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Meet the New-Age Bollywood Mom

By Komal Panchamatia
May 11, 2020 13:51 IST
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IMAGE: Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul, right, who co-wrote Thappad, with Ratna Pathak Shah on the sets of Thappad. Photograph: Kind courtesy Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul/Instagram

From Nargis's revolutionary Mother India, the 'Mother of Bollywood' in Nirupa Roy in various movies, to Kajol's 'helicopter' mom in Helicopter Eela 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.

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

Mrunmayee Lagoo 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," Mrunmayee tells Komal Panchamatia/PTI.

IMAGE: Seema Pahwa in Bareilly Ki Barfi.

Seema 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," says Pahwa.

"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.

IMAGE: Juhi Chatuvedi, left, with Dolly Ahluwalia. Photograph: Kind courtesy Juhi Chaturvedi/Instagram

In Dolly Ahluwalia's salon owner who enjoys a tipple with her mother-in-law in Vicky Donor, Juhi 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," says Juhi.

"It is up to each writer what is it that they are writing to watch and want people to see in the film," she adds.

One can create a bizarre or a villainous mother on screen, Juhi points out, 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," says Juhi.

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

IMAGE: Dia Mirza with Taapsee Pannu and Director Anubhav Sinha on the sets of Thappad. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dia Mirza/Instagram

Mrunmayee, whose late mother, actor Reema Lagoo, played a single mother in the 1990s Aashiqui, says 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," says Mrunmayee. "We have seen struggling mothers on screen for years now."

Citing the example of Dia Mirza's character in Thappad, the screenwriter says, "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."

IMAGE: A scene from Four More Shots Please.

Nupur Asthana, co-director of the Web series Four More Shots Please!, says society reflects art and art reflects society.

In the Amazon Prime Video show, which has been renewed for a third season, 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," says Nupur.

"Society has evolved, there are new-age parents and that is reflected in art as well," Nupur adds.

IMAGE: Pradeep Sarkar with Kajol and Riddhi Sen on the sets of Helicopter Eela. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pradeep Sakar/Instagram

Pradeep Sarkar also believes it is all about growing with time.

His last directorial venture Helicopter Eela saw an overprotective and possessive mother (Kajol) who 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," says Pradeep.

Though her films Piku and October didn't have a direct 'mother' connect to the story, Juhi says the central characters -- Deepika Padukone's title role as the working woman daughter and Varun Dhawan's doting friend Dan -- 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?" asks Juhu.

"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."

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Komal Panchamatia
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