist’s destructiveness, can not really empathise with him because of his ways- just like he could never earn the empathy or love from his father. Blaming the son and sparing the father would result in another surface-level analysis of the movie; after all, the saying goes, ‘like father, like son.’

The Complexity Of Father-Son Relationships

Balbir Singh was an absentee father in his children’s life- especially his son’s. Ranbir’s character had an obsessive love for his father, considering him a superhero. The father, on the other hand, did not spare a single chance at ushering his son with toxic behaviour and physical abuse. The movie is a tale of how far this one lonely child went for his father’s approval, from ensuing mass slaughter to leaving his entire life behind. If looked at carefully, there can be found a pattern in the way that Ranbir later moulds his character. 

Ranbir’s quest to avenge the attack on his father turned into a manifestation of a father figure to Anil Kapoor,like the one that he had always wanted. The son becomes the father to compensate for the fatherly love he never had. And is that not how trauma works? The wounded child, asking for their emotional needs to be met, either becomes the replica of their caregivers to the next generation or becomes the parent that they never had to the former. The movie did have the potential to show the nuances of having an absentee father and how it plays out in the lives of sons, but it took a rather bloody turn. 

The problem with this kind of portrayal of absenteeism on screen is that often instead of realising how devastating it is, people accept it as normal behaviour. The man of the house, his ego, his work, and his complete disregard for emotional availability for his family (people he consciously chose to be in his life), are justified by his struggle for money and sustenance- both on and off screen. Not holding the father accountable and instead hero-worshipping him on screen paves the way for normalised unavailability on his part. 

A subplot that was totally missed was also the relationship shown between Ranbir and his children. An aspect that could have been explored more was how Ranbir repeated the absenteeism from his childhood as a father, by being buried in a self-created war. This repetition of the trauma cycle was expected to be broken, given the emphasis Ranbir put on being a better father than his own, but it crept into his ways subconsciously, making him no better than Anil Kapoor. 


Vanga has a specific audience to which his films appeal. The dysfunctionality of his characters is very often glorified owing to their masochistic tendencies hidden under the garb of being “manly”. The kind of sensibility that one would require to realise the root cause, be it family trauma or plain old patriarchy, of most of Vanga’s characters, is missing due to unawareness of mental health or empowerment in any form and shape. 

The role of the problematic father in this movie was pivotal, but it was shrouded by the glorification of the even more problematic coping mechanisms of the son. Portraying parents on screen is not an easy job; especially when it is a father who is meant to not be the ideal role model. There is a way to show what the character is doing is not the best way to parent a child, and it definitely does not include justifying his actions to form a base for his havoc-wrecking son. The directorial finesse that this job requires, was missing from Vanga’s latest creation. 

Views expressed are the author's own.

Authored by Debarati Mitra, student of M.A Sociology, Ambedkar University, Delhi. 


#Ranbir Kapoor Anil Kapoor Animal Father Son Relationship