Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

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


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, nationalistic epic account (three hours in length with numerous musical numbers) 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 - it was also the first film from India to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category; told in the Hindi language (with subtitles), it was a Bollywood story of Indian rural life, motherhood, and good vs. evil that equated a resilient, dutiful, strong and proud peasant woman ("mother figure") with the proud and newly-independent land of India:

  • the film's opening was held at the inauguration of a dam and water pump allowing water to flow into village fields; the ceremony was presided over by an elderly woman named Radha (Nargis), the "Mother India" of the village who held a piece of earth in her hands; this initial sequence set up an extended flashback to her entire adult life - she recalled her past while smelling a flower garland around her neck
  • in a flashback occurring at the time of Radha's expensive marriage to her farmer husband Shamu (Raaj Kumar) around 50 years earlier, a major issue arose for the rest of Radha's life; the local, evil, crooked, lecherous and deceptive moneylender Sukhilala (Kanhaiya Lal) swindled Radha's mother-in-law at the time of her lavish wedding with a high-interest loan-contract that took three-fourths of her produce
  • tragedy 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
Loss of Husband Shamu's Arms
  • the long-suffering and courageous heroine Radha was then faced with a predicament - she decided to unselfishly sacrifice herself to care for her family of sons: (1) her younger son - the arrogant, mean, rebellious, irresponsible and spiteful Birju (Sunil Dutt), and (2) her elder son - the devoted, sober, responsible and calm Ramu (Rajendra Kumar) [Note: A third son died in infancy]
  • due to Shamu's tragic accident and growing debts and starvation, the disabled, humiliated, and shamed Shamu abandoned his family; he disappeared into the night and never returned (and presumably died)
  • Radha was seen pulling the plow (as a plow animal) when the cow died, and she was forced to dig in the mud to find food
  • a massive storm and flood brought starvation and devastation to the village
  • to save her children, Radha supplicated herself by submitting herself to moneylender Sukhilala, but due to her ultimate pride and honor, she beat off his advances and refused to offer sex (and marriage to him) in exchange for food, in order to keep both her integrity and chastity
  • there were tragic consequences: Radha's enraged younger son Birju vengefully attacked moneylender Sukhilala and his daughter Rupa (Chanchal), and was subsequently excommunicated from the village
  • Birju became a roaming, anarchist bandit who returned on the wedding day of Sukhilala's daughter Rupa - 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, Radha's 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

Film's Opening: Elderly Radha ("Mother India")

Flashback: Radha's Marriage to Farmer Shamu

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

Radha Supplicating Herself to Moneylender Sukhilala

Bandit Birju Seeking Revenge


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