Jagriti Rumi

Mother India – Epic tale of an ordinary woman

Film Analysis

Nargis as Mother India. [Source – BollySpice]

Mother India (1957), a benchmark in Hindi film industry, glorifies our country, which had then seen just 10 years of independence; it celebrates the Indian women – a daughter, sister, lover, wife, mother, an individual and the goddess; and in the most dramatic, impactful manner it presents the magic of cinema.

This epic film is written by Wajahat Mirza (who also wrote the dialogues for Mughal-e-Azam), S. Ali Raza (who wrote films like Aan and Andaz) and Mehboob Khan (the director). It was a remake of Mehboob Khan’s film titled Aurat (1940), based on the story by Babubhai Mehta, to which he profusely added a strong sense of nationalism – like in the song ‘Dukh Bhare Din Beete Re’ we see an outline map of India literally drawn on the land using haystacks, with people inside, waving joyously and Radha, along with her two sons, standing at the centre on a pedestal, with sickles in hands.

Though 172 minutes long, with a total of 12 songs (by Naushad; lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni), Mother India has a very well written, crisp screenplay. It begins with the protagonist, Radha, an old lady, considered as the mother of the entire village, taking the audience into a flashback, as if saying, ‘come, listen to my story’.

We see now a younger, beautiful Radha who marries Shamu. At first, she comes across as a shy and subservient bride, her husband being her lord, but wait until Radha hears about the loan that Shamu’s mother took from the devious moneylender, Sukhi Lala, right then Radha confidently offers her jewellery, her gold bangles to pay off this debt.

The tussle between a family in debt and a corrupt loan shark, between Radha’s values and absolute degradation of every moral standard, only intensifies as the story moves ahead. Radha’s family grows, their needs increases, but so does Sukhi Lala’s interference and with Panchayat’s support he declares his right on Shamu’s farm and its produce.

Birju, Radha’s second son, is a rebel right from the beginning – he wants his farm and Radha’s gold bangles back at any cost. Foreshadowing this, Birju troubles Sukhi Lala as a kid, not ready to give him the harvest, calling him a thief and grows up to become Sukhi Lala’s doom.

The tight plot doesn’t give respite to the viewer for Radha has not one but many battles to win; Shamu’s arms are crushed in an accident, humiliated by Sukhi Lala for living on his wife’s mercy, he leaves Radha and their four kids forever; after passing away of her mother-in-law, Radha faces natural disasters – flood and storm hits her land and takes away her two youngest kids.

With only Ramu and Birju as her family now, defeated, she goes to Sukhi Lala and begs him for a morsel of bread. In this highly dramatic sequence, Radha, who had decided to compromise, eventually doesn’t allow Sukhi Lala to violate her; she has a dialogue with the goddess Laxmi –

“Devi, Radha k roop mein aate hue laaj na aayi… mere roop mein aayi ho to apni laaj lut-te hue bhi dekh lo… hanso nahi… hanso nahi… sansar ka bhaar utha logi Devi, mamta ka bojh na uthaya jayega… Maa bankar dekho, tumhare panv bhi dadmaga jayenge…”

(Translation – Goddess now that you have come in my avatar, witness how you are dishonoured. Don’t laugh! It is easy to nurture the whole world and truly difficult to be a mother, try being one, even you’ll falter.)

Radha looks weak at first – like the mother who is expected to sacrifice and is thusly, worshipped – but after talking to the goddess within her, she remembers her individual self; Radha stands up, crushes the evil and soars like a phoenix.

She raises her kids into fine young men; she gets Ramu, a man of principle, married, but worries for Birju, the stubborn son. Once again foreshadowing is used here – Radha warns Birju not to trouble any girl or else she won’t spare him, in fact, after the Holi sequence when Birju tries to get Radha’s bangles back from Rupa (Sukhi Lala’s only daughter) and the whole village beat up Birju for being so insolent, then Radha promises the entire village to punish Birju herself, kill him if need be.

