Until recently, before satellite television changed viewing habits, Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957), could boast the remarkable distinction of having been constantly in distribution since its first release. Rooted both in Hindu mythology and in the collective experience of a newly independent nation-state on the brink of industrialization and social change, the film, starring screen legends like Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar, is a family melodrama that moves inexorably towards tragedy and renewal.
In this entertaining and insightful examination of the classic, Gayatri Chatterjee, winner of the President's Gold Medal for the Best Book on Cinema, outlines the film's eventful production history, the ambitious vision of its director, and the brilliance of its stars. She also analyses its epic-style narrative, the mythological underpinnings, the many references to the history of a country in transition, and its relation to post-Independence culture and politics, to show why Mother India is a cornerstone of Indian cinema.
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