Mother India | Chicago Reader

Mother India

Known as India's Gone With the Wind, this sprawling 1957 epic about a rural family mixes incisive social commentary and overwrought melodrama, its story paralleling the country's struggles over the previous century. A mother eager to give one of her sons a traditional wedding patronizes a dishonest moneylender, and as a result the extended family find themselves paying three-quarters of their annual crop as interest. After the son loses his arms in an accident and abandons his family, the wife must raise her sons in the face of a disastrous flood and the oleaginous lender's sexual come-ons. One of her boys, the impish Birju (brilliantly played by Master Sajid), fingers the moneylender as a thief, but after he's grown, his penchant for robbery, violence, and rebellion places him in mortal conflict with his mother. As the mother, Nargis is as resolute as a force of nature, and Mehboob Khan creates tableaux of the family that evoke its fragile unity. In Hindi with subtitles, though some dialogue and several musical numbers go untranslated. 175 min.

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