An ode to iconic onscreen mothers in Bengali cinema

An ode to iconic onscreen mothers in Bengali cinema
Be it questioning the patriarchal reference frame or becoming the silent warrior, the workforce in parallel cinema, or the trouble-some mother-in-law in potboilers - the portrayal of mother in Bengali cinema as the bearer and nurturer is expected and at exactly the same time rational. They are some important depictions of a period and a society where moral values had a deep resonance with the status of the mother.

Sarbajaya in 'Pather Panchali' and 'Aparajito'

Satyajit Ray, to Bengalis, is a subtle weak spot after Tagore. There is a delicate semblance in the psyche of the two auteurs which is heightened as Ray used Tagore's pieces for a few of his most resonant films. Interestingly, Tagore's women were, in the majority of the cases, far before their times. Tagore had kept them individuated, strong and dynamic - add up to men and at times superior in terms of moral virtues and emotional quotient. It really is by design, Tagore kept his female protagonists child-less - from Binodini to Charulata, from Bimala to Mrinal.

It should be noted that Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay whose novels were arguably popular than Tagore's at that time had placed the ladies at your feet of their men, subservient. Ray's women characters from Charu to Karuna to Bimala have all been childless aswell. In 'Mahanagar', Arati had a son nonetheless it was not their relation which got precedence in the narrative. Ray, like Tagore, positioned his women in regards to their men and not foregrounding them generally as the mother of the kids of the male protagonists.

However, in the first two films, the first two elements of his iconic 'Apu Trilogy', Sarbajaya as the mother of Apu and Durga comes as an extremely strong-willed village woman. She actually is firm, stern and in her relation with Indir Thakrun, quite cruel. Indir Thakrun in a sense resembles the soul of rural Bengal whose depravity is around her body. We find Sarbajaya as a loving mother yet a lttle bit distant sometimes and definitely the main one who wants to keep carefully the reins of her dilapidated family in her own hands.

 Shades of incestuous inklings in 'Devi'

In 'Devi', which is one of is own most political films Ray slants at the religious cowardice that forcibly commodifies the young daughter-in-law as the 'Goddess' incarnates based on an ambiguous dream awakening. In reverse mimesis, the relationship between your old zamindar (as the devoted 'son') and the 'Goddess' daughter-in-law (mentioned whenever as the 'mother', though she was childless in reality) was grounded within religious overtones and has definite shades of incestuous inklings.

The manipulator enter 'Meghe Dhaka Tara'

For Ritwik Ghatak, the complete positioning of identity was different than that of Ray. Whereas Ray's narration had mainly been based on the male-female coupledom linked on the basis of love or marriage relation, Ghatak's testament have been mostly on a primordial one. In virtually all his iconic films we find Ghatak tearing his heart on the issues of the partition of Bengal and in doing this he puts forth his characters who are mostly siblings and not a couple in the sexual sense. Even in Ajantrik where there is no sister to Bimal, Jagaddal - the automobile takes up the positioning of companion as the fellow taxi drivers tease Bimal - "May be the car a woman?" In a later scene, Bimal confides to some other character that Jagaddal arrived to his life the entire year his mother passed away! In the lyrical Subarnarekha, Iswar and Sita, the brother and the sister form the core and Iswar would think Sita to be his long-lost mother. Once, Sita would whisper to Iswar that she indeed was his mother. In the climax when Iswar visits Sita's room for sexual favours unknowingly Ghatak slaps the middle-class hypocrisy as he once commented - "(one) must recognize that whichever woman the brother visited could have been his sister". For Ghatak, the brother-sister duo is representative of both halves of Bengal - the East (now Bangladesh) and the West (in India), the offspring of undivided Bengal as he sings "Keno cheye achho go Ma, mukho paane" - a Tagore song in his last film Jukti, Takko ar Gappo. In 'Meghe Dhaka Tara', Nita's mother isn't only the nurturer of family members but also a manipulator. Finding Nita to be the only successful bread-earner for the family, she puts her weight in ways in order that Nita remains the 'man' of the house. The father who was simply old and incapacitated and the elder brother Shankar who became a singer in Bombay films much later in the narrative couldn't nourish the family. In a few deft touches, Ghatak again touches the chord of the brother-sister coupledom between Shankar and Nita, a image if they were primitive and near to nature. Nita's mother was hopelessly hapless in a situation where she had no control aside from clinging to Nita, making her a victim of everyone else's expectations and prosperity. The character, like Nita's remains an iconic one in Bengali cinema to be an antithesis of the traditional 'mother' archetype in Bengali psyche and culture.

Various other important motherly figures

There have been quite a few other interesting mother portrayals in Bengali cinema aswell. On the one hand the normal representation of the mother as the trouble-some mother-in-law in popular cinema over the several decades and on the other, the mother as the backbone of the familial structure. In the cinema of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen, apart from the central hero-heroine bonding, a substantial the main narrative was specialized in the relation between your hero and a mother figure (at times aunt aswell). The submission of the hero to motherly love is seen as instrumental in the acceptance of Uttam not merely as of the most desired man to the ladies but also as the most desirable son to the mothers of Bengal. On a different plane altogether we can also look for a dancer mother in Rituparno Ghosh's debut film Unishe April. That's where Ghosh questions this is of 'success' in a patriarchal reference frame where in fact the dancer's ambition to reach your goals in her art forced her to be alienated from her daughter and consequently looked after as a villain. In this derogation, she is held hostage by her own daughter aswell. In Ghosh's later film Titli, the thought of the "mother", as opposed to a desiring woman, is drastically poised where in fact the mother almost becomes a rival of her daughter in a triangular sexual tension.

In Mrinal Sen's urban films, the mother may be the silent warrior, the workforce whom no-one pays heed to but the family unmistakably revolves around her. Sen's camera generally holds the lower-middle-class Bengali family of the 70s and the 80s and the relentless struggle of the working class comes through life.

In the Indian context, land, mother and goddess get juxtaposed and play interchangeable roles. The Bengali woman started going out to earn for the family - her father's or her in-laws', sooner than almost all of her counterparts in the other areas of the united states. A big reason behind this can be related to the influx of migrant refugees after 1947. The liberal Bengali's rational awakening helped him to simply accept the working woman beside him. Yet, it is the woman who till today must manage her multiple roles and deck up her varied portfolios. It really is she who must pay the purchase price - within her home or at her workplace. It really is she who's always likely to play the role of Durga in the everyday nuances of life. Maybe, she also believes in her avatar!
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