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  • shariqq29 August 2006
    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.
  • Mehboob Khan's Mother India reserves a special place among all time great and memorable Mega Hit films.

    Nargis has consummately performed a versatile role of a mature Indian mother who would not allow her own son to rob the honor of their village at any cost. The climactic last scene of the epic, where Radha shoots her son in the back, while Birju was all set to kidnap the cruel money lender's daughter is a tragedy sequence that can be commensurately compared with the ending of another emotionally charged film - Shakti, where Dilip Kumar shoots in the back of his son "Amitabh".

    However, Birju's angry performance in this movie steals the show at many a times; for instance, when he argues with his mother and brother about the greedy Bania moneylender who had fleeced their family from all earthly possessions through the odiously manipulative annual interest rate charged by him, although they have toiled day and night to return the debt.

    It is a great melodramatic picture, containing magnificent performance by Nargis and Sunil Dutt, while manifesting the impoverished economic conditions and abysmal living standards of a typical Indian rural family who were driven in utter disgust, shame and tragedy due to the volatile temper of one of their family members. However, seething poverty was not the sole reason which perturbed Birju (Sunil Dutt) to become an outlaw and murder Sukhi Lala (the rapacious money lender), but the very ominous and cruel person hidden in the money lender, who, in a backward rural social setup took full benefit/advantage of the poor, illiterate and weak elements of village social order.

    Besides, the strong and moving story line, Faredoon has captured mesmerizing stills providing an excellent background setting of the full horizon picture down to the ground level with spreading murky clouds at dusk against the backdrop of silhouetted actors.

    It is definitely a must see movie having marvelous and stupendous cinematography, as well.
  • What more can you ask for in a movie? A rich story, excellent acting, great songs, technically superb. The story is about Radha played by Nargis who works hard to bring up her two children, played by Sunil Dutt and Rajender Kumar, after her husband goes away. Birju played by Dutt is the more flamboyant one who gets in trouble with the village Lala's daughter and runs away and becomes a dacoit. The end is the most unexpected part of the movie.

    Made on a large canvas, this movie runs like an epic. This Mehboob Khan's effort came very close to winning the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film. During the shooting of this film Dutt saved Nargis from a fire and soon after that they were married.

    Naushad's music is another highlight of the film with some great songs like "Duniya Mein Hum Aaye Hain", "Nagri-Nagri Dware-Dware", "Holi Aayi Re Kanhai", "Tan Rang Lo Ji" etc.

    All in all, this is possibly one of the best Hindi films ever made.
  • This film had me in tears at least three times; and not tears of sadness, but because it was just so beautiful. Don't expect anything near Hollywood slickness; if you want to find errors and things to laugh at, there are dozens. But the whole spirit of the piece is very poetic. In Hollywood movies, the musical numbers are when I take a break and go out. But in Indian movies, the musical numbers are spellbinding! And in this one, perhaps the best. The lyrics, the melodies, the staging (even with noticeable lip-sync) are just wonderful. Take the best songs from Broadway musicals and compare them to these, they've met their match. The passion in the lead female voice matches Callas. Superb!
  • pedicabwallah30 September 2003
    I hate bollywood. But this isn't bollywood. This is epic, moving important filmmaking. The story is heartbreaking, the imagery is fabulous, even in Technicolor, and the music is, for once, really rather good. The songs do actually seem to signal major changes in the plot, rather than being tacked-on, globetrotting, multicostume sex-substitutes. Sadly for me, the DVD version I saw had subtitles for everything apart from the song lyrics, but the physical acting was so strong that it didn't matter. Yes, there are amateurish moments, and in the middle of the film, it takes some time off from the serious tone for an unnecessary extended piece about teasing girls. But that really is the only complaint I can make about this film. Essential viewing.
  • Nargis stars as a suffering woman, Radha, experiencing tragedy after tragedy, surviving it all. The first half of the film doesn't promise anything overly special. A poor community falls under the weight of a moneylender, Sukhilala. When Radha marries, her mother-in-law mortgages her farm to pay for the wedding and Radha's jewlery. Since the mother-in-law has no education whatsoever, Sukhilala, probably the only educated man in the village, is able to take advantage of her. When she challenges Sukhilala's claim, she can't do much to disprove their deal. This part of the story is pretty cliché, rather predictable and very questionable. Sukhilala is a fairly standard villain, very cartoonish and simplistic. The audience is programmed to hiss at his every appearance. The conflict is compelling, but I was hoping for something more complex. It is nice, I suppose, to see the system challenged, but the fact that the system is challenged does not necessarily mean that the film challenges the system in an insightful manner. In reality, the film's solutions to the problems are all melodramatics.

