26 user 28 critic

Mother India (1957)

Not Rated | | Drama, Musical, Family | 25 October 1957 (India)
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.


Mehboob Khan (as Mehboob)


Wajahat Mirza (dialogue) (as Vajahat Mirza), S. Ali Raza (dialogue)
Top Rated Indian Movies #106 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Nargis ... Radha
Sunil Dutt ... Birju
Rajendra Kumar ... Ramu
Raaj Kumar ... Shamu (Radha's Husband)
Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi ... Sukhilala (as Kanhaiya Lal)
Jilloo Maa Jilloo Maa ... Shamu's mother
Kumkum ... Champa
Chanchal Chanchal ... Roopa
Sheela Naik Sheela Naik ... Kamla
Mukri ... Shambu (as Muqri)
Siddiqui Siddiqui
Ram Shastri Ram Shastri
Fakir Mohammad Fakir Mohammad ... (as Faqir Mohomed)
Geeta Geeta
Hameeda Hameeda


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:

holi | village | poverty | field | farm | See All (76) »


Drama | Musical | Family


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Initially Mehboob Khan wanted Dilip Kumar to play the role of one of the two sons of Radha (Nargis) in the movie. However, the actor refused as he felt that it would be an incongruous casting after all the romancing she and he had done in earlier films, such as Mela (1948) and Babul (1950). See more »


Referenced in A Wonderful Story About Strange Love (2009) See more »


Holi Aayi Re Kanhai
Performed by Shamshad Begum
Lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni
See more »

User Reviews

For the average Western viewer, a grueling experience.
13 November 2004 | by gregcoutureSee all my reviews

Turner Classic Movies just played this nearly three-hour Indian epic and I decided to give it a try, despite TCM host Robert Osborne's caveat that its length might seem a daunting viewing challenge, but one that would prove rewarding by its eventual conclusion. Alas! I failed to make it past the midway point. My capacity for submitting to movie masochism had reached the full-to-satiation level. In fact it had long since overflowed, much like the farms after a terrific monsoon during one of the film's earlier episodes.

The video transfer of the original Gevacolor negative (apparently an unstable single-strip process), with prints by Technicolor, looked pretty good on Turner's presentation, with some ravishing shots during the opening wedding sequence and the occasional insert of glowing sunsets, etc. But, oh! the tedium of the endless travails of the central protagonists, bedevilled by the almost cartoonish evil of Sukhilala (played by an energetic actor named Kanhaiyalal), a villain so heartless he makes Simon Legree look like the endlessly compassionate Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The actress Nargis, playing Radha, the matriarch around whom this mostly sad tale revolves, is a standout in a cast most of whom seem to have been encouraged to overact to an almost absurd histrionic intensity. With some contrasting subtlety, she more than holds her own and appears to have been subjected to some extraordinarily difficult torments in order to realistically depict her character's many agonies.

But this early example of what has become known as the Bollywood school of international cinema is definitely an acquired taste. If you like screen exotica, liberally spiced with production numbers sung in Hindi that frequently seem to exceed the length of an entire Hollywood film from the Golden Age of Movie Musicals, then this just may be your dish of curry. But for this viewer it seems less a "classic" and more a prime example of how Indian audiences have been traditionally willing to submit to films that are routinely as long as those blockbusters that bombarded our roadshow houses back in the late Fifties through the 1960s. I can still watch one of those English-language spectacles with a degree of satisfaction, but I confess, this epic from the Indian subcontinent was more than I could digest.

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Release Date:

25 October 1957 (India) See more »

Also Known As:

Madre India See more »

Filming Locations:

Arthan, Surat, India See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mehboob Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)


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

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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