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A Tribute to Bollywood Mothers

Ma of BollywoodLast afternoon I watched Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Trishul’ on T V for one more time, having already seen it n number of times. It is one of Amitabh’s hey days’ super successful movies that stamped his angry young man image, already created by his previous hits such as Deewar and Zanjeer.  If you take a close look at all these successful films from the same genre, you will notice that apart from the action and the victory of good against evil there is one more important factor that played a very important role in all these films, that is MOTHER.
The stereotypical mother from most of these movies was a white saree clad Nirupa Roy or in occasional cases again a white saree clad Sulochana. These mothers used to be Godesses of virtue and inner strength who would not take even a penny earned by unlawful means. They would go to temples and offer Prasad for everyone’s well being and would teach their sons to be good even to the villains who have forced many atrocities on them. An exception to this rule perhaps may be Waheeda  Rehman from Trishul who herself wanted her son to avenge  for the injustice on her, as her cowardly lover jilted her love for some rich girl, which the son ultimately attains and how. He brings down his father’s business  brick by brick and builds his own construction empire named after his late unwed mother. He is so motivated by this mission that he is almost invincible. I think, the mother figure gained the utmost importance during Amitabh’s reign as a supreme ruler of Box office.  People shed tears or clapped hysterically when in one of the verbal battles,Shashi Kapoor in Deewar silences Amitabh’s bragging about his possessions by simply saying ‘Mere pas Maan hain!’ I am sure, till date this is one of the most popular dialogues.
Before Amitabh’s angry young man saga, in 50s and 60s also mothers were equally important part of the Hindi Cinema. Who can ever forget legendary Mother India made immortal by Nargis. The story of a mother who even after a stream of calamities, such as her husband losing his hands, money lender pressurising to return the loan and forcing her to pay three fourth of her crop as interest, the husband finally running away from house in the feat of depression topped with famine and all, toils hard to bring up her two sons and finally kills her wayward son who tries to make even with the money lender by abducting his daughter from her own wedding ceremony. No mother can ever match this epitome of sacrifice. One more mother I can slot in this category,  a little different though because of her royal bearing is Mughal E Azam’s Jodha Bai portrayed by Durga Khote.  This mother, when forced to take sides between the love for her son and duties towards husband chooses loyalty toward her homelad.
These are special mothers, to be honest quite unrealistic. Apart from them, the rest of the white saree brigade led by Leela Chitnis, was no less. I recollect a scene from Kala Bazar, when Dev Anand comes  home after black marketing cinema tickets only to find his mother singing a bhajan,“ Na main dhan chahu”  which is a turning point of the film, when the hero full of remorse asks for penitence.  All these mothers of 50 and some from 60s were one whole bunch of guileless, unworldly, naive mothers who believed anything that their sons told them and happily made Gajar ka Halwa or kheer for them when the forty plus heroes announced that they have come first class first in whatever they were studying.  The sons, in return asked them, “ Maan, tumhe kaise pata mujhe gajar ka halwa pasand hain?” Hahaha...and people tolerated them, in fact, adored them.
The sixties in the film industry were dominated by Shammi Kapoor and of course, the mother has to be someone as strong to restrain this wild young man, which was provided by the equally stubborn, outwardly stern, yet soft deep within matriarch portrayed by Lalita Pawar. This mother would not compromise when her family’s honour was at stake. Try and remember the crusty mother from Junglee who is so blinded by her priority to keep the family’s reputation in tact that she could not see the plot laid by cunning bankrupt prince and his sister to marry Shammi and acquire their wealth.
The shine of mother figures in films somewhat faded in 80s as they became mere part of the background. Rakhee (not Sawant), who had been Amitabh’s lead heroine in many blockbusters played the role of his mother in Shakti. Ideally viewers should have rejected this, but Rakhee’s character of a mother torn between a strict disciplinary husband and the rebellious son appealed to the masses. A few movies, however have the mothers playing the central character like Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana, who takes the blame of a murder, accidently committed  by her son and later devotes her entire life to protect him from any kind of harm.  Although a step mother, I can’t help mentioning Shabana Azmi from Masoom.  A mother who loved her two daughters but hesitates to extend that affection to her husband’s illegitimate son, yet she is no wicked step mom. She has no grudge against the boy himself but can’t embrace him with open arms as he reminds her of her husband’s unfaithfulness. She is no magnanimous woman, she takes her own time to come to terms with the situation and eventually accepts the boy as her own.
 Late eighties brought a new trend of saccharine sweet mothers by Rajshree films through Maine Pyar Kiya. This movie gave film industry a super star, Salman Khan and a super syrupy mom Reema Lagoo. This sweeter than sugar mom ruled Rajshree films in the following movies such as Hum Apke Hain Kaun and Hum Saath Saath Hain. Even Smita Jaykar from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam falls in the same category. These mothers were as far away from the reality as the goody-goody films themselves.
This trend was soon overtaken by loud Punjabi mothers essayed by Kirron Kher. This mother was more annoying than the previous ones. For instance, think of Dostana. She was over the top, loud in expressing herself at the same time was ready to do anything for her child’s happiness. Kirron Kher’s one mother, however, I find very endearing is the one in Om Shanti Om. This filmy, OTT mom was so lovable that it is impossible not to like her.
Last few years have seen a steady change in the characterisation of mother. These mothers are young, savvy and worldly wise. They do love and care for their children, at the same time they are more rooted. Here I can think of Kajol, in My Name is Khan. A young  attractive single parent taking care of her son singlehandedly without killing her own personality and also spending  ME time without feeling guilty about it. This mother is closer to today’s women. The other mother that comes to my mind is Tisca Chopra from Taare Zamin Par. This is one ordinary middleclass woman who has average expectations from her son like getting good marks and doing other normal things like other normal children, not realising his incapability to do so. When he fails to deliver she gets frustrated. She is no super mom. She is just a normal mother who is fallible, but loves her son and is ready to do as much as possible within her limits for the betterment of her child. I love these mothers.
 I hope we get to see more and more these types of mothers on silver screen. The mothers who reflect the image of the modern independent women.  The mothers who know their mind and know how to balance a successful career and a happy family. They are the glamorous mothers in trendy outfits with great figures and yet are managing their children wonderfully without acting like a sacrificial goat.  These mothers, I believe, are going to rock the Hindi cinema.
Meanwhile, this is just a tribute to all those amazing celluloid moms who have made a permanent place in our hearts on the occasion of Mother’s Day.  More Power to Mothers!! Happy Mothers Day!! 




A Tribute to Bollywood Mothers