In this melodrama, a poverty-stricken woman raises her sons through many trials and tribulations. But no matter the struggles, always sticks to her own moral code.

Director:

(as Mehboob)

Writers:

(dialogue) (as Vajahat Mirza), (dialogue)
Top Rated Indian Movies #66 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Radha
...
Birju
...
...
Shamu (Radha's Husband)
Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi ...
Sukhilala (as Kanhaiya Lal)
Jilloo Maa
...
Champa
Chanchal
Sheela Naik ...
Mukri ...
Shambu (as Muqri)
Siddiqui
Ram Shastri
Fakir Mohammad ...
(as Faqir Mohomed)
Geeta
Hameeda
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Storyline

The film begins with the finishing of a water canal for the village set in the present. Radha (Nargis), as the mother of the village, is asked to open the canal and remembers back to her past when she was newly married, mirroring the new independence of India. The wedding between Radha and Shamu (Raaj Kumar) was paid for by Radha's mother-in-law, who got a loan from the moneylender Sukhilala. This event starts the spiral of poverty and hardship that Radha endures. The conditions of the loan are disputed, but the village elders decide in favor of the moneylender, after which Shamu and Radha are forced to pay three-quarters of their crop as interest on the loan of 500 rupees. While trying to use more of their land to alleviate their poverty, Shamu's arms are crushed by a boulder. He is shamed by his helplessness and is humiliated by others in the village. Deciding that he is no use to his family, he leaves and does not return. Soon after this, Radha's mother-in-law dies. Radha continues... Written by gavin@sunny_deol2009@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

village | poverty | field | farm | bandit | See All (75) »

Genres:

Drama | Musical | Family

Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

14 February 1957 (India)  »

Also Known As:

Madre India  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Gevacolor) (negative)| (Technicolor) (prints)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign-Language Film category. It was India's first Oscar nomination. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Salaam Bombay! (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Dukh Bhare Din Beete Re Bhaiya
Performed by Asha Bhosle, Mohammad Rafi, Manna Dey and Shamshad Begum
Lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni
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User Reviews

 
A Masterpiece
29 August 2006 | by (United Arab Emirates) – See all my reviews

Mother India sits right at the top and shares the seat with just a handful of other movies as one of the best films ever made in Indian Film History. Deservedly, it also garnered an Oscar Nomination for Best Foreign Film - a first for Bollywood. Need I say more? Let me try...

Five years after her wedding, Radha, a regular village girl finds she has been abandoned by her husband (who leaves her in despair) and left to cope with his never-ending debt to Shuki Lal, the village "Munshi". To feed her children, Radha toils like a farm-animal and is able to save just enough food to eventually bring up her children. The injustice to and torture of their mother is interpreted in opposite ways by her children: while the elder Ramu is humble and just, the younger Birju who seethes with hatred for Sukhi Lal turns outlaw. While Radha tries to bring back Birju with love, Birju plans to finish Sukhi Lal's debt once and for all.

Mehboob Khan had made some good movies in his career, including a milestone first all-colour (technicolor) Bollywood feature. But nothing could have hinted at the brilliance to come in his waning years. Defying a very many stereotypes, his was the first major Hindi film with a female protagonist, a cowardly abandoning husband (how RajKumar, men of men, agreed for that role is another story), no definitive hero-heroine pairs, etc. He tells the 172-minute story in flash-back as a memory of an old Radha inaugurating irrigation canals in her village. Taking his titular heroine through happiness, desolation, compulsion and resignation, he transformed box-office darling Nargis into an actress nothing short of a legend. We see her go from an innocent bride to an anguished mother to a revered "Mother" of the village.

Nargis herself is most remembered for this career-defining and image-breaking portrayal (soon after which she married Sunil Dutt, who portrayed her bitter son Birju*). Sunil Dutt was a very under-rated actor, for the simple reason that all his great performances were never title characters, and were over-shadowed by more famous co-actors. His Birju is played with such realism and conviction that even today many comedians mimicking Sunil Dutt are actually mimicking Birju.

The director's production team does work beyond their era and workstyle to create the look of the people and place over time. From famine to flood for the backdrop, youth to old-age for Radha and from bright to dirty earthen to faded colours, the team wins complete involvement of the audience by filling our visual and audio sense with realism just next to reality. The director chose to spend more of his limited budget on these aspects, and in turn had to sacrifice on the equipment he could use to capture the sights and sounds that were being realised: the movie was made on 35mm and mono-sound.

Surprisingly, something I have noted as not being mentioned anywhere in literature connected to this movie is how without obviously being so, Mehboob created the most patriotic of Indian movies. The only give-away is in his choice of title Mother India. Depicting his motherland as a repressed and abandoned woman, and her children as peace-loving Gandhi-Ramu or rebellious Bose-Birju, Mehboob layers his movie with such fierce passion, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by it.


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