A review by Lisa
This is one of the few classics of the fifties that gave the woman and the mother the title of hero. The movie is also the few movies in classic Indian cinema where you don't get the regular Bollywood dancing and romance scenes until the end of the movie.
Mother India is a true legend...Based in rural India as a metaphor of an independent nation rising on its own after the collapse of the British Empire in the Indian subcontient, Mahboob gives the role to the common mother, Radha, the wife of a farmer,Shamu deeply in debt. And to make matters worst, the evil money lender harvests most of their land three fourths of it even though Shamu's mother had stated the debtful family would only pay off the five hundred rupees which the mother owed to Sukilala with one fourth of the land. But due to the sukilala's selfish greed the family ends up working in a burren rocky land.
With Shamu by her side, Radha helps him to plow the rocky and untamed land even when she gives birth to one of her four children. While plowing the land, the family's bullock dies from the heavy weight of the boulder. With the lost of the bullock, Shamu decides to move a large boulder out of the way with his bear hands and he almost succeeds until both his arms are crushed. The villagers make a complete effort to have his arms freed. However, Shamu is an unable to do anything for himself his wife and their two small children Birju and Ramu has to constantly help him.
Even when Birju takes a smoke from his father's cigarette Shamu can't take the pain of being the burden on anyone and decides to leave. He leaves during the night while the entire family is asleep. In this memorable and touching scene of a mother's desperation for support from her husband it looks as though she too might abondon her three small children. Birju and Ramu ran after her screaming, "Mata! Mata!" All the while the heavy melodramatic music plays in the background. When her two children catches up with her she walks with them singing one of the classics of the movie "Nagri Nagri, Dware Dware."
Another memorable scene with another classic song of the movie is "Duniya Mein Hum Aaye" song by Radha and her two small children with tears in their eyes as they plow the land. As they plow Mother Nature sends a massive flood onto the newly grown crops, washing the newly planted crops and one of her sons away. And to make matters worst, hunger strikes the family as the youngest and fourth son dies from starvation. Radha has to face the ultimate challenge when sukilala lusts after her in her darkess hour of deseparation. He even offers Birju grahams to eat. But Radha becomes upset by the Sukilala's generosity and tells Birju not to eat. But she soons regrets it when Birju faints from hunger and she must dig in the dirt for small parcels of food for her child. Radha then decides the only way to feed her children is to give into the sukilala. The Sukilala's house also defines how greedy he is. His house is spacious and glittered with gold.
This angers Radha as she grabs a statue of Shiva and threatens to break it. Sukilala panicks not wanting his precious statue to be broken. She speaks to the statue cursing it for it being born in the form of a statue and not having been born in the form of a human to witness struggles of mankind in a rural village. She than turns to Sukilala and points out he was born into wealth and gold while she and her children were born into poverty and starvation. This is one of the few moments in Bollywood history where the mother reminds strong willed despite being covered in mud from head to toe. When Sukilala reaches up to touch her she immediately bashes him relentlessly with a broom leaving him and eventually find food for her children.
In another scene Radha stands in deep in the mud soaked soil calling the villagers to not abondon the land and mother country India. The villagers return helping to salvage the crops creating the map of India out of the wheat they had cut down.
Years pass and slowly the movie is leading up to the big event in the beginning of the movie. Radha is an old woman having survived famine, flood and a selfish moneylender. Her eldest son Ramu is a respectable farm, quiet and obediant. Her other son Birju is angered and restless. Sukilala is still alive unfortunately and still taunts Birju and Radha. Birju becomes annoyed by the moneylender's taunts and tells him, "We have worked all our lives for the sake of you! And you have not returned anything to us!" When Birju asked to see the payments his grandmother had written long ago he can't read it and it is heartbreaking to see Birju running from one villager to the next desperately asking anyone to read it. No one can read and thus illiteracy is introduced into the movie and rural life.
The lack of education also angers Birju he runs to the school teacher Chandra sitting amongest the little children who giggle at the grown man trying to get an education since he spent most of his childhood plowing land.
Birju turns violent becoming a bandit and raises war on his own village! Than Sukilala sets fire to a building and Birju jumps in just in time to save his mother but gets burned also.
Birju constantly teases Sukilala's daughter Rupa and kidnaps her on her wedding day right before she gets married to someone else. Radha having put up with Birju long enough as all mothers do, decides to put an end to her son's rebellous ways and kills him with a shot gun. This is the ultimate sacrafice of a mother who had trudged knee deep to plow land with her small children when no one else dared to help her. She and her only living son Ramu eventually overcome the obstacles of life together.
Mother India was one of the first Indian movies to be nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film byt lost to another movie since America was more interested in movies from Europe...But Mother India could have won if it wasn't beatean at the third poll. This is an ultimate classic and a salute to the mother who has raised her children under difficult circumstances even in today's times events as in Mother India still continue today. Thanks to Mehboob
Khan for giving us a look into the life of a rural country standing on its own
in the face of becoming independent.
Runtime: 172 minutes
Maps & Globes
Bulletin Board Maps
Hand Painted Furniture
Old World Globe Bars