By Subhash K Jha
Shabana Azmi: “The mother in Hindi cinema has always been an avtar of Mother India, strong, principled, the chief custodian of the errant son’s morality. Given to sacrifice and hardship, she battles all odds to bring up her children. Today she is changing whilst essentially retaining the core values. Dolly Ahluwalia in Vicky Donor drinks along with her mother-in-law whilst an indulgent son says, “She works so hard a drink relaxes her.” She runs a beauty parlour, has a short temper, screams at her son but has a heart of gold and after initial resistance supports her son in his decisions. Kajol in My Name Is Khan is a working mother far removed from the coughing hapless Leela Chitnis. Long before these, Waheeda Rehman in Trishul is a revolutionary mother who challenges her son to seek revenge for his desertion ‘nahi to main doodh maaf nahi karoongi’ Salim-Javed’s mother-figure was always central to the story line, particularly in Deewaar. Since my first film Shyam Benegal’s Ankur I have been claiming ‘yeh bachcha mera hai’ as the raison d’etre for keeping the child from an illicit relationship. I upheld a woman’s right to determine the fate of her womb in Mrinal Sen’s Genesis, Prakash Jha’s Mrityudand and Kalpana Lajmi’s Ek Pal.
Zarina Wahab: “I played Shah Rukh Khan’s and Hrithik Roshan’s mother in My Name Is Khan and Agneepath, respectively. I had more to do than mothers do in films these days. Screen mothers have been completely marginalized. Nowadays children don’t need their mothers to guide them beyond a point. And if the mother tries to make her presence felt the the children say, ‘Mom, give us space’. Movies are doing just that. They are letting mothers be. There isn’t much for them to do. Earlier there used to be a strong emotional track with the mothers. Nowadays moms are too cool, if they’re there at all. In Shristi Behl’s I Me Aur Main, I play John Abraham’s mother. It’s a different kind of equation. When she visits her son he feels crowded. Moms are no longer indispensable.”
Lilette Dubey: “There’s a sea-change in the way mothers are portrayed. We at least recognize to some extent that a mother is an individual with her own needs and identity. They’re no longer the long-suffering martyrs. They’re more real. More today. The mother I played in Gadar is a far cry from Monsoon Wedding or even My Brother Nikhil. But they are nonetheless mothers with their own strong individual characters.”