Bloodthirsty, Birju joins some dacoits, kills Sukhi Lala and abducts Rupa. When Radha tries to stop him, with a rifle in her hands, Birju doesn’t listen, sure that his mother can’t harm him; Radha shoots him down – Birju dies in Radha’s arms after giving her the gold bangles.

Here the flashback ends; Radha opens the gate of the irrigation canal, allowing the muddy reddish water to flow in the fields, symbolizing bloodshed that she and the whole nation had witnessed for freedom.

Every scene, every dialogue, every song makes this film nothing less than an epic poem. The three love stories, in its limited space, bloom beautifully – Ramu and Champa represent ‘love’ that triumphs; Birju and Chandra, both opposite in nature, represent unfulfilled love; Radha and Shamu, unite to face separation forever, represent ‘love’ that sacrifices.

Throughout the film, the characters stick to their traits and yet, each character grows. Ramu fights Birju to protect Rupa in the end; Sukhi Lala begs Radha to save his daughter, but still doesn’t say a word about the debt; Birju leaves the village to become a dacoit, hitting his mother when she tries to stop him; and Radha, a mother becomes Radha, a woman and sacrifices her son for a girl’s honour. That is why these characters are still remembered, they repeat their traits, their flaws, just like we all do.

A 21st-century screenwriter could be reluctant to accept Mother India’s melodramatic approach, but what cannot be resisted is its great storyline, life-like characters and true representation of Hindi cinema.


  *[Originally written for the Screenwriters Association (SWA), you can check the same here.]


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Shared Moment

I stopped then on the road, don’t know why exactly, my mind blank and my eyes fixed on the ground. I couldn’t move.
What was I hoping for? To see a rainbow? By looking down?

The wind swam past me and I heard it quickly whisper something, I didn’t get the message. Split seconds passed, then I finally looked up and straight.

Before I could realise, I had crossed the road and now was walking on an old worn out footpath. Grey surroundings didn’t overwhelm me, how could it? But a marigold did, how couldn’t it?

Marigold standing alone with yellow, orange, red coloured joys looked real. I became the part of the background and the marigold became the centre.

I was jealous, why did I take this journey?

The sun rays fell on the chosen one and the Marigold shone bright, beamed its joy. It communicated to me, but how… why?

I smiled for no reason. Marigold nodded at me and I foolishly raised my hand to say ‘hello’.

Fool I made of myself, and still I liked that feeling. In that shared moment I changed.

That Flower, Dark Coloured

The dark old lady walks like lightening devouring the night sky, she is swift, she is fast. Her dusty feet, darker than the broken black slippers, know exactly where it is to lead and where it is to stop. Draped in a saree lungi style, her slender figure boasts of agility and strength.
Amma, it is cold tonight, and she covers her head, her ears with a towel. Does she look funny? Not at all, she looks as beautiful as that flower kept in that book. That flower, dark coloured, tells a story, pressed and noted neatly in that book, stored for a chance meeting.
Amma what time is it, nine thirty she says and at ten she has to go to a flat and clean the dishes, clear the kitchen counter, set the culinary world in order; often Amma plays music and her dear plates, cups and spoons dance on her tune. Amma beams then like she is beaming now – Amma’s toothless smile.
On her way back home, at night, embracing the darkness Amma moves briskly, but stops in front of a small house and asks Sunita bahin if she can get a water-can and take some fresh water; yes, at Amma’s place you won’t see a water-tap rather there are colourful canisters lined up – yellow, blue, faded red and blue.
Amma is stylish, her dark self knows what colours to wear – white and orange and green, mixture of all these and add some flowery designs, this completes her look. Do you also wear the colours of the road, the trees, the dark sky Amma? For you look as quiet and great as them.
And your eyes, that glance, killer! Amma your eyes are sharp, your eyes smile – your eyes are familiar with Time and that’s why you don’t mind, you don’t curse it, you don’t cherish it; you know how to live it. Whatever it may be, a raging tempest or a happy carnival or a visit to the temple, you get up the next day and leave for work on time.
I wonder if you have not talked to everybody until now. Because you are alive, you know Time, you know the society, you know poverty and you smile with your eyes.
Amma cheers to your journey. The dark old lady waved a goodbye.