    Luckily, something else is brewing in the film at this point. Radha has two sons, Ramu and Birju. The story starts to focus in on Birju, who is very obnoxious. His mother loves him dearly, spoils him, and he becomes simply evil. I should say at this point that the little kid who plays him as a child, Master Sajid, is very, very annoying, not to mention a terrible little actor. As an adult, Birju is a devil. Sukhilala still runs the place, and now Birju is big enough to do something about it. Thankfully, Birju is not made a hero. Well, perhaps an anti-hero, but at least we're spared him becoming an Indian Robin Hood as I expected. Complexities begin to develop in the way Sukhilala is depicted, and, while he's still the villain, the audience is no longer programmed to despise him on site. Radha has to both protect her son and stand up for what is right. The climax is so extremely impressive that I was almost convinced that the film was great.

    Yet the film is not what I would call great as a whole. There were dozens of scenes that I loved, but, as the film goes on for three hours, there was plenty to dislike, as well. The fat and gristle detract. Did I mention there are great songs? Great indeed! I love Hindi music myself. The cinematography is also often exceptional. 8/10.
  • khann00319 March 2001
    A movie of an epic proportion in the true sense of the word. Easily, one of the greatest films ever made regardless of any cultural, traditional, social, and ethnical background to consider.
  • In present day India, elderly mother Nargis (as Radha) is reluctant to attend the ceremony opening a new water canal for her village. Eventually agreeing, the old woman recalls her life… We begin with Ms. Nargis' marriage to Raaj Kumar (as Shamu). The very attractive young couple are blissfully in love. Farmers by trade, they have three children. But, all is not well. The couple have borrowed from greedy money-lender Kanhaiyalal (as Sukhilala). They do not seem to be aware of the fact, but Mr. Kanhaiyalal has cheated them out of land and future profits...

    Dealing with the money-lender meant Nargis and her family work harder and harder, for less and less. Adding to the tragedy is a faming accident. Then, the children are threatened with starvation. At one point, Nargis considers prostituting herself to Kanhaiyalal, who desires the woman as well as her money. She resorts to begging, and saves son Sajid Khan (as Birju) with a few grams of food. "Master Sajid" is the son you should be watching, by the way. And, you won't have any trouble finding him - young Khan takes over the screen for a good portion of the movie...

    Khan grows up to be Sunil Dutt (as the adult Birju). Rajendra Kumar is "Ramu" the more stable son. Mr. Dutt continues to be the "bad boy" of the village. You'll notice "Birju" the young man is very reminiscent of "Birju" the boy. As a boy, he didn't like the money-lender. As a man, Mr. Dutt holds Kanhaiyalal responsible for his family's misfortunes. Dutt decides to take matters into his own hands. Nargis loves and protects her son, but wants to honor the community's decisions regarding the old loan and "interest" agreed upon. This leads to a conflict between "Mother India" and son...

    This classic film was an huge critical and commercial success; it almost won the "Academy Award" for best foreign language film of 1957. "Mother India" isn't easy to watch, however, even if you like foreign films. It startles with traditional musical interludes, makes unaccustomed cultural connections, and runs almost three hours. If bravely enduring a second viewing, you could get engrossed in Nargis. There is fascinating symbolism and story-telling herein. Near the end, Nargis makes a decision regarding her son which is thought-provoking - does it contradict her earlier emotions and stated beliefs?

