Friday, July 20, 2018


Monumental familial struggles
in Mother India

Of all the movies on the 1001 list, Mother India is definitely the most Bollywood. The Bollywood (Hindi) film industry is huge, of course, and has many admirers well beyond the borders of India. I'll only list my (very limited) impression of what I think Bollywood is. These films have drama! These films have romance! These films have comedy! These films have tragedy! And these films have songs! Lots of songs!!... If my perception is incorrect, feel free to correct me.

Mother India (1957) is Mehboob Khan's epic story (and remake of his own 1940 film Aurat). The plot of the film involves a families decade long struggle to make ends meet and find some level of happiness. The film begins with the wedding of two young people (Radha and Shamu), whose elaborate ceremony is financed by a wicked moneylender (Sukilala) who cooks the books to make the interest rates so high on them (as well as the other villagers) that they will never be able to pay it off. The ongoing struggles of the family over the years (often involving the sons Ramu and Birju) make up most of the conflict in this three hour epic.

And epic it indeed is. We see epics floods, epic fires, immense tragedy and misery that is often hard to look at. At times, I felt like I was watching a Hindi Grapes of Wrath! But there are moments of levity as well, including an ongoing plot point where Birju breaks the water pitchers of the young women of the village. And among all this,of course, are the songs. Many of the musical numbers seem to be on the serious side because I guess it's really not that appropriate to sing a merry tune while you are plowing and sweating in the field.

Revered Indian actress Narigs plays Radha and is the center of the story. She successfully holds the film together and is the personification of "Mother India."

Other noteworthy cast members include: Sajid Khan as the high spirited young Birju, Sunil Dutt as Birju the adult, and Kanhaiyalal as the moneylender.  Kanhaiyalal played the same role in Aurat in 1940.

There's a lot to admire in Mother India, though I may look for something a little lighter during my next trip to Bollywood.

Radha and her sons
in Mother India


  1. This is also very much how I imagine Bollywood movies. Now sure if it is my kind of movie though.

  2. I work in the same shopping center as a small Indian grocery store and I sometimes talk to the proprietor, frequently about Indian films. (I saw Lagaan a few weeks ago, his daughter and he were both excited to talk about Lagaan.)

    An online friend of mine sent me a file with Mother India. I haven't seen it yet. But I mentioned it to the grocery store guy last night and he said it was India's Casablanca or Gone with the Wind. He wants to hear what I thought about it after I see it.

    1. It definitely has that epic flavor. I'd say more in line with Gone With the Wind than Casablanca.


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