Mother India, A Magnum Opus
Based on a socialist theme and in an Agrarian society of Western Gujarat, Mother India (1957) accounts lives of countless Indian women who were and still are bound by their immense values and beliefs, and are forced to advocate the greater cause of personal sacrifices for the others.
Cultivating in the backyard of rural India, the aesthetic value of the movie largely remains on portraying the meager lives of poorer citizens of the newly formed nation. It emphasizes on the idea of building a greater nation through hard work, traditional values and agricultural. Other major ideas associated with the movie are; championing the cause for equal opportunities, importance of education, female prowess and fair loaning policy to the farmers.
Marking the 10th anniversary of the Independence of India, Mother India commemorates the idea of greater patriotism, struggle, social accomplishment and advancement of woman’s role in the society with a hint of theatrical gesture. Mehboob Khan channelized a great deal of effort to bring his niche art among the audience. As opposed to Katherine Mayo’s book “Mother India,” which primarily criticized Indian culture and the role of women in the society, Khan made his movie with the exact title to Mayo’s book to juxtapose with the contrasting theories presented by her, and to deliver the message, despite our roots in social modus operandi which is seen as primitive in nature, the nation isn’t unfamiliar with the changing concepts of society.
Critically acclaimed and awarded with countless accolades, Mother India stands out among the greatest movies ever made in India. Khan’s most ambitious project and Nargis’s most challenging character portrayal of her time, it is still remembered and applauded by critics and audiences alike.
The greater idea of the movies rested solely on bringing India into the global attention. To inform the citizens of the world about the newly formed yet independent nation. It demanded India’s share of respect and position among the elites of the world. Inspired by the Italian Neo-realism cinema of Europe, Mother India applied similar aesthetics and nature of capturing a developing nation. It’s known to have run in theaters for more than 4 decades. Film-makers, audiences and several key social stakeholders still look up to it for greater examples of cinematic and artistic triumphs, and its socialism.
Importance of the Socialist Theme, Rural Agrarian Settings and the Female Prowess
Immediately after the independence, the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, administered his iconic idea of socialism and human resource empowerment to build and organize the petty Indian states and its people into a strong nation of like-minded citizens. The very idea of “Aam Admi” championed by Nehru was to facilitate equal priority to every citizen of the nation. A country where more than 80% of people were farmers by occupation, a socialist theme of governance was essential to build the initial steps for future development.
India, today, runs through liberal and capitalist yet meager socialist practices, however, the initial ideas were developed from Nehru’s socialist inputs. The Movie, as well as Nehru, championed the cause of developing a new nation through initiation of agricultural enterprises and equal participation of working class citizens.
With ever present male-dominance in the society, mass poverty and unfair loaning and lending system, the need of resurrecting an imagery of a God like and ferocious woman was essential to suggest that women can change the nation if they wish. The male class was corrupt and polluted. Women were always known for being the ultimate Sacrificer, Caregiver and Nurturer in the Hindu society, therefore feeding the idea of representing a woman as the protagonist of the movie was challenging yet overtly ambitious.
Analysis of Nargis’s Character
Nargis Dutt (1929-1981), the protagonist of Mother India, portrayed the role of a Mother (Radha). She bears a patriotic emblem of her nation. Her righteous deeds throughout the span of movie; raising children during difficult times and the ultimate decision of taking the life of her beloved son, makes her a Hero, a figurine of bravado.
Her portrayal of an Indian woman opposes every bit of the theory opined by Mayo, therefore, it remains one of the strongest female roles ever potrayed in the Indian cinema.