IWMBuzz tells you a bit about the iconic mothers in our movies

Cine Maa: The Mothers In Our Movies

Moms in our movies lately got a lot cooler. Look at the cool grandma Kamlesh Gill in Bang Bang or for that matter Lilette Dubey in so many films. They are a far fry from the sobbing suffering coughing and huffing mothers in movies who would toil till death for their laadla beta.

And watching Tabu mothering Shahid Kapoor in Haider poor Nirupa Roy must have squirmed in her grave.
It seems like yesterday when her two-screen sons in Yash Copra’s Deewaar fought for her attention as though their life depended on it.

As Shashi Kapoor shuts Amitabh Bachchan up with Salim-Javed’s classic line, ‘Mere Paas Maa hai’, and that little boy in Raja Aur Runk Master Mahesh sings O maa tu kitni achi hai tu kitni bholi hai.

Have you ever heard that song and not cried?

It remains a tribute to so many luminaries of the emotion-picture. Lata Mangeshkar who at age 40 sang a song expressing a 10-year old boy’s filial voice, Laxmikant-Pyarelal who composed this unbelievably moving and timeless melody, and Nirupa Roy Bollywod’s mummy no. 1 who passed away quietly.Can’t say unsung.

Contrary to her image all-giving all-sacrificing maternal image Nirupa Roy, I believe, liked the good things of life specially the strong beverages. In fact, another cine-Maa known to play strong assertive author-backed moms to Shah Rukh, Salman and the likes, drinks heavily and slaps around her domestic help. Anything but maternal!

Moms needn’t be angelic. In B. R Ishaara’s Kagaz Ki Nao 30 years ago Helen’s daughter Sareeka fainted with fright when she saw her widowed mom with a man.

“Why do we presume our mothers to be deities?” Helen had pleaded in this poignant look at the way moms used to be.

The portrait of the mother as the last word in resilience and sacrifice has changed. When Shabana Azmi throttled her lover’s son in B.R Ishaara’s Log Kya Kahenge? Or when Aroona Irani plotted against her doting step-son in Indra Kumar’s maa-ki-maya-masala-maar-ke tale Beta.

Hindi cinema’s best-known and best-loved moments of magic on the screen are mother-oriented. From Mehboob Khan’s Mother India to Suchitra Sen in Mamta to Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana to Yash Chopra’s Deewaar to Pravin Bhatt’s Bhavna(watch this one for a powerhouse performance by Shabana Azmi as the mother who becomes a hooker to make her son a doctor). ..somewhere, with Nirupa Roy’s death, ended the portrait of the strong self-willed mother who acted like an uncaged lioness when her child was under threat.

Sulochana, Leela Chitnis , Kamini Kaushal, Achala Sachdev and of course Nirupa Roy . Kahan gaye ‘woe’ log???? Log on to liberated motherhood. Achala Sachdev passed away recently. When I spoke to Kamini Kaushal on her 80th birthday three years ago I couldn’t believe how agile and girlish she sounded.

Why do we carry such powerful images of the screen-mother as emotional anchors and unshakable deities of kindness and compassion?

With a new breed of 30-minus heroes came the younger hipper moms like Reema Lagoo, Anjana Mumtaz and Beena.

But somehow the large-hearted all-giving mother seems to have gone with the wimp. Remember the 40-plus Rajendra Kumar in O.P Ralhan’s Talaash sobbing in his mother Sulochana’s lap as Sachin Dev Burman sang Meri duniya hai maa tere aanchal mein.

The last of the truly great all-giving screen moms was Raakhee Gulzar who could bring in a great deal of empathy to roles that would otherwise have ended up as clichés.

When did the screen moms begin to get mildewed? Was it when the Nirupa Roys and Dularis were replaced by the Waheeda Rehmans and Raakhees to make the mother more glamorous?

Moms in our films are a threatened species. More often than not they’re victims of clichéd portrayals more sinned against than ‘singing’. So next time one of those braindead directors decides to make one of those super-braindead comedies here’s some advice.

Please pick on someone your own ‘sighs’.

Nirupa Roy in Mr White And Mr Black. In the plot she was just an image on a dvd .

And that brings me to the other point about screen mothers and daughters. Why are the ladies of the family kept out of the film industry?