    ******* Mother India (2/14/57) Mehboob Khan ~ Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Sajid Khan, Rajendra Kumar
  • This is perhaps one of the best if not the best Indian Movie ever made. A strong story line depicting the values and tribulations of rural India,this movie is backed up by some very powerful performances.All from Nargis,Suniel Dutt,Rajendra Kumar to Kanahiya lal are superb. The story revolves around Nargis and shows the trials and tribulations of her life. There are quite a few memorable sequences in the film. Starting from the scene when Nargis's one child has died due to malnutrition and the other two live ones are extremely hungry. In the moment of extreme despair when she decides to go to the village Baniya,her facial expression showing a mixture of pure contempt and extreme dejection are superb. A word must be said about the director of the movie,Mehboob Khan,right through out the movie one can see,his vision and creativity shining brightly. Every scene it seems has been hand crafted and all the sequences are closely linked to each other. The music too of the film is immensely pleasing to the ears. The songs give the aroma of the richness of the Indian village and are a treat to watch too. Above all the movie is about hope and values. Such a vivid interplay of emotions which are very close to the native Indian sensibilities is hardly ever seen in Indian cinema.The title is apt too surely this is the MOTHER India of all Indian films!
  • This was a movie about a strong woman of honor, Radha (Nargis) and her family, a usurious man, and the poor village they live in. The lender breaks villagers' backs by charging interest at such a high rate that they give something like 3/4 of their laborious harvest to the lender just to cover interest, keeping the debt in perpetuity. Almost nobody around can read, so the terms of the original contract are never clear. Though the situation keeps the woman's family downtrodden financially, she staunchly preserves her pride and dignity.

    One of her sons, Birju (Sunil Dutt), is portrayed as always being a "problem" right from childhood, and while I could understand his rage against the moneylender, I found his vengeance hard to believe, especially the self-destruction that pitted him against his own family members. I like the ending and really laud Radha, who realized that one's dignity and honor is priceless and shouldn't be bartered away.

    I found the film to be too long (it lasted around 3 hours); the story could have been just as compelling if it were an hour shorter. I would recommend the film and would rate it 6 on a scale of 10. I saw it as part of an Indian film festival, where it was projected on a movie screen from DVD and had English subtitles.
  • Nargis, the center piece of the movie has a role of a lifetime - not only for her, but even after 50 years, each year, at least one 'A' list actress has called this her dream role. A then stellar star cast pull off breathtaking performances. The screen play is sharp and the pace of the movie is just right. This movie was also path breaking for Nargis, as it was her first after her split with RK banners and Raj Kapoor - the first and best showman of Indian cinema. I don't know why this movie was not awarded an Oscar. After seeing this movie, I think the Oscar lost an opportunity to be associated with such a classic. Well worthy of a watch.
  • Mother India----

    Definitely the greatest film ever made in Bollywood I watched it few months back only.And in many many scenes it almost brought tears in my eyes.The struggle for survival,the fight against injustice and living with moral can melt any1's heart who understands the true meaning of cinema.A helpless mother fighting for survival alongwith her small children's can run any1 in a melange of emotions bringing the worst image of poverty and illiteracy

    Mother India was such a flick which have the ability to put many of the greatest cinema from Hollywood into shame.It shows how realistic and impactfull a bollywood cinema can be.Its sad that it only got nominated for Oscar in best foreign language category but was not able to win But i can say with utmost surity if Hollywood's biggest Blockbuster ever 'Gone With The Wind' can win 9 Oscars...then Mother India if made in Hollywood have won at least 3-4 Oscars.....

    Mother India seems to be forgotten by the people.They took Sholay or DDLJ name but not this timeless and haunting ground to earth classic most probably cause it doesn't feature Amitabh Bachchan or SRK

    With one of the most path breaking climax for a bollywood flick Mother India for a Hollywood fan like me was a dream coming true I can take its name alongside Hollywood classics like 'Gone With The Wind',Schindler's List etc

    One such flick which makes me proud that ever i got a chance to show how great a bollywood is then without a blink of my eye i will took Mother India.DDLJ or Sholay are entertainers but they are not totally realistic.