Self

“This noise… it’s hard to listen to oneself.” 
“Is it? Is noise the reason?”

“What do you… why… why do you always have to ask so many questions? Clever little… Why should I answer anyway, there is no peace, I can’t think clearly.”

“Inner Peace…”

“No! Keep your dilemmas out of my mind. Ah! What’s wrong with people, why are they shouting? Madness! Can’t tolerate this…”

“Your complaints are audible to me, just so you know. I am listening”

“So am I, oh, why do I always fall for your tricks. I… I won’t say a word now. I’ll be quiet… ha simple… and that is my answer to you. Yes! I’ll be silent!”

“Good, you’ll be able to listen now.”

Firdaus

Agar Firdaus bar ru-ye zamin ast, 
Hamin ast o hamin ast o hamin ast

Translation – If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.

This Persian phrase written in reference to Jammu and Kashmir, India, is attributed to the great Sufi musician and poet, Amir Khusrow.

*
Nature painted in full lustre
The hues of love
It is peace above
It is peace beneath
And the Dal Lake, a mirror
Chinar leaves, fallen ones,
A paint brush’s twists
Chirping, joyous children
On the footsteps of a temple
Now stand quietly somewhere hidden
Sharpness of bullets are measured
By dripping bright red blood
The aura of a single truth
And the nature’s imprint,
Will engulf it all at the end
And the Paradise will rise then.

Oceanic Waves by Cody Hooper https://www.codyhooperart.com/

Read It Happily

In that wonderful valley, some children are playing hide-and-seek. Their laugh, their complaints, their chit-chats echoes. The Deodar trees and the wind, the birds and the flying-foxes give the background score. Joy is the dominant colour of this valley, even the passing clouds are pacing down to collect some.

Ah!

That is her memory, just a memory of the old days. The compact city life, the tick-tock march to the town centre, the race to the platform got sidelined somehow, and she took a memory, opened it up, read it happily.

She felt good, memories don’t truly fade. You can always read them. Always!

Lord Jagannath’s Eyes

One eye says that the play is on.

The wheel of Time moves ceasing for none, winning over oceans, mountains, the sky, the wind and the fire.

People crowd to clench forms and beliefs, together they build and destroy. They wait to gauge for more and what is better.

Look now, how they shine, bright like fireflies, honest to the core; look now, how they lure, how they trick the tricksters, how they slay a man’s soul.

Speak not, for they are at work, cross-legged monks, meditating on what is less; speak not, for you will fail to express how chaotic is the chaos.

Rising high is the music of unity and harmony; falling face down is the corrupt, fake cry of every rigid mind.

Knowing the beginning, waiting for the end, it walks, it lingers, we walk, and we linger.

Lord Jagannath by Santanu Dash

Second eye says that it is all absolute bliss.

There is no Space or Time and it binds none; the ultimate end and the ultimate start merges with the absolute existence.

Flowing in a silent music, dancing always, the ripple reaches the centre.

The Brahman breathes; formless, it is of the colour peace.


Tala Pattachitra, Palm Leaf Painting – Odisha’s ancient art form

Lord Jagannath’s eyes are the universe we see and the universe we can’t see. The happy devotee who bows, who worships, who sings, who gazes gets mesmerized by one of the universes, and by Lord Jagannath’s smile.

Our million eyes find a million revelations in Lord Jagannath’s eyes.

Lord Jagannath, Lord of the Universe 

Glorious

No, not in one go, not in seconds, things take time.
 
Remember that lotus bud, you looked at for days and days and at last it showed the beauty it stored.
 
And the moon said the same, wearing the veil of darkness, waiting quietly, writing poems of love, reciting and shining when the time was right.
 
Oh! Glorious nature! The ocean awaits the lively streams, the trees paint every little leaf green, the earth nurtures slowly and steadily… patiently you rise, smile and bestow joy.
 
No, not in one go, not in seconds, things take time to become glorious.

 

Glorious
Image by yyryyr1030 from Pixabay