The Hindi film industry has depicted women, particularly mothers, in many colourful ways. It has created memorable characters and set benchmarks, some of those women are still quoted and some still emulated, but the journey of more than a 100 years with a change in social fabric has re-defined portrayal of women in the industry.
On Mother’s Day 2019, let’s take a look at some of the iconic films, where cine “maas” have been shown in a trendsetting and unconventional way.
Mother India (1957)
Nargis who played a poverty-stricken single mother in the Mehboob Khan film, epitomized all qualities associated generally with “mothers-on-pedestal”, but broke the narrative after undoing the wrong her beloved son had done, by killing him. An exemplar of sheer morality, this move set a trend for many films in Bollywood which later made films circling around similar story lines, viz. Reema Lagoo in Vaastav and many others.
In Shekhar Kapur’s critically acclaimed Masoom, the story did not just revolve around Naseeruddin Shah’s character and his illegitimate son played by Jugal Hansraj, but also with sensitivity observed the struggles Shabana Azmi, who played Shah’s wife, goes through to accept a step-son.
A rom-com that created a small space for addressing homosexuality, though with a dose of comedy that put the point across without hurting anybody besides Abhishek Bachchan’s on-screen mother Kirron Kher, Dostana is a must-go-back-to film.
Kher did everything a typical Indian mother would do, and put up questions/ assertions that most generally would come in mind for mothers in that situation. Infused with comedy and some visual complexity, the song “Maa da Laadla” form the the film changed the ma-beta narrative forever for good.
Vicky Donor (2012)
In this Shoojit Sircar film, Dolly Alhuwalia played mother to a sperm-donor (Ayushmann Khurrana). She may not have been cool with regards to sperm-donating initially, but she changed the look and feels of “maa” in Bollywood. Creating a niche for women-mothers who drink and chill, do not really bother about society as such, Alhuwalia through her “motherly role” changed the pedestal-goddess-mother figure to make her more earthly and relatable.
Perhaps, one of those rare Hindi films that lent complexity and space as much to the mother as to her son. Embroiled in the issue of Kashmiri militancy, Haider portrayed Shahid Kapoor and Tabu in son-mother roles.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s third Shakespearean adaptation, after Omkara (Othello) and Maqbool (Macbeth), Haider (Hamlet) shows the sensitive and complex portrayal of a mother, half-widow and lover. Tabu changed what was most stereotypically associated with mother psychology and its portrayal in Bollywood.
Piku may be known for its father-daughter story between Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone, but an understated and yet well-established relationship between Irrfan and his mother, played by Nutan Mathur that showed a mother not in good light was commendable.
Mathur and Irrfan’s relationship reinstated a modern and more contemporary take on the hallowed mother-son relationship; a move many in the audiences appreciated and associated with.
English Vinglish (2012)
In this Gauri Shinde film, Sridevi played a woman negotiating motherhood with her daughter and her husband by trying to become more confident and equal in the family’s status quo by learning English in the US, where she goes to attend her niece’ s wedding.
Sridevi plays her role with vulnerability and the character gets a chance to stand up for herself outside the protective fabric of family and marital relationship, with a sub-text of romance with another man. Her nuanced performance broke many stereotypes associated with motherhood.
There are also many others who have changed the narrative and set new tones to a “mothers” portrayal in cinema.
While the film industry continues to re-define mother-son relationships most usually, it will be a breather to see more and more filmmakers experimenting with mother-daughter relationships, a space that has not been explored a lot apart from a few instances, here and there.