    Mother India's each and every frame....each and every shot was realistic and believable

    Mother India is a triumph of bollywood in film making and direction Not to forget the unforgettable performances by Nargis and Sunil Dutt

    It makes me feel proud for bollywood.I can held my head high in any film festival of the world if i am showcasing Mother India

    Only special effects and different stories cant help to move forward.Long live bollywood.We have the potential of world class cinema.We need directors like 'Mehboob Khan'

    And its an honour,respect and matter of pride that bollywood made Mother India

    Mother India is Mother of all bollywood flicks till date

  • I was surprised to read the comments from Mr Dilip. Mr Dilip, I thinkyou didn't get a good print or you were not able to concentrate for some reason. This movie is a emotionally gripping tale of humanity, dignity and self-respect! Hats off to the team! It should have got an Oscar. But the Oscar committee does not appreciate songs in movies because Hollywood clearly lacks the talent for composing songs for movie sequences. They have to make "explicit musicals" to do so. What a pity ! India has produced great music directors for movies. Nargis did a great job in this movie along with other actors and actresses. The music is just unforgettable. Naushad will always be remembered for the haunting tunes.
  • 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.
  • Mother India is a wonderful natural and educational story of Indian life ethics and culture. It is enjoyed throughout many countries, and is a family favorite, not only in India, but I am told throughout the Arab world, and other Asian counties. The film is quite long, and a little slow to get started for many people who are used to just 90 minute films, but if you stick with it you will be rewarded with a brilliant insight into life as it was in India. In subtle ways it gives it takes you through, what virtues and values are important to people from another culture. Some wonderful cinematography that really does create an atmosphere of old India.

    If you know nothing of Asian cultures, then this is one film that I would say that all people from the west should watch if they want to understand Asia and the values of its people, as they were nearly 100 years ago, and in many ways the values that those communities who live among you in the west, have inherited from their parents who migrated to the west during that time.

    You have to be a little understanding, but it is a truly heartwarming film, one for a romantic educational night in with your nearest and dearest I would say.
  • It was midnight couple of weeks back, and Mother's Day mode was in the air. Turmed on the TV and the movie was about to start. Astonishingly myself not a core Hindi movie follower glued in front of the TV way until 3.30am that night/morning. The reason was the superb performance by Nargis in the movie. Possibly a magnificent portrayal by an actress in a movie, Nargis pulled a character not withholding the burden, humiliation and suffering she endured - just because of her love for her sons. And the ending in such heart hammering way, perfectly crowning the character Mother India. The movie is one of those poured the heart and soul of a mother despite shortcomings. And to think I watched it on my first Mother's Day without my own late beloved mum. There is no me or us, without our own mother.
  • 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.

    "All Hindi films come from Mother India," said Javed Akhtar, the Hindi cinema poet, lyricist and scriptwriter. And of that I have no doubt. It does seem to be a very strong touchstone of Indian cinema, and one of the earliest films from India to get an international audience fawning.

    But this is, perhaps paradoxically, the reason I do not care for the film. It is nothing that the Indian cinema has done ,but for some reason I just never care for Indian films, this one included. The grand, over-the-top nature of them, the singing where singing should not be by people who should not singing... the trend has gotten worse today, but I can see the germ here.
  • Sorry you got a bit tired of it, Greg. Can well understand how.

    However, I must say that the second half of the movie is much better than the first, where the unrelenting grimness is comically unsubtle.

    The fact that this movie accurately reflects the lives of millions of South Asians in the last century or so is the only thing that stops it working as comedy. I still laughed out loud when the mother-in-law died.

    But hey. Watch it at home with some friends, get up and make some tea now and then. It does feel a bit like the middle hour of Gone With The Wind. But there is far more of everything there is to like about it in the second half; and less to none of all there is to dislike.

    It is a far more rewarding experience than Gangs of New York, for instance.
  • Let me start of by saying that I can definitely appreciate a good and honest Indian drama but that I'm not really into the more typical Bollywood kind of melodrama's, such as this movie is obviously being. In my opinion you just can't have a real good and powerful drama when your movie is so colorful looking and features happy songs and dancing. I can still definitely watch this movie and also still appreciate it for most part but I just can't really see how this movie can be regarded as an emotionally strong one and one of the greatest- and best known Indian movies.

    It's an heavy handed movie, that is being quite long with its running time of nearly 3 hours. It's hard to keep any kind of movie interesting to watch for 3 hours, so this is also something that the movie suffers from. I wouldn't necessarily call the movie slow or boring but its still being unnecessary long.

