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Mother’s Day 2021: The Shifting Portrayal of a Mother in Bollywood

With films like Mom or Tumhari Sulu, here’s how the portrayal of mother has changed in Bollywood over the ages.

Mere paas maa hai”- These four simple, yet powerful lines that were first said 46 years ago in the film Deewar have transcended the barrier of time and remained with us ever since. Whenever we think of the mother character, we are reminded of the significance of these lines and how we can fight against all odds if we have the mother’s hand over our head. Since its very inception, Bollywood carved out the archetype of a mother character, according to which she is overtly sentimental, melodramatic, and over the top in her depiction of emotions. Think of Neerupa Roy, Jaya Bachchan in the later part of her career, Kirron Kher, Farida Jalal or the iconic image of a plough bearing Nargis Dutt in Mother India, all these characters have embodied a similar prototype, that is, their entire existence revolves around the purpose of being a mother.

However, in recent times, Bollywood has been seen taking baby steps towards portraying a mother that is a character of her own, is grounded by certain motivations that are not an extended version of the hero’s motives and is independent.

A very recent example would be Renuka Shahane’s Tribhanga where we see the equations between mother and daughter spread over three generations of women. Going beyond the typical image of a mother figure that is as ‘pure’ as a goddess, this films focuses on the issues that were hardly associated with the perfect mother. It talks of single motherhood, abuse, open relationships and aspirations of a woman. When we paint a mother’s character with just one shade, we often tend to leave out her most humane qualities, and Shahane challenged this notion in her film where relatability lies in the imperfectness of the mother.

In Jazbaa, we see Aishwarya Rai’s Anuradha breaking the docile image of a mother and taking charge of things when her daughter is kidnapped. In Mom, Sridevi’s character does the same when she turns into a vigilante trying to avenge her stepdaughter after she is sexually assaulted at a party.