They are the reserve stores of love and affection (and adipose). Their pious feet (with sacred dust and all) mark the sanctuaries of the doors of Heaven (jannat) for their sons (not to mention the existential identity crisis of the Bengali men following it). They are mostly seen wearing ill-fitting, neutral colored traditional clothes, salwar kameez or sarees, either black or white (depending on the shades of badness or goodness of characters in movies). They are the storehouse of tears, and they cry for everything, be it when their sons come home wearing cool tattoos imprinted “Mera baap chor hai” (My father is a thief), or when their sons go on to become “Badaa aadmis” (great men) in life. They are endowed with superpowers, sometimes snatching away their kids from the jaws of danger and death, and sometimes banging on bells in the neighborhood Shankar Bhagwan ka mandir till Shankar bhagwan himself fulfils her wishes that usually center around bringing back her son into consciousness, who has been knocked out following an accident that either involves a vehicle, a girl, a communal riot, or a villain. Sometimes motherhood comes without an expiry date, surpassing reincarnation or amnesia/memory loss. It is an amazing feat to be a Bollywood mother, shouldering responsibility of everything, from organizing tea parties to the weddings of their children (be it Tina Munim dancing to shayad meri shaadi ka khayal, dil mein aaya hai, isi liye mummy ne meri, tumhe chai pe bulaya hai, or Kajol gyrating to the music of mummy daddy meri shaadi karwa rahe hain). Neither age, senility, or blindness deters them from fiercely protecting their children, especially sons. They are seen raiding Shivji ka mandir, berating God himself for being mean and unfair. Their faith can move mountains, and in case they have bad night vision, it can be cured by the strike of a lightning or serpents. They are the ones first kidnapped, roped, and harassed by the villain if they have a son who is the hero and has pissed off the bad guy in the movie (not mauled though, that is left for the unwed sister in the movie who no one would have married anyway). Occupationally, they are seen lugging bricks at constructional sites (that will be later owned by their sons as a mark of respect for the mom), ploughing fields, or sewing clothes for the entire community even with a straining eyesight to be able to raise enough money for the son’s education. They are usually called Mamta (not Banerjee), Lakshmi, Savitri, Tulsi, Koushalya, or better still, maatey, amma, or maaaaa!!! They are usually the ones who have the privilege of hugging the heroes, all in the good name of motherhood.
So while the whole world is gushing with a sudden developed love for their mother as Mothers’ Day is nearing, let us remember the mothers of Bollywood, for the way they have touched our lives, living as role models, smothering their children with love and affection, and always being the unselfish, struggling, usually poor but respectable denizens of the movie world who are the strength of pillar behind the success of their sons.
Aruna Irani in Beta (1995):Where mothers could be villains.
While Madhuri’s dhak-dhak shook the country, Aruna Irani shook the image of a good mother with her powerful, dhak-dhak-less performance in the movie. Rightly named Lakshmi, she had her eye on Lakshmi (wealth) and was the depiction of selfishness and greed for a change, where mothers were stereotyped to be these simple women whose love for their children would move mountains. She keeps her stepson from going to school or educating himself, not that it prevented him from getting Madhuri for a wife, many an educated and highly competitive students in best colleges would argue. Of course, things have to end on a happy note, giving the right social message, so she has to have a change of heart, but not without lots of drama, melodrama, tears, apologies, and dhishum dhishum at the end.
Reema Lagoo: When mommies cause family breakups.
Perhaps best remembered for her role as Prem’s mom in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), a decade later, she was also the Maiya Yashoda in the controversial movie Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999). Things are so right and everyone is so much in love with the concept of family here that you would feel like puking out of the picture of perfection and the excess of goodness. But then of course the seeds of doubts and jealousy are planted, causing separation in the family. But as always, things work out, a few heart attacks and galloons of tears later, and the movie ends on a happy note, until of course the incident of the poaching of the black buck is discovered. Reema Lagoo has been the model mommy in a number of other movies, including a movie named Mere do anmol ratan, that no one remembers.
Rakhi: When motherhood surpasses the expiry date of life.
