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Women in Indian Cinema

In film director Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957), we see that the director presents a very complex portrait of Radha, a woman who stands up to men, earns her own living, and takes dramatic action when her wayward son Birju exacts vengeance on the money-lender Sukhilala. In director Sooraj R. Barjatya's film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun...! (Who Am I To You?), the character of Nisha is constructed more along the lines of the conventional Indian woman, a "good woman" who adopts a submissive role of wife and mother. Despite the unconventional construction of Indian woman by Khan and the conventional construction of Indian woman by Barjatya, Radha and Nisha both women are constructed in the mold of the goddess Sita.

In Mother India Khan constructs an unconventional Indian woman in the character of Radha. Because her mother-in-law takes a loan to pay for Radha's wedding to Shamu, a series of misfortunes occur in Radha's life. She is cheated by Sukhilala, who takes three-quarters of the couple's annual crops instead of the one-quarter he was to receive in repayment for the loan. Shamu is involved in a crippling accident while working extra to help pay for the loan, and his shame and humiliation finally drive him away never to return. Radha keeps working to support her children, but she loses her youngest child to the effects of a storm that also destroys the village. It is Radha's attitude and indomitability through these experiences that most model the various goddesses of Hindi. When the villagers want to leave because of the devastation of the storm, Radha convinces them to stay and rebuild community. She also refuses to "sell herself" in marriage to the villainous money-lender (Khan 1957).

Rosie Thomas also believes that it is through her challenges that Radha most reflects the values or virtues and characteristics of Hindi goddesses, like Sita, Lakshmi, and Kali. The cultural awareness of a majority o...

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Women in Indian Cinema. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:11, February 26, 2017, from