Rukh And Life After The Death Of A Parent

Pop Culture

Rukh And Life After The Death Of A Parent

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Eighteen-year-old Dhruv (Adarsh Gaurav), the unlikely hero of the brilliantly evocative Rukh, hasn’t been home in three years. Tucked away in a boarding school several hours away from home, he leads a sheltered, carefree life, blissfully unaware of familial responsibilities. With an unkempt bed, a study table littered with many unnecessary objects, Dhruv’s hostel room is a portrait of youthful irreverence. He is not obligated to think of anyone but himself and it is not expected of him either. For Dhruv has ample time to navigate the horrors and the ways of the big bad world from the cocoon his parents build around him.

That is until the day he misses a call from his father, played by Manoj Bajpayee; a missed call that comes with consequences, for it was the last time he’d be afforded that luxury. His father dies in a car accident that night. Had he been around to pick up the call, he’d have heard his father’s voice for a final time. Reality, however, doesn’t turn out to be that poetic.

Dhruv’s position as the only son snatches him away from his nonchalant existence and places him bang in the centre of this untimely tragedy. Not only does he have to cope with the loss of his father, but also uncover family secrets and piece together a trajectory that rationalises the events leading up to the death. All on his own. In tragedy, Dhruv is forced to grow up and leave his adolescence behind. A kind of enforced adulthood that involves visiting police stations, dealing with his father’s coworkers and demanding that they treat him as an equal, and finally, confronting the truck driver guilty of running down his father.

Losing a parent is the final signifier that you’re on your own, that the safety net is gone.

The death of a parent is life-altering. It is the most visible and universal trigger that extracts the adult out of reckless offsprings, regardless of their readiness or their age. It fast-forwards the act of growing up, goads you into an involuntary maturity. Losing a parent is the final signifier that you’re on your own, that the safety net is gone.

Like Dhruv, even Rajiv (Adil Hussain) isn’t particularly close to his father, Daya (Lalit Behl) despite living under the same roof in Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan. For the 40-something Rajiv, the caregiver of a family of three, the idiosyncrasies of his father has over time come to be a burden. His presence in their house, their dinner-tables, and in their minds is as good as his absence.

Rajiv may have traversed more than half of the life accorded to him, but his actions still reflect the feelings of the son resentful of his father for not providing the love, and time a growing child needs. He is barely a man going through the motions. Years of distance and stifled emotions pass between them, until Daya’s death wish forces Rajiv to share a room with him for weeks in Benaras. It’s only then, in the face of his father’s impending departure, that Rajiv at last becomes the man he’s been running away from his whole life.

Unlike Dhruv, Rajiv does get a chance to say goodbye. Before leaving Daya to fulfill his death wish, he pulls his father close in an awkward embrace, fully aware of it being the last time he’ll feel the protectiveness of a parental figure. The moment they pull away from the long overdue hug is precisely when Rajiv’s transformation is visible.

The journey of transforming into the people our parents envisioned us into becoming passes through their deathbed.

Similarly, Arjun (Siddharth Malhotra), and Rahul (Fawad Khan), the two warring brothers in Kapoor And Sons, face a similar conundrum when a car accident cuts short their father’s (Rajat Kapoor) life. A few minutes before, Rahul has just found out that his father was having an extramarital affair, as suspected. Arjun, on the other hand, has never shared a bond with his father like most sons do. But, when tragedy strikes, both the brothers — one a successful writer, and the other, a constant source of disappointment — share a similar graph of learning and unlearning. Living away from home, they’ve built separate lives for themselves outside the watchful, tension-fuelled lives of their family. But it’s only after their father’s death, do they kickstart their lives in the truest sense, leaving behind their accumulated baggage.

Just like Dhruv. There’s a heartbreakingly beautiful scene toward the end of Rukh, where Dhruv goes through the motions of the day in a similar fashion as his father did on his last day. The film begins with his father showering with a quiet pain etched on his face. He puts on a shirt in the room that he shares with his wife, and it ends with Dhruv’s day unfolding in the exact way. Dhruv, like Rajiv, Arjun, and Rahul, is about to embark on a life without his parent; one where he owns up to his mistakes, and suffers its consequences.

Rukh then, is a testament to this saddening but essential reality: The death of a parent is the instant initiator of growing up that no one tells you about. Unfortunately, the journey of transforming into the people our parents envisioned us into becoming passes through their deathbed.

Perhaps, that is life’s cruelest irony.