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by Katherine Mayo
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Until recently, when satellite television changed viewing habits, Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957) could boast the remarkable distinction of having been constantly in distribution in India since its first release. Nargis, one of India's great screen stars, plays Radha, an industrious and strong-willed peasant woman who faces a series of tribulations. Her husband is maimed in a farming accident and flees the family home. She is in thrall to a malevolent moneylender, who lusts after her. Tempests destroy her crops and her home. Of the two sons who survive with her, one grows up to be traditionally obedient while the other rages against his life in the village. Radha's final test comes when she must decide between her love for her son and her commitment to the community.
Based on new research into the Mehboob studio archives, Gayatri Chatterjee outlines the film's eventful production history and the ambitious vision of its director. She illuminates many aspects of Mother India--performance styles of its cast, its reception and reputation, the film's mythological underpinnings, and its many references to the history of a country in transition.
About the Author
Gayatri Chatterjee is an independent scholar working in film and cultural studies. She is the author of Awaara (1992), which was awarded the President's Gold Medal for the Best Book on Cinema.
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