Kohrra, the new Netflix Original by Sudip Sharma, is, on the surface, about a murder investigation and how the Punjab Police is under tremendous pressure to track down the culprit. If you look at it from close quarters, it is about family dynamics and the lack of understanding between the parents and their kids. Under the garb of an investigative drama, the makers and the writers take the audience through the lives of the rich and the middle class families and all the while, slowly and steadily, uncomfortable truths come out. In this town topics such as equality and feminism have not reached the locals; it is always lived experience that makes individuals grow as human beings.
Kohrra is filled with parent figures who are unable to come to terms with the fact that their kids are individuals, they are allowed to have an opinion, and they intend to live on their terms. The fathers here only consider their kids to be extensions of themselves and tools to carry forth the identity of the family and its legacy. The pressures that are put on the kids in the name of these two words leave them with scars that are hard to erase. The term generational trauma is a common phrase used by South Asians and their second-generation diaspora living abroad. It means that parents carry forward the abuse they faced from their parents because they think it is the only way to sustain in the society. One does not tend to shame them for not breaking away. They were conditioned to not question them. With the advent of the internet, children from the same background come together and discuss how life was growing up in a chaotic household, such as a South Asian one. It is easy to empathize and sympathize with them. Slowly, this generation is breaking from the trauma parents imposed on them, and this is what Kohrra is trying to communicate to the audience.
The underlying message of the show remains that people do not realize the psychological impact of their actions, which only makes the children want to hide the real version of themselves from their parents. It is the fear of parents unwilling to understand who they are and what they want from life. The fathers in this show showcase everything that has been mentioned above, and through this article, we will be discussing how similar or different they were from each other.
The audience is first introduced to Steve Dhillon when he arrives at the scene of the crime. Just days before his wedding, Paul Dhillon, Steve’s son, is found dead on a farm. Steve’s wife is inconsolable at this point, and why wouldn’t she be? But if one notices, it is only women who showcase emotions. Steve, on the other hand, is somber and quiet, keeping all the pain to himself as if he actually doesn’t shed any tears. He informs Clara, Liam’s mother, about the bad news in a rather subdued tone. Steve’s reaction felt like he was not ready to showcase his emotions yet.
From the flashback sequences, we get to see that a young Paul was always afraid of his father, and Steve always took advantage of that fear. Back in London, he does not think twice before confronting his son at Liam’s mother’s home. Steve was a verbally and physically abusive dad who couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his kid was growing up. Steve, being raised in a patriarchal setup, wanted Paul to turn out like him, but the boy rebels and chops off the sacramental long hair that the Sikhs have. Steve was probably raised by an emotionally distant father who only indulged in unconsciously traumatizing his kids. Steve is far more conservative than his family back home. His need to stay close to his culture was supposed to be fulfilled by his son, and that, by the looks of it, would not happen. It has been assumed ever since the incident that Steve and Paul did not have a bond, and as he became a young man, he hid the fact that he was gay for the longest time. Liam was his lover, but they paraded themselves as best friends.
Steve’s inability to connect with him is the reason why he and his wife were never told about Paul’s sexuality. Paul’s situation is all too familiar for many men and women who are forced to suppress their desires and live as their family expects. His conditioning led him to decide to marry Veera and let go of his relationship with Liam. It was only the DNA results that proved that Liam and Paul were lovers. Steve was quick to get angry upon finding out that his son was gay, but he never shed a tear at the death of the same son, showcasing what his priorities are. His son being gay brings shame to their family, as per Steve, and that is why he believes his anger is justified. It is only Clara who lets Steve know that Paul’s identity goes beyond being Steve’s son. She knew the love Liam and Paul had for each other, and she just let them because they were happy. Meanwhile, Steve could not come to terms with this and never revealed this detail to anyone, including his brother. Steve finally breaks down while holding his son’s wedding sherwani, which could be an indication of the fact that he regrets having put his son through trauma, but sadly, Paul is not alive to see this. Steve had to lose his son to come to terms with his reality.
Manna Dhillon is the younger brother of Steve, and he never left India. He has a son, Happy, who runs a business, but he constantly seems bitter towards everything around him. Happy comes across as a spoilt brat but Manna, like his brother, has worked his way up to be a successful businessman. What he never realized was that his subtle taunting words did have a deep impact on Happy, and he was raised to believe that Paul, his first cousin, was smarter than he was. Manna’s constant praising of Paul led to a deep-seated insecurity and genuine hatred for Paul, even though he was always good to Happy. During the investigation, Balbir and Garundi come to know that it was Happy who staged an accident intending to almost kill Paul. Unfortunately for him, Paul did die, but in the most brutal fashion. Happy is taken in for questioning, and his father, Manna, quickly shows up to keep his son from being detained.
Manna’s proactive behavior in rescuing his son, even though it is illegal, showcases how much Happy means to him. He confronts Happy about attacking his now-deceased cousin and how wrong it was of him to be thinking of carrying out fratricide. Manna comes across as a level-headed person because he is already in dispute with his brother over a property-related matter. This is why he did not want Happy to be on bad terms with Paul. None of that matters anymore because Paul is no more. Happy lets him know about Manna constantly belittling his son, which is what forced him to take a violent route to gain Manna’s attention and validation.
Manna tries to analyze this brand-new information, and he wonders if maybe he did something wrong that led to Happy becoming a bitter person. After his conversation with his son, Manna meets Steve and lets him know what Happy did. His son’s actions came as a revelation to him because constant bickering with family only leads to the next generation mimicking them. Manna did not want this for Happy and his kids. He is the kind of father who was instrumental in breaking the cycle of conflict and trauma in the family. He understood his son’s point of view and withdrew the property dispute against his brother. He wants the family to be at peace.
Balbir Singh is the lead investigating officer in Paul Dhillon’s murder case, but at home, he is a father figure who is still coming to terms with the fact that his daughter Nimrat is separated from her husband. Nimrat and her son live with him. He cannot say no to her request to live in his home because of his obligations as her father. He never stops berating her regularly for leaving her husband, Raman. Raman constantly requests Balbir to ask her to come back.
Nimrat is content with her life as a mother and being on her own. She constantly lets her father know that she never loved Raman and that she isn’t willing to spend her life with him. Balbir, just like Steve, being from the old school of patriarchy, looks at his daughter walking out of her marriage as shameful, and he does not care about what she wants from her life. Balbir physically and verbally abuses his daughter. This is why Nimrat and Balbir share a complex relationship while living under the same roof. Balbir also objects to Nimrat going back to her college boyfriend, Karan Gill, to the point where Balbir grievously injured him. He never realized that since he was a widower who was also seeking the company of a woman of his age, he was being a total hypocrite about his daughter’s situation at hand. Just like how Steve’s son passed away, Balbir almost lost Nimrat. She lets him know what she wants from life and what she was denied as a woman. Nimrat also confessed that she wanted to study, and never wanted to get married and have kids.
It only proves that as a woman, her opinion never mattered to her father, which led to her taking the drastic step of attempting suicide. After meeting Steve and realizing the awful father that he was to Paul, Balbir realizes he wants to be a better parental figure, and he would do anything so that Nimrat remains happy from here on. He gives his blessing to Nimrat and Karan. Balbir’s arc began as a controlling father figure, and he transitioned into a man who is on the path of understanding his daughter and letting her live life on her terms.