Mother India: A Magnum Opus
Based on a socialist theme and in an Agrarian society of the Western Gujarat, Mother India is an artistic narration of the Greater India (Post WW2), its caste system, rural society and woman in general. The primary goal of it is to, awake the illiterate class of rural Indian society, educate equal opportunity, oppose unfair financial lending system to the poor farmers, celebrate the freedom of the nation and also to change the primitive perspective of judging this nation based on a literary fiction of an author who is unaware of Indian society and its values.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the independence of India and to materialize the idea of making a dynamic film based on patriotism, struggle, social accomplishment and the role of women in the society, Mehboob Khan channelized a great deal of effort to bring a great piece of art to the worldwide film viewers. As opposed to Katherine Mayo’s book “Mother India” -which criticized Indian culture, woman in general and its values on the bolder ground, Khan offered his film to the public (national and international) with the exact title of Mayo’s book to make people understand and evaluate the Indian values in detail and its place among the growing egos of the rapidly developing nations.
Critically acclaimed by every Major medias, film critics and accolades, Mother India stands as the Khan’s most ambitious project, and Nargis’s most challenging character portrayal of her film career which still lives among us.
The idea of the film was to bring India into the attention of the world. To inform people about the changes happening in the society and the attitude adopted by its people to push their nation onto international arena -as a prideful, high valued, culturally important and an independent nation. It demanded its share of respect and equality from the wider audiences.
It opened in Liberty Theater of Mumbai, with huge celebrity attendance and media coverage. It is known to have run in theaters for more than 4 decades. The change in thoughts that it brought in the industry and the outside world was tremendous at that time. Film-goers, socially aware class of people and critics still look up to Mother India as the finest example of a patriotic, artistic and challenging film of all time.
Importance of the Socialist Input, Rural Agrarian Setting and the Female Prowess in the Film
After the independence of the nation, the first Prime Minister of India “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru” administered and flourished his never-dying idea of socialism and human-empowerment to build and organize petty Indian states and its people into a whole big nation of like-minded people and thoughts. The main idea of “Aam Admi” was to facilitate equal priority to every citizen of the nation. A country where more than 80% of people were marginalized and agrarian by occupation, a socialist theme of politics was essential to build the initial steps for future growth and progress. Later on the nation adopted liberal and capitalist practices for running its enterprises, however the initial ideas were developed from Nehru’s socialist tips.
With ever bloating poverty, illiteracy, backwardness and dominant masculinity, the need for resurrection of an image of high-ethic and God like Indian woman was essential in the Cinema -to aware people about the reasoning and consequences of the social changes taking place in the nation. Women is known for being the ultimate Sacrificer, Caregiver, Goddess type in the Hindu culture, therefore people digested the idea of representing the protagonist, a woman “Radha,” without a glass of water. The rural setting and the agrarian backdrop played an important role to persuade the audiences to digest the general idea of the film, because the nation was agrarian by nature and volume.
Analysis of the Character “Radha,” played by Nargis
Taking a peak into the character of the protagonist is important here, because the whole story of the film lies over her shoulder.
Nargis has been represented as a mother, in both metaphor and metamorphic manner. She as a mother stands for her children, her pride as a woman, her land (Agricultural field) and her nation. She bears a patriotic emblem which doesn’t compromise with any vices and malpractices of the society. Her righteous deeds, such as; to not run-away from death, irrigate the flooded land, care for her children, disapprove to sell her pride during the dire situation of poverty, and the decision to kill her son to protect a woman’s pride, makes her an ultimate Hero and a figure which stands as the best example of Paragon.
Her portrayal of an Indian woman is opposed to the terms described by Mayo’s for an Indian woman. More importantly, she stands as an ultimate answer for every questions to the people who are unaware about Indian and its values in general.
I personally found it unbelievable for a such a spoiled actress like Nargis to take a challenging role of ‘Mother India’, and more importantly to play it with such an ease and spectacle. Her act silenced every critics who would ever dare to question her ability as a great actor.
Film-makers, then today and forever, will always look up to this piece of art to develop their own tell-tale of Patriotism, Struggle, Freedom, Independence and the change in the Society.