The woman always simmering with “Badle ki aag” (need for revenge), Karan Arjun (1995) and Ram Lakhan (1989) are two of her powerful mommy movies (there being many more), where she avenges the villains solely based on the conviction that her sons are going to set things right. With resolve of steel, you should see her challenging the villains Bishambar Nath or Durjan Singh (Amrish Puri in both cases). In one, she holds on to the blood-soiled clothes of her husband murdered on the train tracks, and the other, she is seen challenging in her usually husky voice, “Mere Karan Arjun aayenge, dharti ka seena cheer ke aayenge, blah blah blah karke aayenge”. A very black and white role, she is usually seen wearing either white or black in both movies, with no hint of either sindoor or smile in the movie. She is the perfect example of a mommy who shows us that the bonds of motherhood can surpass any barrier, even reincarnation.
Jaya Bachchan: The mommy jisne …. Bas keh diya !!
This mommy has revamped the entire image of Bollywood mommies. If I remember anything of her in this movie, it is the wealth, the pompousness, the grand clothing, the ornate mansion they lived in, the straightened hair with a hint of white, the pooja-paath and naach-gaana that ensues while her son lands in a helicopter, she getting on a stool to fix the tie of her one and a half foot taller husband, and of course her (only) powerful dialogue in the entire movie revolting against her husband, “Bas keh diya!!!”. She broke the image of the mommies of the 70’s movies who were poor, wore the same cotton sari throughout the movie, and washed utensils at other’s homes to bring up their children. This mommy wears zardosi sarees, lives in castles, and has a husband who dances with chicks at parties.
Farida Jalal: The cool and friendly mommy.
She will always be remembered for her role as Lajo in DDLJ (1995). Although a BBCD mommy, she is the epitome of tradition, dupatta clad and all. A dutiful wife and a mother who tries to be more of a friend that a mother, she is the model mommy for many girls who grew up in my generation, the mommy who wouldn’t rebel against daddy, but who would secretly support her daughter to love and marry the man of her dreams, even if it was an undekha, anjaana chehra from the mustard fields of Punjab. She is a contradiction of sorts, non-conventional with her ideas of “bhaag ja Simran, tu ghar se bhaag ja”, yet conventional, so much that she wouldn’t shoulder the responsibility of permitting her daughter for a summer Eurotrip (apne baoji se pooch le). From the sister of Amitabh (remember the song, dekh sakta hoon main kuch bhi hote huye?) to the mother of Simran, she is quite the person you would want to be your mom if you were the heroine with an angry, disciplinarian dad.
Nirupa Roy: The “baap” of all mommies.
Perhaps no other mommy has played such a powerful role as she did in the movie Deewar (1975), still best remembered for the dialogue “Mere paas ma hai”. Funnily enough, as a kid, I somehow got the idea that her name is Nirupay Roy, that fits her nirupay image perfectly. She doesn’t need to be named anything in this movie, bas “ma” hi kaafi hai. Maaaaaaa !!!! Poor, lachrymose, sullen and sad, oozing with self-respect, both her sons go on to choose different paths in life, despite being brought up with the same values. The suhagan who lived like a vidhwa, working at construction sites and fainting multiple times due to low levels of glucose in the blood, the ma with the hyper functional lachrymose glands, she should rightly get credit for starting the whole movement also known as mothers’ day.
Honestly, I never knew about mothers’ day as a kid, or thought that there is one particular day of the year when you are supposed to smother your mother with love (more on Facebook than in real life), but that might be because I wasn’t brought up in so cool or happening a family. I understand birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated once a year, but mothers’ day? Slowly I got the idea, that there is going to be this one day every year, hopefully coinciding with the break after the spring semester, when you should inundate your Facebook page with posts about how much your mother means to you, and how much you love her. You are supposed to bleat like a goat, myaa … myaa… post your mommy’s picture as your profile picture to confuse your friends, and inundate your wall with messages of matribhakti. If you are a mommy yourself, this is your chance of demanding anything from iPads to diamonds, not from your child who is 1 year old and barely knows to talk, but from your husband, all in the name of mothers’ day. Like I wrote earlier, that the love has to keep showing, for it isn’t love if it does not show. So on this occasion of mothers’ day, I am going to remember my mom, who lives halfway across the world, by remembering all the cool Bollywood mommies whose movies I grew up watching. Honestly, it wouldn’t make a difference if I lived with my mom. For thankfully she is one person who does not care about Mothers’ Day.
Happy Matri Diwas mummy log.