I’ve never done a liveblog, mostly because I know I can’t match up to the quality produced by the bloggers mentioned above, so why try? But I’ve decided to do one about a very unlikely movie for a liveblog… Mehboob's 'Mother India'. ‘Mother India’, starring Nargis in what has become a legendary performance, is not really the kind of film you do a liveblog about – it’s basically a sad story. But I thought it would be interesting to document my experience with it. I thought this was my first experience with it until I watched and realized I’ve seen this movie before, when I was very, very young – and the fact that a few of the images have stayed with me is a testimony to the power of the film.
‘Mother India’ is a very, very popular Indian film here in Nigeria – it’s still showing in cinemas in northern Nigeria. It is the story of a woman, Radha, and her extraordinary (yet, sadly, for many women around the world, not that extraordinary), difficult (to say the least) life. It’s also the story of Shambhu (Radha’s husband), Ramu and Birju (Radha’s children), and Sukhi Lalla, the evil moneylender who oppresses Radha and her family for many years.
Radha is a metaphor for womanhood, motherhood, divinity, faithfulness, perseverance, unconditional love and righteousness. She is also a metaphor for the motherland, India; and for the oppressed and downtrodden, in India and everywhere. She is a metaphor for being a survivor, for overcoming odds, for strength. She is inspirational, she is heartbreaking, she is beautiful, she is also very human. And her story is told very well, with some truly iconic images and sequences, good music, and of course fantastic acting. Some of the themes explored in the telling of Radha's life-story are womanhood, motherhood, religion, education, westernization, modernization, economic development, truth, goodness, self-expression, self-actualisation, independence, freedom from oppression and social justice. And I'm sure there are more that I missed.
Some have described ‘Mother India’ as a feminist film. I don’t see that at all – I don’t feel there is much that’s ground-breaking or radical about the character and representation of Radha, or about the gender-defined roles she fulfils. What’s ground-breaking for me is the degree of attention which is paid to her internal and external struggle, her survival and her story, and this is only possible because of Nargis’ extraordinary performance.