Mother India, a 1957 classic by the iconic Mehboob Khan, is often acknowledged as the “most Indian” movie ever, depicting the stark realities of the socio-economic-cultural life of a nascent nation where a vast majority of people lived in the villages. Released ten years after independence, the movie has stood the test of time over the years and continues to leave the audience awestruck with its larger-than-life canvas and narrative even in the post-millennial era. Giridhar Jha meets noted writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar in Mumbai to understand the phenomenon of Mother India on the 60th anniversary of its release. Excerpts from the interview:
Video by Apoorva Salkade, Editing by Suraj Wadhwa
Even now, six decades after its release, Mother India remains one of the finest movies India has ever produced. What’s so special about it?
I clearly remember the day I saw this movie for the first time, way back in 1957. I was barely 12 years old then, but I still have deep impressions of watching it at that age. I subsequently saw it again and again—maybe four or five times during my school days. Mother India, in my opinion, is a gatha (saga) in real terms. It’s a story that goes in a way from one generation to another. The canvas of the story is huge and there is something so very Indian about it. Mehboob Khan himself was from a small village in the Kathiawad region in Gujarat, and he was quite familiar with its culture and landscape. Therefore, the smell of the soil, the feel of the fields and the breeze of the villages, everything quintessentially Indian, is all there in the film.