If there is one character that has seen various shades and seasons of Indian cinema through the years, it is that of a mother. The quintessential mother, who was more or less represented by a white saree and trademark melodrama, has since come a long way. The tears have lessened, and the reactions less dramatic; the friendliness has increased, and the long pallus have been replaced by kurtis and jeans. But at the end of it, mom in Bollywood remains the same; the one who immediately senses what is going inside your mind, and what reaction those senses might be having on your heart. The essence of motherhood is still the same, yet, the Bollywood mom has evolved in more than one way. Let us take a look at these changes, through words.
The Strong Mother
Though there are not many name that we can take in this category, but there is one name and character that stands out, and has enough talent to outweigh multiple names. We are talking, of course, about Mother India, portrayed to the perfection by Nargis. The actress, just 26, lived the character, in all the stages that were shown. She was introduced as a shy bride and daughter in law, and later on as a wife who loses her husband, and stays strong to take care of her two surviving sons.
She does not give up even when the floods take away all she has, does not budge even when she suffers the gruesome pain of losing her two toddlers to the wrath of this natural calamity. She lives and works, to make a better life for her sons, and when the time comes to make a sensible decision, she does not shy away from shooting her own son who has gone astray in ways of life. Nargis lived the role on screen, and we still can feel the power of a mother, whenever we see her on our screen. From black and white TVs to the LCDs of today, this mother has dominated our hearts, and always will.
Fun Trivia: Did you know that Mother India is one amongst the only three Indian films to be listed in the book “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, the other two being Deewar and DDLJ.
The Sobbing and Majboor Ma
Initially, in the era of 60s, 70s, and even 80s, mother’s roles were mostly recognized by some very known faces, especially that of Nirupa Roy, who had become a trademark mother, with her widowed and sobbing characters in the era. The only actor who re-lived that sloppy and melodramatic character, was that of Rakhi, in movies like “Karan Arjun” and “Baazigar”. It takes real talent to make yourself known by your terrific character portrayals, and no matter how many memes we might see on internet, these actors have given powerful performances to remember, in yesteryears.
Especially in the case of Nirupa Roy, who initially played the role of various goddesses, the portrayal was so real that people actually sought her blessings. Give the credits to her powerful acting skills, and also to the fact that people failed to differentiate between the reel and real at that time.
There was another famous name in the field of character portrayals, in that era, and that was Achala Sachdev. Her coy act as the beautiful wife in “Aye Meri Zohrajabeen”, in the movie Waqt, and later on as mother who takes care of her only surviving son (at least she thought so), by taking up odd jobs, moved us to tears. The character of mother was lived by actors like Nirupa Roy and Achala Sachdev, so much so that whenever we think of the golden period of Indian Cinema and mothers in the same sequence, these are the faces that flash in front our eyes, and for good reason.
Fun Trivia: Do you know that Nirupa Roy portrayed the character of Dev Anand’s mother in the movie Munimji (1955), though she was 8 years his junior in age.
The Scheming and Conning Mother/Mother-in-Law
In the 70s, 80s, and some part of 90s, most of the negative characters in a family drama, were either the mothers or the mother in laws. These characters were successfully portrayed in a super vile manner by talented female actors like Lalita Pawar, Bindu, Aruna Irani, and more. We cringed the way Lalita Pawar’s character of evil mother in law tortured her bahu in Sau Din Saas Ke, and cheered when she was actually brought down by the confident younger daughter in law.
If you thought only mother in laws were vile and conniving, you would amazed once you see Aruna Irani’s portrayal of Anil Kapoor’s mother in Beta. Though a step mother, she seems sweet at first, and manipulates her innocent step son into believing every word that comes out of her mouth. Though we are happy when her own daughter in law, portrayed by Madhuri Dixit, stands up to her, we are sad when she finally realizes how pure hearted and selfless her son has been, only to have him breathing his last in her arms, betrayed by her, one final time.
The Friendly and Problem-Solving Mom
Farida Jalal & Reema Lagoo; these are the new age moms and mom-in-laws who were the kinds with whom you can share your woes and go shopping, without the fear of any stab in the back. While Reema Lagoo was the quintessential Barjatya movie mom, who sobbed and supported all her relations, Farida Jalal was the favorite mom of Yashraj and Yash Johar camp. We loved the way Farida Jalal played the role of Simran’s mother-cum-friend in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and was the one who stood by her daughter as a rock, even when she was getting married without her wish.
Fun Trivia: Remember the famous scene of DDLJ, when Simran is sitting by window side, back in India, and her mother comes to convince her of forgetting Raj? In an interview, Farida Jalal claimed, that when the cameras focused on her, Kajol used to make funny faces, to make her laugh, in spite of it being a very sentimental sequence. We are amazed at the lady’s talent, who managed to sail through this beautiful mother-daughter scene, even after the hilarious distraction.
The Gen X Mom
The new age mums in Indian cinema are cool and confident and are not scared from stepping out of the traditional lines of society if they have to support their kids. They work and they workout, but love and care for their children at the same time. They wear jeans and all the western attires, but that doesn’t stop them from always being there for their children.
If you don’t believe us, try and recall the character of Kirron Kher in Dostana, who accepted the fact that her son was a homosexual, and actually welcomed her damaad with one aarti ka thali. Another example can be that of Ratna Pathak, as Imran Khan’s mother in Jaane Tu.. Ya Jaane Naa. She quarreled with the portrait of her long dead husband and is ready to defend her son come what may. She is the kind of mother you can discuss about the girl you have started dating, without her asking you when are you going to marry her. Sassy and strong, these are the Bollywood moms of today’s genre.
Black & white or colored, box set or LCD, 60s or the 2010s, mothers will always be the same, on screen or off screen. We have had the fortune to watch these fabulous mothers on celluloid through the years. We have sobbed with them, empathized with them, and laughed with them when they lied, but all for their on-screen children. The evolution of mothers in Bollywood has certainly been an interesting one.
Written By – Kadambari Srivastava