Happy Mother’s Day Weekend! Mother Films Outside of the Norm

Happy Day Before Mother’s Day! I was going to write a fanfic of mother stories for tomorrow that aren’t the usual ones, and then I realized a lot of them had already been in films and I had just forgotten. So let’s celebrate those unusual mothers!

First, let’s define the “usual” mother in Hindi film. There are a few types she tends to fall into.

Noble wise perfect and sacrificing

Usual seen in hero lead pictures, the Mother is treated as the hero’s primary female relationship, everything he does is in service of her, it is a bit of a Goddess-worshipper dynamic. You can see this in Deewar, Karan-Arjun, Mother India, and dozens of others. The mother is a strong complex character, but she is also something a little more than human, expected to be always moral and right and just. And if it is a film that starts before she is a mother, we watch her transform from a carefree innocent young woman to a a noble all wise and perfect Mother as soon as the baby is born.

Image result for rakhee karan arjun

(Raakhee is the queen of this kind of role, Karan-Arjun to Khalnayak)

Passive and ineffective and following

Seen most often in romances. The heroine’s/hero’s father will make great declarations, and the mother will simply stand in the background and cry or smile depending. She is usually more sympathetic to the young people than her husband, and yet still not able to make a step forward to help them. In the best films, she will at least express her support, but not enough to break from her husband. Maine Pyar Kiya, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, they have this kind of mother. Wise and kind and right, but not Active.

Image result for reema lagoo maine pyar kiya

(Reema Lagoo, over and over. Loving and wise and supportive, but never actually breaks with her husband, or does more than react to his decrees)

Sweet and Funny and In the Background

This is the most amusing kind of mother. The one where the hero’s relationship with her is not the most important in his life, but it is still there in the background, providing humor and occasional wisdom and love since she is still ultimately perfect. Kirron Kher is the master of this kind of mother, there’s also Daisy Irani occasionally or Amrita Singh. Hum-Tum, A Flying Jatt, Dostana, they have this kind of mother.

Image result for kirron kher hum-tum

(Love Kirron Kher in this kind of role)

Now, the one thing these mother’s NEVER have, is flaws. That is what I find interesting! The few films where the mother character is allowed to be difficult and wrong sometimes and yet still a mother. And, be warned, in order to explain their flaws, I will be SPOILING their characters in the film. If that bothers you, don’t read.

Tehzeeb (Shabana Azmi)

A flawed difficult mother daughter relationship with no real resolution. Shabana is a famous successful singer, her older daughter Dia is mentally disabled, while her younger daughter Urmila grows up holding the family together and blaming her mother for not being there. And then Shabana bursts back into their lives, wanting to take Dia (who is now living with Urmila and her husband Arjun Rampal) back to live with her. Urmila and Shabana fight over Dia, fight over their past, and eventually come to an understanding that Shabana made decisions her daughters were too young to understand and sacrifices they couldn’t follow, Urmila and Shabana finally reconciling. It’s really a two mother movie because in many ways Urmila is also Dia’s mother as well as Shabana’s daughter.

Dil Chahta Hai (Dimple)

A beautiful intelligent fascinating woman. Who is heartbroken because she has lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband. But, as we see more and more of her, we realize she isn’t the simple tragic sacrificing mother figure. She is an alcoholic, her husband may have been right to take her daughter away, or else that loss drove her further into addiction. But her flaws don’t make her pain any less real, a mother can be wrong and still hurt at the loss of her daughter.

Pyar Main Twist (Dimple)

Dimple again! She shows up a lot on this list. She is so amazing, and so brave, even when she aged into “mother” roles, she didn’t play the usual mother. In this one, she starts out as the usual mother. Widowed, devoted to her daughter, excitedly planning her wedding to a lovely son-in-law. Until out of nowhere she meets a charming widower Rishi Kapoor, and they find themselves falling in love. Against the wishes of their children, and societal expectations that people past middle-aged aren’t supposed to fall in love again.

