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There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that scriptwriters Salim and Javed were in a hotel trying to work on a script for Yash Chopra.
They were suffering from a massive case of writers' block and hadn't been able to put down much, when Chopra called and said he would be coming the next day to listen to the script.
In a panic, the two writers started checking their notes asking each other, "Tere paas kya hai?"
And, at some point, one of them said, "Mere paas Maa hai."
They looked at each other. Inspiration kicked in. And the script of Deewar suddenly fell into place.
All they had to do was fill in the blanks before and after this one great line.
When Chopra arrived, he had a fabulous script in his hand.
That line -- unbelievably corny though it might be -- goes down in cinema history as one of the most memorable pieces of dialogue of all time.
The scene of confrontation between criminal Amitabh Bachchan and his brother Shashi Kapoor, an honest cop is etched in the mind.
Their mother Nirupa Roy (in a role that has immortalised her), has rejected her older son's wealth and gone to live with the younger son.
Now, a seething Amitabh boasts of power and wealth and taunts his brother, "Tere paas kya hai?"
Only to be given the demolishing reply, "Mere paas Maa hai."
An absolute showstopper of a line that brings out the importance of the Mother in Indian films.
Women may be molested, mauled and treated as sex objects by the hero, but the fellow will go home to worship his mother. The Maa in turn spends her life making sacrifices for her son, making his favourite dishes and often putting up with daughter-in-law's cruelty.
Western-style independence, eccentricity or funkiness is frowned upon when it comes to good Indian wives and mothers, so there is a bit of a problem coming up with a wide enough variety of Hindi film Moms to pay tribute to on Mothers' Day (actually, why observe this American ritual? In India, every day is Mothers' Day!),
But here's a personal and random selection of ten favourite Moms:
* Mother India
Who can deny that this woman played by Nargis is an absolute humdinger?
She suffers, slogs and wards off the lecherous moneylender (Kanhaiyalal) when her crippled husband disappears and she is faced with starvation.
She overcomes all odds, brings up her sons. And when young Birju (Sunil Dutt) turns defiant, she shoots him to save the honour of the young woman he is kidnapping, and that of the whole village.
This virtuous and brave woman (based on the earlier Aurat, also by Mehboob Khan) set such high standards for film mothers and, indeed, all of Bhartiya Naridom, that a woman dare cross the line only on pain of death.
Nargis in Adalat and Suchitra Sen in Mamta are abandoned by their boyfriends.
They marry fiends, give birth to kids, brought up by contrite boyfriend sworn to secrecy, whom they can't marry because they have become unwilling courtesans.
They murder their rotten husbands when they threaten to expose them, face trial with their kids prosecuting them and die satisfied, when the offspring, now wise to the truth, utters the magic word, Maa.
Great tearjerking melodrama.
Sharmila Tagore finds herself pregnant with boyfriend Rajesh Khanna's child when he is killed. By a strange quirk of fate, she ends up playing nanny to her own son, adopted by a childless couple.
She goes to jail to save the kid from a murder rap. Kid grows up and finally discovers that this noble woman is really his mother and acknowledges her in public.
A rare occasion when a film is not judgemental about the mother's unwed status (who wouldn't be seduced by Roop tera mastana?) and accords her the elevated pedestal reserved for long-suffering Moms.
Hema Malini plays an unwed mother (who wouldn't be seduced by Zindagi ek safar hai suhana? yodelled by Rajesh Khanna), whose boyfriend dies in an aircrash.
She brings up the kid and also falls in love with a lonely widower Shammi Kapoor. This one's chosen because Hema Malini played her without the deglam, morose, bent-shouldered look of the Hindi film widow, but looked elegant in white and even wore a cute bow in her hair.
An all-time favourite -- another unwed mother Waheeda Rehman, who is ditched by Sanjeev Kumar for a rich girl.
She swears revenge and brings up her son to be tough and bring down his father's empire.
A strong, empowered woman when the word wasn't fashionable, who refused to take injustice and betrayal quietly.
* Mere Apne
In Gulzar's homage to Maxim Gorky's Mother, Meena Kumari played one of her finest roles as the kindly old woman who looks after a gang of rough young men.
She is sweetness and maternal generosity personified. Her killing makes the two gangs of frustrated boys realise the futility of violence.
What a role, what a performance!
This Mom's pure evil but couched in sugar and honey.
Aruna Irani played this unusual stepmother who kills her stepson Anil Kapoor with kindness. She deprives him of an education, makes him trust her blindly and almost succeeds in her vicious designs before she is thwarted by daughter-in-law Madhuri Dixit.
At least this mother was different!
Rakhee had played the avenging widow in so many films that her set white sari-grey-hair-wild-eyed look was beginning to pall.
Still, in this film, she played a variation on the same character.
This woman witnesses the murder of her sons and lives with the firm belief that they will return to punish the villains.
Her faith is so strong that the two (Shah Rukh Khan-Salman Khan) actually return after being reincarnated and destroy the Thakur's (Amrish Puri) evil empire.
Mom is always right, don't we know that!
In this story of rivalry between two sisters vying to be top singers, was an unusual (for Hindi films) subplot of Shabana Azmi and her daughter (Ayesha Dharkar) falling in love with the same man (Zakir Hussain).
He is love with the mother. But, of course, she has to turn him down when she finds out about her daughter's infatuation.
This is an Indian film after all, not an episode of Bold And The Beautiful.
This one's admirable because she refuses to bow down to fate and fights till she can take no more.
As played by Jaya Bachchan, the mother of Fiza (Karisma Kapoor), mourns the disappearance of her son (Hrithik Roshan) but doesn't lose her spirit, her optimism (the lovely scene with the policewoman), her capacity for love.
And she has a sense of humour (ribbing her daughter about her shy orchid-sending suitor) and progressiveness (she does not object to his different religion) rarely seen in Hindi films.
E-mail Deepa Gahlot
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