Mother's Day: Bollywood taking baby steps in realistic portrayal of mothers

Komal Panchamatia

Mumbai, May 10 (PTI) From Nargis' revolutionary 'Mother India', the 'Mother of Bollywood' in Nirupa Roy, to Kajol's 'helicopter' mom and Priyanka Chopra's mama tiger act in 'The Sky is Pink', Bollywood is coming of age when it comes to portraying mothers on screen.

This Mother's Day, writers Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul, Juhi Chaturvedi, actor Seema Pahwa, writer-director Nupur Asthana and filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar weigh in on how Hindi cinema has been receptive to the off-screen evolution of mothers.

Even after 45 years, Salim-Javed's iconic 'Mere paas maa hai' dialogue in 'Deewar' evokes Roy's image as a hapless impoverished mother torn between her warring sons, played by Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor.

Waikul, co-writer of 'Thappad', believes mothers have often been used to bring out the emotional appeal in a story.

'The portrayal of a mother depends on what one is trying to communicate in the film. As writers we have to portray what is going on in the society and then try to make it inspirational, aspirational or maybe show the stark reality,' she told PTI.

Pahwa, who has become the go-to actor to play an educated mother from the middle class, said the Bollywood mother has become progressive.

One would remember Pahwa in 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' as a harrowed mother vetting grooms for her daughter and, in 'Shubh Mangal Saavdhan', a well-read woman who struggles with symbolism while delivering a sex talk to her soon-to-be-married daughter.

'Mothers as characters may have the same problems as they had years ago. But what's refreshing is how they are becoming more accepting towards the changes in society.

'Lately, they show that mothers are not stubborn. They are not the quintessential mother anymore who is always crying and ailing,' the actor had told PTI in an earlier interview.

In Dolly Ahluwalia's salon owner who enjoys a tipple with her mother-in-law in 'Vicky Donor', Chaturvedi gave a new-age mother to Hindi cinema.

The writer said it is time mothers were treated like humans and not put on a pedestal.

'You don't have to write a 'Mother India' all the time or a Nirupa Roy or Leela Chitnis or recreate a temple image of a Devi. She is as human as anybody. It is up to each writer what is it that they are writing to watch and want people to see in the film,' she said.

The writer added that one can create a bizarre or a villainous mother onscreen but there should be an awareness while writing such parts.

'You write a whacked out character as long as you are coming from the space of knowing. When you know, you will make that whacked out mother even more believable and beautiful,' Chaturvedi said.

The father has often been the absentee parent or the one who gets killed off, like in Salman-Shah Rukh Khan-starrer 'Karan Arjun', with Raakhee as the waiting mother, but single mothers have started getting their due on screen.

Waikul, whose mother, late actor Reema Lagoo played a single mother in 1990's 'Aashiqui', said the portrayal has witnessed a sea of change.

'Very rarely we saw single mothers working on screen, usually it used to be some activity, sending food or stitching clothes in earlier times. We have seen struggling mothers onscreen for years now,' she said.

Citing the example of Dia Mirza's character in 'Thappad', the screenwriter said, 'The character is a single mother and has a good job. She is educated and unapologetic. This is the kind of graph we are seeing over the years.' Asthana, co-director of web series 'Four More Shots Please!', said society reflects art and art reflects society.

In the Amazon Prime Video show, which has been renewed for a third season, actor Kirti Kulhari plays a successful lawyer who is a single mother.

'I have so many friends who are single mothers, they are devoted to their children. Having a career and yet going out to work is not easy. I see their struggle every day and their desire to live a full life.

'Society has evolved, there are new-age parents and that is reflected in art as well,' Asthana said.

Sarkar too believes it is all about growing with time. His last directorial venture 'Helicopter Eela' saw an overprotective and possessive mother (Kajol) rediscovers herself and finds a life outside of her son (Riddhi Sen).

'The relationship of a mother and child cannot be old or new. It is always of love and care and that's what mothers are like. The treatment can be different in cinema, but with basic emotions in place,' he added.

Chaturvedi said though her films 'Piku' and 'October' didn't have a direct 'mother' connect to the story, the central characters – Deepika Padukone's title role as the working woman daughter and a doting friend in Dan, played by Varun Dhawan – were quite maternal.

'Mother is a genderless entity. The human quality of a mother is nurturer, a spiritual and selfless person. What stops a man from being that? 'Piku is the mother of the family, she is sensible and sensitive. It is not about having a child, it is about being that person. In 'October', Vidya Iyer (Gitanjali Rao), Dan's mother or Dan himself, he elevated himself to doing what a mother does,' she said. PTI KKP RDS SHD RDS