    The story is still what keeps the movie going and in itself there is very little wrong with it, though it's just a bit too stretched out all. Some elements should had been either cut out or the movie perhaps would had worked out better if the entire story got divided amongst two or perhaps even three separate movies. It's all being quite melodramatic all and it's also quite cliché and predictable but it still keep things going at all time.

    A thing that worked out distracting, next to its songs and dance routines, that all seemed and sounded alike, was the fact that some exterior shoots obviously got shot indoors. The movie is some fake looking studio work out times, with fake looking backgrounds and all of those sort of things.

    And to be honest, the directing of this movie was absolutely dreadful at times. Sometimes certain scene's don't flow at all and the movie seems to take some awkward cuts and sudden leaps in time. The movie can get real amateur like looking to be honest at times, when it comes down to its directing.

    No, it's not an horrible movie by any means but I still can't really seem to understand why it's being regarded so highly, not only just by Bollywood-fans but by all sorts of movie viewers, from all over the world, while its in fact being an heavily flawed movie.

  • One of the pinnacles of world cinema, after all these years Mother India still has the power to put you through an emotional mangle showing the relentless battle against poverty of all kinds. But if Nargis hadn't been the star what then? It was her performance in here that was so spellbinding, usually sublime occasionally melodramatic but always riveting. I don't think anyone else could have made Mehboob's expert quasi-Soviet propagandising so palatable either. It was a seminal film, a nowhere near perfect roller-coaster that emotionally engages the viewer immediately to the bittersweet end.

    In flashback the story is family take a loan from a moneylender to pay for a wedding and stay in debt for decades simply repaying the interest and not even touching the principal. The literally grinding poverty is passed down to the children who do their best but gradually question the original deal. As the good times and the tragedies go by it's all performed in a glorious colour, with some glorious photography full of national or emotional symbolism and some seemingly effortless glorious songs from Naushad & Badayuni. Although before tonight I last saw it decades ago it still looked good in black & white. Even if it's Nargis's film there's still some fine acting from Raaj Kumar (whether living or from the beyond), Rajendra Kumar and the manic Sunil Dutt.

    As the point behind the film is not entirely lost on me in that the bitterness of the hopeless past was to be replaced with the optimism of the future India, proud of its tradition but full of the vim needed to be a world power may I sorrowfully point out: British rule certainly did the Indian peasant no favours, but the Indian capitalist class simply continues with that policy against worker and peasant alike. Godless Profit will destroy Tradition every time; also going to Mars means more to the present Indian government than feeding the starving. Mehboob preferred indigenous usurers and parasites taking apparent control of their collective destiny; I'd be interested in seeing his 1940 film Aurat which supposedly was the original of Mother India, made when it was still British India. "If Life is poison we must drink it" Lata sings as admonition to the peasants to work till they drop and are finally happy - but Life is seldom poison to the carefree few who own the land and means of production. And many iconic images and framings reinforce the view that we're all in it together even when as ever we're not. On the other hand when Nargis later became a politician she was right to criticise the film director Satyajit Ray and his muddy Pather Panchali as one-sided – there not only has to be an invisible Sun, there always is – love, hope and health are also there together with blood, sweat and tears.

    At 130 minutes in when Nargis says "Won't you come to see your grandson?" it's just about the last tearjerking straw, an unparallelled poignant moment out of so much in here that's memorable for one reason or another. Personally that one astounding line is worth the waiting for. The whole epic doesn't seem too long to me (and Bir Ju's story in full could've added hours to it), but beauty is in the eyes – and ears – of the beholder; a wonderful tale, keep right on to the end of the road.
  • If, like me, you're fairly new to Indian cinema and think, as I did, that it's all singing and dancing Bollywood, here is a brilliant mix of what we might expect and an epic tale that we in the West can really appreciate and enjoy.

    I'd only been to the monochrome world of Indian director Satyajit Ray before and frankly, I didn't seem to appreciate those as much as many do. In time, I trust that I will. Mother India, which I bought blind, seemed to be like approaching, say opera, by going to see one that was commercially accessible but maybe not what the purest of critics might approve of. That is was also Oscar nominated in the World cinema category is also testament of how popular and well thought of Mehboob Khan's Indian masterpiece was.