Astitva (Tabu)

A fascinating film! Tabu starts out as the dutiful silent seemingly more or less happy wife to a successful man. Their son is about to be married to a lovely girl, they are very happy. And then they get a letter than an old music teacher of Tabu’s has died and left everything to their son. It’s a puzzle, and it is slowly unraveled to reveal that Tabu had an affair with her music teacher early in their marriage when her husband was gone all the time, and their son is a result of that affair. Tabu’s husband is furious and isn’t sure he can “forgive her”, and nor is her son. But the surprise at the end is quiet passive Tabu standing up for herself and declaring she doesn’t want their “forgiveness”, and instead choosing to leave the house and start a new life for herself with the support of her son’s fiancee.

Jhankaar Beats (Juhi Chawla)

Juhi is a wonderful mother in this movie, but also still a person. She gets frustrated with her husband, she gets moody, she joins in the jokes and likes to go out and have fun, and she does all of this while heavily pregnant. The funny thing is, she appears like one of those funny comic relief mothers, but at the heart of it she is the noble sacrificing mother.

English/Vinglish (Sridevi)

I already wrote about this film a few Mother’s Days ago, but it bares repeating! Sridevi is a wife and mother, and loves her life, but it doesn’t make her happy any more. She has to learn who she is outside of those roles. And that means learning a new skill, and having a little romance, and just generally remembering who she is outside of those roles.

Arth (Shabana Azmi)

A very different kind of mother! Including how she becomes a mother. A happily married woman, whose marriage falls apart. She goes out on her own, gets a job, builds a life, and in the end starts life again with a new partner. Not her husband, not her new boyfriend, but instead the daughter of her maid who she adopts.

Kal Ho Na Ho (Jaya Bachchan)

I already did a whole post on this just like English/Vinglish, but it is worth repeating too. Jaya is a strong woman who can’t cook and doesn’t stay home all day with her children, who gets angry sometimes and snaps at her mother-in-law, but is still a wise and loving and good mother.

Dil Aashna Hai (Dimple Kapadia, Amrita Singh, Sonu Walia)

Three different mothers for the price of one!!!! Divya Bharti goes on a quest to find her biological mother and discovers it could be one of three woman. They all had college romances, they all slept with their boyfriends, and one of them got pregnant. And gave the baby up. And then all went on to fabulous successful careers ranging from horse trainer to politician to school headmistress.

Luck By Chance (Dimple Kapadia)

Possibly the most amazing mother of them all. We never find out who the father was, because it doesn’t matter, she is a force of nature. She is egotistical and cold and ambitious and selfish. And she will also do whatever it takes to make sure her daughter is strong and independent and successful, even if that means making her daughter hate her.

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20 thoughts on “Happy Mother’s Day Weekend! Mother Films Outside of the Norm

    • Raakhee is so awesome! I love how she went from modern young heroine to strong scary mother.

      On Sat, May 12, 2018 at 8:32 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Ooo, that does look like a very atypical role! Fascinating that they cast Raakhee in that role, there must have been some thought of taking a familiar “mother” actress and putting her in an unfamiliar place.

      On Sat, May 12, 2018 at 11:51 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes, the subversion of traditional roles in Rudaali is very fascinating.

        Although if you think about it, Raakhee is a professional wailer in the movie and crying is what she has to do as typical indian mom in traditional roles
        whereas Dimple is usually cast as a strong woman who doesn’t cry and that is the key plotting point in Rudaali. Dimple’s character who never cries thru whatever hardship life throws at her finally breaks down and becomes Rudaali

        I haven’t watched the movie but it has always stayed in mind due to amazing songs
        only recently I realized the music is by Bhupen Hazarika who has written/composed lots of Assamese songs.
        His music has an (Assamese?) folk music base unlike Hindustani/Carnatic and also as per wikipedia he was influenced by Paul Robeson
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Robeson

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        • Oh wow, that’s fascinating! Being friends with Paul Robeson in the 1950s would have been a very interesting and exciting time, make me think better of both of them, Robeson for befriending this outsider Indian guy (there weren’t many Indians in New York in 1950), and Bhupen for reaching out to a civil rights rebel who was hated and loved at the same time.

          On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 2:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. Dimple in Luck by Chance is fascinating and yet so relatable.Like every other parent, she wants her daughter to have what she never had -a chance to make it as a top heroine without going through the hell she did.Dimple did what her parents failed to do for her.Make her tough and independent while protecting her.I don’t think her daughter would ever forgive her for what she did.But at the end of the movie Nikki has grown up some and learned to play the game.She’s going to be just fine.Which is what Dimple wanted anyway.Rishi’s dialogue always makes me smile.”She’s a crocodile in a chiffon sari.”

