Babes in Bollywood

This paper is an effort to explore issues related to presentation of a woman in Hindi Cinema with the reference of movie “Mother India” directed by Mehboob Khan. This movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best foreign Language film in the same year. This movie was remake of “Aurat” released in 1940 directed by Mehboob Khan. “Mother India” is one of the best Hindi movies. It is an excellent presentation of Indian woman in all her roles. Significance of movie increases exponentially, if one compares this movie with the socio-cultural perspective of the time of its release.

It was a period of post independence in India. People on one hand were taking up developmental issues whereas rural India was facing the similar problems of moneylenders, Jamindari, caste, social status and pride. Differences of caste, social status, culture, gender, language, interests and several others were common. In such scenario, thinking of overall growth of a community needed to bring everyone together irrespective of their differences. Socio-cultural Perspectives Covered in the Movie Movie presents social environment of village where men and women have their predefined roles and responsibilities.

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Most of the women in the movie will be doing works like fetching water, grinding grains, working on fields along with their family members, cooking and other household works. They are expected to behave in certain manner. The famous actress Nargis Dutt portrayed what is perhaps the ultimate politically correct sacrificial heroine in the 1957 release Mother India (a remake of the 1940 Aurat [Woman]). Persevering against corrupt moneylenders, abandonment, betrayal, monsoons, isolation, and death, Dutt’s character, Radha, provides the inspiration for her son and her village to survive (Booth, 1995).
Radha as a Bride: As a young bride, Radha takes up all the responsibilities of households silently. She has shy and romantic relationship with her husband and respecting behaviour towards her mother-in-law. She does not let her mother-in-law do any household work, once the marriage ceremony is over. Radha is concerned about the family reputation and well-being and does not want family to be under any loan so she wants to pay off loan with her jewellery. On the other hand, expectations of a husband (Shamu) to see his wife pretty and asking her reasons of not wearing jewelleries and telling her to wear jewelleries.
Radha has expectation from her husband to get his attention. These factors are beautifully presented in the movie. This movie presents expectations of society from a young bride and expectations of a young bride for her family and husband in a beautiful manner. Radha as a Wife Indian society expect wife to be devoted for all traditional duties and support her husband in all thick and thin. Radha in this movie has done the same. Radha’s husband leaves her at young age due to his inability to take care of his family after the accident where he loses both his hands.
Radha goes here and there searching for him and expects him to come back until the end of the movie. Radha sees his glimpse on her elder son and remembers him all the time whether it is festival or when she becomes grandmother. Radha’s devotion towards her husband is presentation of expectation of Indian society from the Hindu wives. Radha as a Mother Radha as a mother is brave mother. She adores her children, feed them and bring them up. Her children give her due respect. In the movie, it is shown that Radha shots “Birju” her younger son.
This is something contradictory to the social norm and image of mother in society. Mother is expected to ignore all bad about her children and remember only one thing of her motherly love. Radha goes through hardships for the survival of her children. Wealthy “Sukhilala” the moneylender offers Radha money and food during flood and crisis in the exchange of her beauty, Radha for a moment becomes ready to feed her dying children but as soon as she regains her conscious, she beats him up, comes back, struggles to find food, and survives.
In this movie, various scenes have been presented in the way that the motherly love or the social depiction of mother is protected. As soon as Birju is shot, Radha throws the rifle and runs to hold him and Birju is surprised. This scene presents the unexpected behaviour in a manner that audience would accept and appreciate it. Radha as a Villager Radha as a member of a community holds certain responsibility for the land and her village. During flood when people start leaving village, she requests them and urges them to stay.
She thinks about welfare of her village. She beats up and even kills her son when she finds him doing something against honour of village. Her younger son tries to take away moneylender’s daughter forcefully; she refers the term “Gaon ki beti (daughter of the whole village)” for her. This was despite of the fact that the moneylender was root of all the problems in her life. RaConclusion There are very less woman centred movies are made in Bollywood. Number of movies with the theme where woman has been able to bring change in the society is very less.
In most of the movies, woman has less significant roles as compared to male characters. The subject of the movie Mother India is not just bold but also it is though provoking. The movie was released in year 1957. This was a period of post independence. Women in the society had to follow very strict social norms and guidelines. The tolerance zone for behaviour of a woman outside these social norms was narrow. The character of Radha has not just followed these norms beautifully but also posed several questions about the women in the society. Radha made a choice for good by killing her son.
The starting of movie indicates the progressing India with the Water Canal inauguration by Radha, who is referred as Mother India. This movie has given food of thought to people. Radha was not just a character but also an agent to bring change. She was devoted wife like Goddess Sita and fierce Mother Goddess Kali twice first when she dealt with “Sukhilala” and second when she killed her son. Probably justifying Radha’s character was the most challenging aspect for the filmmaker, which he has done successfully. Radha did not leave her land even in the worst condition.
Not just that she was able to convince other villagers to stay for the good of all. Radha talked about welfare of land and the village. She was determined and proved her concerns of welfare of society. The most appealing factor of the movie was the representation of characters in contradictory modes. Character of Radha became more appealing and powerful with the contradictory representations. Mehboob Khan represented rural India and a rural woman in a manner that it not just offered entertainment values to the audience but also gave a strong social message to the society.
Reference: Booth, G. D, Traditional Content and Narrative Structure in the Hindi Commercial Cinema, Journal: Asian Folklore Studies, 54:2. (1995) Pg 169 Rosie Thomas, “Sanctity and Scandal: The Mythologization of Mother India,” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 11:3 (1989): 11-30 Images retrieved on 29 Oct 2007 from • www. tribuneindia. com/2005/20050526/main1. htm • www. oscarguy. com/Resources/Annual/30th. html • www. afc. gov. au/… /archives/2006/04_oct. aspx • www. afc. gov. au/images/puffs/motherindia1puff.
jpg • http://www. boloji. com/cinema/062a. jpg • http://hcl. harvard. edu/hfa/films/2006fall/melodrama. html dha as an Individual At each stage of her life, Radha has proven herself a strong woman. She has maintained her self-respect and courage. She did things that were socially right. She was right of selling off her jewellery and paying off as much debt as possible to avoid the consequences of loans and interest in the future life but as a female and youngest member of the family, she could not take decisions.
She had taken up all the responsibilities with courage. Her character in every form reveals the purity which society expects from a woman. GANDHY and THOMAS comment on Radha , “It is important to recognize that, throughout the film, Radha’s ‘power’ or ‘strength’ is integrally bound up with her respect for ‘traditional values’ . . . it is as a paragon of wifely devotion and chastity . . . that she is accorded respect and authority” (1991, 118 as cited by Booth 1995).

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