In the beginning there was the mother Shobhana Samarth Then came her two daughters Nutan and Tanuja, followed by progenies Mohnish Behl and Kajol-Tanisha.

But daughters from the film industry tend to be kept out of the limelight. While Dharmendra’s two sons are high-profile celebrities, his only daughter remains totally out of the limelight. The only actor who proudly brought his daughter out into show-world was Jagdish Raj whose daughter Anita Raj had a short and sweet innings as a successful leading lady.

Even screen-mothers have been protective, if not paranoid about their daughter’s ambitions. Soha Ali Khan was first packed off to London to work in a bank before her mom’s vocation beckoned her back to Bollywood.

But no one has cast them together as yet. Mothers and daughters have always bonded more off than on screen. Filmmaker Deepa Mehta and her daughter Devyani share a very special alchemy. When Devyani decided to write a book on her mother’s troubled marriage and eventual break-up the mother felt the bond grow even more indelible.

Deepa feels mothers and daughters in creative fields share a very special affinity. “I tell Devyani things I wouldn’t tell anyone else.”

In fact Deepa’s daughter was named after one of Suchitra Sen’s most celebrated roles in Asit Sen’s Mamta, a film about a mother-daughter bonding.

Legendary screen moms have always shied away from sharing screen space with their daughters for the fear of overshadowing their daughter. Years ago Sanjay Bhansali offered the parts of the mother and daughter in his Khamoshi to Dimple and Twinkle Khanna. Dimple suggested the first-time director sign her laadli beti and cast some other actress as the mom.

Sanjay fled. Hema Malini was so wary of sharing screen space with Esha she would refuse the plethora of offers to do photo sessions with her daughter. Forget photo-sessions, even being seen in public together would trigger off instant comparisons between the two, making the otherwise-imperturbable Diva more than slightly uncomfortable with the idea of sharing public platforms with her daughter.

Now, of course, Esha has evolved into a self-assured young woman confident of her own space and therefore not the least ruffled by the thought of being likened to her mythic Mama Malini.

Hema too has become far more confident of her daughter.

Lilette Dubey is far more adventurous. In Pritish Nandy’s little-seen gem Bow Barracks Forever she shared screen space with her daughter Neha without playing her real-life role. Lilette says there was absolutely no qualms or fear about the two coming together. In fact earlier in Bappaditya Roy’s not-seen-at-all Sau Sach Ek Jhooth Lilette and Neha were cast as a very hyper-strung mother-daughter pair.

Sometimes being a seasoned actress makes it impossible for the mother to be accommodated in the same frame as the daughter. Which sane filmmaker would even dream of casting the mythic Suchitra Sen with her rebellious oomphy daughter Moon Moon Sen….Rituparno Ghosh did the unthinkable five years ago when he cast Aparna Sen and her daughter Konkona in their real-life roles in Titli. Aparna and Konkona battled over the affections of an aging heart-throb played by Mithun Chakrabroty.

Significantly, Aparna has desisted from being cast with her daughter in her own films, though she has repeatedly directed Konkona. When a real-life crisis from Aparna’s life was pulled out for filming in 15 Park Avenue Aparna cast Shabana Azmi as Konkona’s mother-like elder sister. However those who know Aparna saw Shabana behaving exactly like the director in 15 Park Avenue.

Mother-daughter bondings in Bollywood are prone to more pulls and pushes than the father-son relationships. So many films featuring the two Bachchan men playing father and son have been designed. Not a single Bollywood producer has thought of casting Abhishek and his mom Jaya together…. Sharmila Tagore is luckier. She has played Saif’s mom in two films(Aashiq Aawara and Eklavya).

Soha will just have to wait. That reminds me of Mala Sinha and her daughter Pratibha Sinha…. What happened to them both? While the senior Sinha lives the life of recluse( some months ago I tried to contact her for an interview and was told she was busy) nothing is known about Pratibha’s whereabouts….Or old-timer Amita’s daughter Sabiha who did a scandalous film Anokha Rishta with Rajesh Khanna before vanishing from the screen.

A phenomenon peculiar to the famous mother-daughter pairs in Bollywood is the absence of a father-figure/patriarch in the household. Karisma and Kareena were brought up by single-parent Babita with iron hands. To this day the two girls, superstars in their own right, don’t raise a finger without consulting their mom.

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