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Title: Mother India (1957)

Country: India
Alternate Hindi Title: Bharat Mata
Runtime: 172 minutes
Language: Hindi
Color: Originally black and white; redone in Technicolor

Technical Credits (www.IMDb.com)

Director: Mehboob Khan
Story: Mehboob Khan
Dialogue: Wajahat Mirza, S. Ali Raza
Producer: Mehboob Khan
Original Music: Naushad
Cinematography: Faredoon A. Irani
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Choreography: Chiman Seth

Important Cast (www.IMDb.com)

Nargis -- Radha
Raaj Kumar -- Shamu
Sunil Dutt -- Birju
Rajendra Kumar -- Ramu
Kanhaiyalal -- Sukhilala

What kind of movie is this?

This movie is the epic story of the struggle of a poor family. The movie is dramatic, and deeply heartwarming. Like many Hindi movies, it is a musical. Mother India is actually a remake of Aurat (1940), also directed by Mehboob Khan. The original is not as good.

What happens in this movie?

Mother India begins on Radha's (Nargis) wedding to Shamu (Raaj Kumar) in a small Indian village. The couple, from the beginning of their life together, is in debt to the local landlord, Sukhilala (Kanhaiyalal). Radha suggests tilling a piece of difficult land, and in the process once of their bullocks dies, and while trying to movie a heavy boulder, Shamu's arms are crushed. This is devastating to the family. Not wanting to be a burden, Shamu leaves. When Radha discovers this, in a very moving scene she searches for him desparately, but never finds him. Forced to support herself and her children, she struggles, tilling the land herself, and is set back by hardship after hardship, rebuilding her life back from scratch each time. As time passes and her children grow up, her situation becomes easier, and it seems like she will finally be able to relax. Her son Birju, however, has a chip on his shoulder about Sukhilala's unjustices, and becomes an outlaw. I won't give away the ending.

What I liked about this movie . . .

This movie was beautifully directed. The acting is sincere and convincing, and the story is moving. Every character sheds light on human nature, especially that of Radha, who exemplies the difficult lives many women face, especially in the face of poverty and injustice. The movie as a whole portrays the life of poor villagers in India, and so is enlightening about their social situation. This movie is a jewel, not just compared to other Indian greats, but in the history of cinema. Mother India was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1958.

The music . . .

I especially liked the music of this movie, from melancholy songs for moving scenes, to folk-based tunes that match scenes of village life. The stars on the soundtrack include: Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Shamshad Begum, Mohammad Rafi, and Manna Dey.

What I did not particularly like about this movie . . .

Although this movie was a bit long, I cannot think of any aspect of it that was not beautiful.

Where to find this movie . . .

This movie is available on videocassette, but you may not be able to find it in the US except in a store specializing in Indian movies. Good luck!
If you liked this movie, I recommend Lagaan.

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