Artwork By Hafsa Nouman – @rangsaaz_hn on Instagram
Badhai Ho, Progressive Mummy hui hai: Evolution of mothers in Bollywood
By Soughat Uderani
I owe Bollywood a lot. Over the years, it has not only provided soundtracks for all my embarrassing moments but also encouraged my inner hopeless romantic that getting chased through an airport is a rite of passage. But if someone asks me to name the one thing I’m most grateful for, then it has to be the opportunity to compare my mother to iconic Bollywood mothers amid our weekly showdowns. For example, when she uses the mother card to guilt me into getting married, I tell her to stop behaving like Susheela from Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon.
Oh, you remember Susheela, the Papa ki Pari ki Mummy, responsible for coining the phrase “TOU PHIR PROBLEM KYA HAI.” Okay this might ring a bell, she forced her daughter to fall in love with a stranger without verifying his identity, when the man turned out to be someone else, she thrust her daughter into the arms of another NRI, because passport blue hona chahiye, naam mein kya rakha hai? On other days, when the topic of our dispute is my mother’s discriminatory behavior, I compare her to Mumta from Hum Sath Sath Hai. Vivek Babu might have been okay with Mumta’s clear discrimination, but I refuse to sit idly by while my pizza gets treated like Ramkishan’s inheritance. However, on most days, like all other desi mothers, mine too reminds me of Nandini from Kabhi Khushi Gham. Oh, we all have a Nandini Raichand in our lives. She enjoys the daily roast sessions conducted by our fathers. Can predict our arrival and that too without the Predator click. OfCourse instead of dropping thaalis, she enjoys dropping savage insults on our arrival. So like I said before, Bollywood had all its bases covered on the mummy front, specially for us 90’s children. We grew up watching these dramatic self sacrificing mothers who checked all the boxes of the Sanskari Abla Nari checklist. You never saw these women having an identity of their own, their entire life revolved around their families, and their self worth was measured by how many sacrifices they’d make daily. So naturally as a result, we put our own mothers on a pedestal and convicted them on charges of motherhood. Punishment?
A lifetime of being a mother, only a mother and nothing but a mother.
And then something magical happened, after years of idolizing Mamtas and Susheelas, Savitri from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na came into our lives like a breath of fresh air. Instead of worshipping the ground on which her son walked, she preferred calling him out on his problematic habits. Whether it was normalizing the notion that men can and should participate in household chores, or teaching her son that violence is never the answer, Savitri’s household was the epitome of progression. As for her character, she was widely appreciated for breaking the stereotype of a “conventional Indian mother” and ever since then, there has been no looking back. Bollywood started making up for years of damage by showing reel life mothers who inspired our real life mothers. For instance, Mrs.Acharaiya from Dostana, initially she was exactly the kind of melodramatic, intolerant mother we had come to resent and loathe. Loud and problematic, she saw her son’s sexuality as a personal betrayal. However, the moment she picked up her aarti ki thaali and asked if she should refer to her son’s boyfriend as bahu or damad, we knew in her own way she had come to not only accept but also embrace her son’s sexuality. For all the love we showed these “unconventional” mothers, the makers reciprocated by blessing us with more badass female characters. Like Shashi from English Vinglish, who refused to disguise the bullying she endured at the hands of her husband and daughter as light hearted teasing. With the diverse group of people she befriended, as well as her distinction in English Language course, she proved that it was never about not being good enough but always about choosing to put her family’s needs over her own. While Shashi fought for her right to be independent, Priyamvada from Badhai Ho stood up against the regressive mindset of our society that shuns older women for conceiving. Her stance was simple, no uterus no opinion.Just like Najma from Secret Superstar who endured years of abuse by her husband only to revolt when she saw her daughter’s life going down the same rabbit hole.Because in the words of Molly Weasley, “Not my daughter, you bitch”
Even though the issue of filmmakers trying their very best to pander to the male gaze is still running rampant, for every starlet to put in the most unnecessarily revealing clothes in combat situations. For every female put in a story purely to act as a love interest or a punching bag to advance a storyline, there are strong badass women in movies that empower us, educate us and most of all tell us that it all works out in the end and if it doesn’t then it’s not the end, picture abhi baki hai mere dost!
Bio: Feminazi, naam tou suna hoga?