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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.