There are films which move you and there are films which live in your mind. Shakun Batra’s filmography consists of three films that stay with audiences much later.
Love, relationships, rivalries, resolutions, dissolutions are themes that director Shakun Batra usually traffics in.
His directorial debut, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012) explores love, mental health and parental trauma. Although the movie failed to perform at the box office, his follow up movies Kapoor & Sons (2016) and Gehraiyaan (2022) performed well due to his exploration of families and their impact. The “Shakun Batra touch” lays in experiencing catharsis and relatability:
1. Unrequited love and parental disapproval in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu
Rahul pretends to be the man his father wants him to become. He struggles with his self esteem issues due to familial pressure. Through Rahul, Batra explored the role of family in one’s image and journey. Everyone knows the experience of giving up something or hiding facets of their identities from their families. Rahul further struggles with accepting that the woman he loves does not feel the same. He uses anger and silence to experience his emotions until he finally snaps at his father.
He experiences heartbreak, abandonment, loneliness and pressure make him an uptight and guarded person. The scene of him finally calling out his family and going on his journey made him relatable to millenials.
2. Broken families in Kapoor & Sons
Families come in all shapes and forms, most are imperfect but some are on the brink of destruction. The Kapoor & Sons family is the latter.
The movie validates children raised in broken homes, living in the shadow of elder siblings, untimely deaths, cheating in marriage, financial dependency, old age morbidity and homophobia. It was extremely relatable movie to closeted children, especially in India, who move far away to live their authentic lives. Siblings Arjun and Rahul, their parents and all of their unspoken issues coming out in screaming matches is way too realistic and made people feel validated.
3. Trauma and loss in Gehraiyaan
The movie is about relationships – of mothers and daughters, sisters, brothers, marriage, and family. The narrative delves into the past and how it can impact the future. Alisha grows up with an alcoholic absentee father and a depressed mother who ultimately dies of suicide. The movie addresses generational trauma and its impact. People in the process of healing from childhood trauma and abuse felt seen through the movie.
Alisha deals with the trauma of seeing her mother dead and deals with several mental health issues. On the other hand, Zain experienced domestic abuse and poverty. Hence, he becomes manipulative and violent, probably like his father. While Alisha lives in perpetual fear of becoming like her mother, Zain tried to help his mother as a child, realized she didn’t want to be saved, and ultimately left her. Many people from abusive households question if they are destined to end up like their caretakers or create their own path. Alisha struggles with intrusive memories and flashbacks, lacking control over her thoughts. She starts parenting her father, hence neglecting herself and not letting her inner child heal.
Shakun Batra’s filmography is filled with deep explorations of trauma, childhood, family and adulthood.