Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Mother India (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Mother India (1957, India) (aka Bharat Mata)

In director Mehboob Khan's melodramatic, epic account (three hours in length) of a poverty-stricken yet courageous peasant woman in India - a remake of his own earlier film Aurat (Woman) (1940, India), and a defining Indian film shot with the Gevacolor process - the first film from India to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category:

  • the opening - the inauguration of a dam allowing water to flow into village fields, presided over by an elderly woman named Radha (Nargis), the "Mother India" of the village - setting up an extended flashback to her entire adult life - as she recalled her past while smelling a flower garland around her neck
  • the sequence of her expensive marriage to farmer husband Shamu (Raaj Kumar), setting up a major issue for the rest of Radha's life - the local, evil, crooked and deceptive moneylender Sukhilala (Kanhaiya Lal) swindled Radha's mother-in-law at the time of her lavish wedding with a high-interest contract that took three-fourths of her produce
  • the tragedy that struck Radha when her husband lost both his arms in a farm accident - they were crushed by a boulder that he was attempting to move
  • Radha's predicament - her self-sacrifice to care for her family of sons: (1) her younger son - the arrogant, mean, rebellious and spiteful Birju (Sunil Dutt), (2) and her elder son - the devoted, responsible and calm Ramu (Rajendra Kumar)
  • the disappearance into the night of her disabled, humiliated, and shamed Shamu - he never returned (and presumably died)
  • the image of Radha pulling the plow when the cow died, and digging in the mud to find food
  • the sequence of a massive storm and flood bringing starvation and devastation to the village
Loss of Husband Shamu's Arms
  • the scene of Radha's supplication - to save her children, by submitting herself to moneylender Sukhilala, but she ultimately beat off his advances and refused to offer sex (and marriage to him) in exchange for food, in order to keep both her honor and chastity
  • the tragic consequences: an enraged Birju attacked moneylender Sukhilala and his daughter Rupa (Chanchal), and was subsequently excommunicated from the village and became a roaming, anarchist bandit; Birju vengefully returned on the wedding day of Sukhilala's daughter - he stabbed Sukhilala to death in the chest and kidnapped the daughter
  • consequently, Radha confronted Birju for his undisciplined immorality, and with a shotgun, aimed and shot at him as he rode off on horseback with the captive daughter Rupa in his arms - Radha ran to him, held him as he stumbled towards her, and comforted him as he bloodily died in her arms
Moneylender Sukhilala Stabbed To Death by Birju
Son Birju Shot by His Mother Radha and Then Embraced
Blood-Red Water in Canal
  • in the final image, her bloody hands that were embracing a dying Birju dissolved back to the film's opening - the inauguration of a newly-constructed irrigation canal - where bloody-red water was released down a sluice-way to irrigate the crops

Elderly Radha
("Mother India")

Flashback: Radha's Marriage to Farmer Shamu

Radha's Self-Sacrifice - Pulling Plow After Husband's Accident

Radha Supplicating Herself to Moneylender Sukhilala

Bandit Birju Seeking Revenge


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