Kaala Paani has some excellent fathers who go out of their way to be guardian figures for their children. This show is one of the few in recent times that has portrayed fathers as sensitive people and shown them to be instrumental in molding their kids to be better human beings. Santosh Savla and Ritu Gagra’s father are products of a generation that put them through trauma. As parental figures, they go out of their way to not repeat that behavior and consciously break away from the generational damage done to their emotions. As viewers, we have come across stories of women breaking this cycle of generational trauma, but the writers of Kaala Paani do an excellent job of explaining how patriarchy deeply affects men as well.
Santosh Savla is a young father of two children, and he is visiting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with them and his wife for the first time. Santosh is established as a meek and shy person who always takes a step back during an argument or a conversation. It is implied that he is an introvert, and his wife, Gargi, is the decision-maker in the household. Gargi is not a dominating figure, but she understands her husband’s defensive behavior. Santosh does not have a brash, entitled attitude either. Gargi, at many junctures, stands up for him and requests that he be more assertive as a parent.
Santosh tries hard to not be a typical father figure. He is the opposite of what a father is expected to be, as per societal norms. He tries to be his son’s friend and understand his world. Parth, on the other hand, is an inconsiderate child who takes his father and his gentle behavior for granted. Santosh allows himself to be vulnerable in front of his son when he openly discusses being raised in an abusive family and how it changed his worldview. Santosh did not shy away from talking about how irrelevant he felt growing up. His traumatic childhood made Santosh break away from the chain of trauma, and he vowed to never hurt his children. Santosh is very much in touch with his sensitive side, and it slowly allows Parth to be grateful to his parents for providing him with necessities. The kid is appreciative of the fact that his father never abused him emotionally or physically.
At the peak of the lockdown due to the LHF-27 outbreak, Santosh and Gargi are stuck on Neil Island while their Parth and Vidisha are in Port Blair, being taken care of by Jyotsana. Gargi is infected with LHF-27, and her deteriorating health starts taking a toll on Santosh’s mental health as well. Santosh tries his level best to remain strong for himself and for his kids, who are far away from him. Gargi’s death was imminent, and it caused a jolt he could never recover from. Santosh did not hide behind any false emotions because she was the only person who understood him. His only hopes remain in Parth and Vidisha, whom he thinks are in Port Blair waiting for him. His end goal after Gargis’s demise is to live a content life with his children.
Santosh is enraged at the thought of being lost in a forest with Chiru, who was helping him get back to Port Blair. As the two get separated, Santosh ends up falling into a ditch, where he confronts nature in its deadliest form. He battles all the pain he has suffered all this while, which includes the trauma of losing his wife, followed by a severely broken ankle to get out of the pit he had fallen into. He endured sheer agony, but the thought of meeting Parth and Vidisha restored the divine faith he had lost.
Santosh is slowly coming to terms with his wife’s death. The only thing keeping him going at the moment is his need to reunite with his children, and he tries hard to get hold of as much information about them as possible, but in vain. His only way to reach Port Blair is to pretend to be an ambulance driver. His sheer presence of mind works only for a brief period. He is asked to pick up two dead bodies from another hospital, but to his shock, he learns that Parth is one of the deceased bodies he will be transporting. Santosh breaks down because he lost half of his family to this wretched outbreak, and he feels helpless. This is classic survivor’s guilt because, as a man, he believes he should have been able to keep them safe. Santosh could not do so, and he ended up being a spectator as the LHF-27 caused an irreversible tragedy.
Santosh’s only objective from here on was to find Vidisha at the evacuation point in Port Blair and leave for Huxley Island together. The father in him had almost lost patience, and these two deaths changed something in him. He becomes goal-oriented, determined, and positive about the fact that his daughter is indeed alive. To his shock, he finds Vidisha and Jyotsana alive and healthy. Santosh, at this point, is grateful to Jyotsana for sheltering his kids and making sure one of them stayed alive. Santosh cannot wait to head to Huxley Island, for it is being sold as an isolated place where all the non-infected people of the island will be temporarily moved. Hopefully, ATOM and the local administration will have tests and treatment in hand to cure LHF-27.
Jyotsana unfortunately finds out about Vidisha’s infection, and with a heavy heart, she will have to inform the authorities about it. The pain of losing his wife and his son to the disease was still fresh, and the thought of witnessing his daughter succumb to the same disease made Santosh take extreme steps. He is probably not ready to lose everyone because he will never recover from this tragedy. He believes his wife and son died without any family around, and he does not want that fate for Vidisha as well. Santosh ends up killing Jyotsana moments before she heads off to inform the authorities. He committed this crime to save his daughter. He remains hopeful of Vidisha receiving treatment at Huxley Island.
Santosh will hopefully repent for killing Jyotsana, but now is not the time for him to think about it. He is a father who wants to save his daughter from an unfortunate fate. Santosh and Vidisha board the ship, and he covers her neck so that no one notices the black rashes, which are a symptom of the infection. Only time will tell if Vidisha survives the ordeal. Viewers who are keen to know about Vidisha and Santosh’s fate will have to wait for Kaala Paani Season 2.