As Dada opens, we see Manikandan (Kavin) and Sindu (Aparna Das) getting intimate in bed. She slowly listens as Manikandan tells her how he hasn’t cried yet. Even so, you find it amusing, but wonder how a man could not shed any tears at all. “That’s not to say I haven’t tried, but I simply can’t,” Manikandan says, recalling his grandmother’s passing away and how he was close to her. Mani gives Sindhu a cheek kiss and makes a promise not to make her cry ever again. In the next shot, we see Sindhu tearing up. She’s pregnant. Manikandan wants to abort the pregnancy but she wants to have it.
Sindhu is everything that Mani is not. She wants to be responsible and have a child. Mani, meanwhile, is not prepared for anything. They are on different tracks, as they want different things. The film tells the story of two people who desire one another, despite their differences. After a long time, I caught myself smiling while watching a film that I had zero expectations of.
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One of the film’s key merits is its focus — what an unplanned pregnancy does to familial bonds. Dada is an emotional coming-of-age story about a college-bound aimless guy, who is forced to embrace fatherhood when everyone else, including his family, lost faith in him.
What does it take for a man to be crushed under the weight of dead dreams, pick himself up and carry on? What does it take for him to have lost, and lost again, and yet not give up on the desire to live? Rarely has a movie dealt with a man’s struggles with fatherhood and the sacrifices he made to be a good father.
It takes guts to go solo and carry out what is viewed as a couple’s responsibility — raising a child — in a world that seems to be created for pairs; especially, when a man didn’t sign up for it. Even though the film shows how Manikandan raises his son by himself; becomes a better man and father as a result, it doesn’t vilify the mother’s character. I’m a huge fan of flawed characters, and nobody is perfect in Dada‘s universe. That’s the best thing about the film. Dada‘s plot isn’t ground-breaking, but the sensitive portrayal and clever writing make it enjoyable. Everything is natural and fits together, except for a few sequences. Kudos to the debutant filmmaker Ganesh K Babu!
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Manikandan had no idea if the way he raised her son was right or wrong, but he knew that as long as his son was proud of him, he was doing a good job. In raising a child, both the mother and the father play significant contributions, and it is impossible to compare or quantify their contributions. Dada‘s audience is intended to understand that message.
We have heard stories of mothers who displayed an unbreakable spirit overcoming obstacles and preconceptions, to protect their children. For a change, on screen, we get to watch the story of a man, who firmly believes parenting empowers an individual, like nothing else. The film does not get preachy, and I appreciate how the plot develops. Dada makes us realise that parenting is the most challenging, cathartic and emotional experience ever.
Kavin, a natural performer
Dada has a strong undertone of appropriate humour while yet being equally emotional and entertaining. Even in the bleakest of circumstances, we get dialogues to lighten up the mood of the audience. The film could have gone awry at the hands of some other filmmaker. Thankfully, Ganesh K Babu does a neat job, without disappointing much.
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Kavin is a natural performer. Aparna Das, to an extent, fits into the role, although I’d have loved to see a Tamil-speaking female actor doing what she did. Dada isn’t a great film by any standards, but it’s well-intended and goes about its job with sincerity. Sometimes, that’s just enough.
The supporting characters including VTV Ganesh, Harish of Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee-fame, and Pradeep Antony of Aruvi-fame shine, ably supported by Jen Martin’s background score and Ezhil Arasu K’s camerawork.