    There have also been ruthless mothers who abandoned their babies (from an affair) and went on to live a happy life.Nutan in Saajen ki Saheli abandons baby Rekha and goes on to marry a rich man and live the high life.It was so fun to see Nutan wear modern outfits and be selfish.Usually she’s the self-sacrificing good daughter,wife,mother.All though not all noble mothers are infallible all the time.Nutan’s partiality towards her “good” son Kumar Gaurav in Naam is one of the things which is understood and accepted by everybody in their 3 member family.But her harsh words towards Sanjay Dutt (not meant to be overheard) convinces him to make a very stupid decision.

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    • Now I really want to see Saajan ke Saheli! That sounds so cool.

      And yes with Dimple. When you watch the movie, she seems to swing between being an overly indulgent mother (forcing Rishi to give her daughter only the best) and a terrible withholding mother who doesn’t actually like her daughter (controlling her love life). It’s only at the end you learn that she was doing all of this because she wants her daughter to be strong and powerful and doesn’t care about the price, even if the price is the death of their relationship.

      On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 1:48 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Masoom– Shabana plays a mother AND a stepmother while also holding on to her identity as a wife and a woman who’s heart is broken by the discovery of the existence of the boy. Indian films never show the mother as anything beyond “mom” and this is the perfect film that showcases mothers as young married women. Everytime I watch this film it reminds me so strongly of the 80s and the 90s when my mom was a glamorous young mom!

    Sridevi’s last two films (just broke my own heart with that phrase 😔) had her in mom roles and both are memorable Sri roles as well as being memorable mom roles!

    I haven’t watched Listen Amaya yet but I’ve heard it’s an amazing “mom” film.

    For a fun mom film, I’d have to go with Neetu Singh in Do Dooni Chaar and Ratna Pathak in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and Kapoor & Sons

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    • Oh, Ratna Pathak in Kapoor & Sons is a really interesting addition! Because she is a TERRIBLE mother, and yet you can also sympathize with her (well, I can’t, but that’s my own thing, I know other people do) because you can see how she ended up that way, how her own miserable life (Rajat Kapoor, so good at playing terrible men) made her create misery in her sons.

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        • I watched Listen Amaya because of Deepti and Farooq and I thought the mother role was good, but the movie focuses too much on the daughter, who is the least interesting character and basically throws an extended bratty tantrum for 45 minutes. But it’s watchable for the leads.

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  3. My favorite onscreen mother is Ratna Pathak Shah in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. She’s a single mother who took away her son from her late husband’s relatives with violent tendencies. Brought him up as a good loving caring person. While also being a very involved activist taking up serious issues. She reads her son like a book but gives him space to make mistakes and repent, even ones she resents.
    She isn’t your self sacrificing, will make gajar ka halwa and wait all night mother either. She shares cooking duties with her son. She actually huffs unhappily when she has to make samosey (special request from darling son). Puts her feet up and reads a book when her son’s out with friends, you know how rare that is in a filmy mom? Especially a good kind brave one?

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    • My favorite part of her character is the “reads her son like a book” part. Imraan makes so many mistakes in that movie, and Ratna is in the background kind of knowing he is making a mistake, but also being wise enough to let him do it and figure things out on his own, and being ready to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong as she knows it will.

      On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 10:45 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Now I really want to watch Astitva and it’s on Youtube with subtitles! Woo!

    I’d also like to see Tehzeeb, which seems kind of like a Hindi version of the Bengali film Unishe April. It’s about a mother who is a famous dancer (Aparna Sen) and her daughter who feels ignored. Since it’s a Bengali film they talk and talk and talk about this and that’s about it, but I found it really realistic, with a realistic but satisfying ending.

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    • Tehzeeb is amazing, and I am always surprised it isn’t talked about more. It was also one of the first films of Arjun Rampal to show that surprising range we are all used to now. He doesn’t have much to do, but he is a very nice comfortable presence in the film. Dia is also amazing, and I keep waiting for that level of performance to show up from her again.

      On Sun, May 13, 2018 at 10:42 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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