    I personally feel that the often quoted "Indian Gone with the Wind" is both somewhat false and misleading. True, its scope and length as well as the beautifully lavish Technicolor (must have been very expensive to make at the time) bear comparison. The central character is no Hindu Vivien Leigh either and even more amiss is that it's not set against a background of War.

    The war, indeed, centres around land, land on which to sustain a crop, enough to feed one and one's family. Greedy landowners are the Generals here who cruelly tax their tenants ever harder. Mother Nature herself is also a strict and tempestuous taskmaster as famine and disease strike.

    The undoubted stars are the cinematography and the Mother of the title. There is a huge sweep of panoramic camera as harvesting scenes, rivalling that of Russian propaganda films and bright sharp colours fill every frame.

    Nargis, as peasant woman, played by actress Radha, tells us the epic story of her life in flashback, charting how, as a young bride, she arrived at a farm mortgaged to an unscrupulous moneylender. Her husband is then injured in an accident and abandons her and their children, Radha perseveres to bring up her sons and cultivate the land.

    As is often, so far as I can tell, the case with Indian drama, the family and its issues are paramount and great lengths are taken to explore all moral angles and Mother Earth is no different.

    Yes, it does swell into high emotion and near melodrama but that's Indian cinema for you, but equally pathos and despair are equally and dramatically handled. The sound, though, is unfortunately, pretty ropey, breaking up with each sibilant word and with a background of quiet crackles.

    One reviewer complained of poor subtitling - on my DVD (confirmed Amazon purchase) they are fine and include the lyrics to the songs, but maybe mine is a later release. The songs add to the narrative, not the other way around and much is dialogue. The singing is usually actually very lyrical and beautiful, so that it's welcomed, which isn't what I had expected to be the case.
  • jboothmillard27 December 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    Any foreign film, in this case Indian, that features in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, is obviously one I will see. Basically 'mother' of the village Radha (Nargis) opens the canal, and goes into a flashback to the past where she was newly married to husband Shamu (Raaj Kumar), with the wedding paid for by her mother in law, with money lent by Sukhilala (Kanhaiyalal). This money lending begins a spiral of poverty and tragedy, including forced payment, and Shamu having his arms crushed by a boulder, forcing him to leave the village and never return. After this, Radha's mother in law dies, while she continues to work in the fields, and gives birth to another child, and she refuses more help from Sukhilala. A storm goes through the village, killing Radha's youngest child, and destroying most of the villagers homes, but everyone stays to rebuild. It then moves to a few years later, where Radha's two surviving children, Birju (Sunil Dutt) and Ramu (Rajendra Kumar) have grown up to be young men. Ramu is fine, but Birju is a bad tempered son taking all his frustrations on village girls, especially Sukhilala's daughter. Ramu has a much softer temper, and manages to get married and become a father, but also manages to get his family in the cycle of poverty. Birju however gets to the point where his temper is becoming dangerous, attacking Sukhilala, his daughter and other family members, and he wants revenge when it is the daughter's wedding day. Radha promises Birju would never come to harm, despite knowing how dangerous he has become, but after he kills Sukhilala and the daughter, she has no choice but to shoot him. This is where the film returns to the present day, seeing Radha see the newly opened canal river run red like blood. Also starring Kumkum as Champa. The performances by Nargis as the devoted mother and Dutt as the violent son are very well done, there may not be much realism in the situations portrayed, but with some likable songs and the spectacle, this is a worthwhile drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Very good!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If someone wants to know real India, its here. It smartly pictured all aspects of rural India, which was once golden sparrow. Series of intense scenes increases the attention of audience and make it memorable movie. same can be said for acting. Nargis is too good to realize that this is not reality. Many times it seems that real life going on. Some of best scenes are in first half which keeps audience mourning all the time. Basic plot of story is nicely presented. Many of city people thinks that women in village are not free and can not do anything. But this type of movie show value of women in rural society. There are many Radha can be found in Rural India. Its just they have aligned themselves in the benefit of their family, their welfare. This was the finest of masterpiece of the golden era of bollywood, and feeling sad that only few movies today are honoring the glory of bollywood like Mother India did.