‘Mere Paas Maa Hai’ – a dialogue mouthed by Shashi Kapoor in the 1975 film ‘Deewaar’ is ageless and every Bollywood fan would remember it always. While the dialogue has become common lingo over the years, there has however been a shift in the way the character of the mother has been portrayed in movies.
From being the goddess-like persona in the movies till the late 1990s, the mother has now become more real, more human, and thereby more relatable to the audiences of today. They’ve turned from being the self-sacrificing mothers to being the mothers who can handle work and home at the same time to being the avenging matriarchs of the new age families. Today’s moms are no longer deities and they are as flawed as any human being could be. They are no longer portrayed as a woman with ten hands to work simultaneously on every problem. They are no longer the woman who can do no wrong.
Bollywood has portrayed motherhood in different hues ever since the start of movies. However, this Mother's Day, let’s have a look at a few such motherly portrayals. Films that depict motherhood from a rare perspective by showing the emotional and circumstantial challenges women have to face while raising their children and juggling work at the same time and also running after their dream in the hindsight. These women are not perfect but they are authentic and closer to life than the ever-smiling, multi-tasking goddesses audiences had been shown to expect in the past.
Integrity and aspiration are inextricably linked in Kriti Sanon's 'Mimi'. Sanon portrays an aspirant from a small village in Rajasthan who hopes to make it big in Bollywood. When she is offered the opportunity to be a surrogate for an American couple who is unable to conceive, she jumps at the chance, looking at the huge sum of money it brings along for her. Sanon's character decides to keep the baby after the couple packs their things after finding that the unborn kid may have Down syndrome. Apart from quietly exposing the stigma of Down syndrome, the film demonstrated that, while surrogacy may be the solution for many women who want to become mothers, not all of them are prepared to put their life on hold. Also, the movie gave a big impetus to women who want to adopt kids.
This Renuka Shahane directorial was produced by Ajay Devgn, Deepak Dhar, and Siddharth P. Malhotra and deals with unspoken issues that can complicate the relationship between mothers and daughters. It deals with three generations of mothers who learn in the course of their journey that the only way to heal yourself is to forgive each other. The story begins with a successful writer who leads an unconventional lifestyle and is blamed by her daughter for her acute childhood trauma. When this daughter becomes a mother, she makes her own set of mistakes and is reminded by her child that no parent can get it perfectly right. The story reiterates that mothers can be fallible because they too are human. Starring Tanvi Azmi, Kajol and Mithila Palkar, the film encourages open conversations and empathy for flawed mothers who did the best they could.
This Aijaz Khan directorial portrays the difficulties of a mother who must raise her child alone while dealing with enormous personal grief and loss. The film is about a devastated Kashmiri family where the father has gone missing, leaving behind his seven-year-old son Hamid and Ishrat, his grieving wife. Rasika Dugal poignantly depicts the struggle of a mother whose child (played by Talha Arshad Reshi) wants answers she cannot give. How the two deal with their loss to once again bond with each other brings the film to a healing conclusion. Vikas Kumar as a kind, nurturing voice on the other end of a telephone line guides Hamid through a tough phase to prove that it takes a village to raise children and that no mother should have to do it alone. Talha Arshad Reshi went on to win a National Award for his performance and the film too won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Urdu.
This Devashish Makhija film is not exactly about a mother but about the primal maternal instinct to protect and avenge a wrong done to a beloved child. It revolves around 'Ajji', an unprepossessing grandmother leading an impoverished existence in a slum when a crime against her granddaughter and the denial of justice puts her on the dangerous path of retribution. The film reminds us that the safety of the girl child cannot be ensured by slogans and must be addressed on a societal level. Sushama Deshpande puts in a bravura performance as Ajji while Sharvani Suryavanshi, Abhishek Banerjee, Sadiya Siddiqui, Vikas Kumar, Manuj Sharma, Sudhir Pandey, Kiran Khoje, and Smita Tambe play the other major roles.
‘Secret Superstar’ (2017)
Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao's production depicts the courage it takes for a mother to stand up to patriarchy and abuse within the family unit to protect her children. The Advait Chandan directorial also asks pertinent questions about why the girl child is denied the freedom to chase her dreams under one pretext or another? And why must she hide her true self if she wants to succeed in our milieu? This coming of age journey of Insia (Zaira Wasim), a musically inclined girl who emerges from anonymity to make a triumphant appearance at an award show is both uplifting and inspiring but it is Meher Vij as her mother Najma, who represents the beating heart of the film. The film also stars Aamir Khan himself with Mona Ambegaonkar and Raj Arjun in supporting roles.
Sridevi came back to the big screen after a few years gap and came up with another brilliant portrayal. In ‘Mom’, Arya's life changes when she is brutally gang-raped by a group of spoiled rich students from her school and two of their house helps. Her stepmother seeks justice and takes the help of a detective to teach the perpetrators a lesson. Besides Sridevi, the award-winning movie also starred Sajal Aly, Akshaye Khanna, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and many others. Sridevi went on to win the National Film Award for Best Actress for this performance, and so did AR Rahman win the National Film Award for the best background score for this film.
Mothers showing anger towards the world, in general, isn’t something that Bollywood films have explored before. However, of late this theme is turning to be exciting for a lot of filmmakers. In ‘Maatr’, a politician's son and his friends kidnap and sexually assault a school teacher, Vidya, and her daughter, Tia. After her daughter dies in the incident, the woman decides to take revenge. The lead character was played brilliantly onscreen by Raveena Tandon. The Ashtar Sayed-film directorial starred Madhur Mittal, Alisha Khan, Divya Jagdale, Shailendra Goel, Anurag Arora, Saheem Khan and many others.
‘English Vinglish’ (2012)
'English Vinglish' could be the story of any regular household where a devoted mother and wife forgets to tend to her own dreams. It also subtly portrays how homemakers are often underestimated and mocked by their own families. Written and directed by Gauri Shinde, this award-winning film tells us the story of Shashi, whose life revolves around her children and husband. She is a fledgling entrepreneur who makes sweets but is not taken seriously by her husband and daughter and her poor command of English is a source of much mirth and laughter in the household. Things change when Shashi gets to travel to the US by herself and enrols in an English-speaking course. She slowly begins to rediscover the joyful, confident woman who was denied self-expression all this while. Sridevi was hailed for her sensitive performance as Shashi after a 15-year hiatus while Adil Hussain, French actor Mehdi Nebbou, and Priya Anand played supporting roles. The film was produced by Sunil Lulla, R Balki, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and RK Damani.
Bollywood is now maturing as a result of these nuanced representations of motherhood. The stereotype of the selfless, flawless mother is giving way to women who fail, grow, and find facts about themselves the hard way, however, all through, trying to maintain a firm stance.