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Mother India - 1957

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Mother India, a cinematic masterpiece of the 1950s, stands as an iconic milestone in the history of Indian cinema. Directed by the legendary filmmaker Mehboob Khan, this classic Bollywood film encompasses the essence of Indian culture, resilience, and the unshakeable spirit of motherhood. Released in 1957, Mother India quickly captivated the hearts of audiences across the nation, leaving an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of the Indian film industry.

Set against the backdrop of a rural agricultural community, Mother India tells the compelling story of Radha, a woman who embodies strength, sacrifice, and unwavering determination in the face of adversity. Nargis, one of the greatest actresses of her time, breathes life into the character of Radha, portraying her journey from a young, innocent girl to a strong mother. The film showcases Radha's struggles to protect her family, uphold her moral values, and confront the social injustices prevalent in her village.

Mother India weaves a touching narrative that explores the complex dynamics of poverty, tradition, and societal norms. It delves into the realities rural communities face, reflecting the socio-economic challenges of post-independence India. With its powerful storytelling, memorable performances, and soul-stirring music composed by Naushad, the film has left an indelible impact on Indian cinema, firmly establishing itself as a cultural phenomenon.

Beyond its artistic achievements, Mother India's enduring legacy lies in its portrayal of the resilience and fortitude of Indian women. It celebrates the strength of motherhood, presenting Radha as a symbolic figure who represents self-sacrifice, determination, and unwavering love for her family and country. As the film unfolds, Mother India serves as a reminder of the fearless spirit that resides within the heart of every Indian woman, cementing its place in the collection of Indian cinema as an eternal classic.


Table of Contents


Movie Name

Mother India

Directed by

Mehboob Khan

Screenplay by

Wajahat Mirza and S. Ali Raza

Story by

Babubhai A. Mehta

Produced by

Mehboob Khan


Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, and Raaj Kumar

Based on

Aurat by Mehboob Khan


Faredoon A. Irani

Edited by

Shamsudin Kadri

Music by


Production Company

Mehboob Productions

Distributed by

Mehboob Productions

Release Date

25 October 1957


2 Hours 52 Minutes






₹6 Million (approx.)


In 1957, when work on an irrigation canal for the community was finally finished, Radha (Nargis), idolised as the mother of the community, was requested to inaugurate it. She reflects back on her past as a newlywed. 

Radha's mother-in-law borrows money from the moneylender Sukhilala (Kanhaiyalal) to pay for the wedding of Radha and Shamu (Raaj Kumar). The terms of the loan are questioned, but the village elders vote in favour of the lender, forcing Shamu and Radha to pay three-quarters of their crop as payment on the $500 loan.

Shamu's arms are broken by a boulder while he was working. He thinks he is useless to his family and permanently abandons Radha and their three sons, walking to his own likely starving death. Radha's youngest son and mother-in-law both die soon after. 

The houses in the village are wiped out, and the harvest is ruined as a result of the heavy storm. Sukhilala tells Radha that he will save her and her boys if she gives him her body in exchange for food. Although Radha violently rejects his offer, she also loses her child (her fourth son) to the storm's terrible effects. While people first plan to leave the town, Radha convinces them to stay and restore it.

Radha's two surviving children, Birju (Sunil Dutt) and Ramu (Rajendra Kumar) are now young men. Birju, who has been irritated by Sukhilala's demands since childhood, releases his emotions by harassing the village girls, particularly Rupa, Sukhilala's daughter.

Ramu, on the other hand, has a calmer attitude and marries soon after. Birju's rage escalates to the point where, after being pushed, he attacks Sukhilala and his daughter.

He is driven out of the community and turns into a bandit. Sukhilala is assured by Radha that Birju will not harm his family. Birju returns with his gang of robbers on Rupa's wedding day to take his vengeance. Birju abducts Rupa and kills Sukhilala. His mother, Radha shoots him when he tries to escape on his horse. She holds him as he passes away. The movie goes back to 1957, Radha opens the canal's gate, letting the water flow into the fields.


Mother India was supposed to be released on August 15, 1957, the tenth anniversary of India's independence, but it wasn't until more than two months later that it was finally seen by audiences. On October 25, 1957, the day before Diwali, it had its Mumbai premiere at the Liberty Cinema, where it remained for nearly a year.

The same day, it was made available in Kolkata, and a week later, in Delhi.

A special screening was held in Rashtrapati Bhavan (the presidential quarter) in New Delhi on October 23, 1957, and President Rajendra Prasad, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and his daughter Indira Gandhi attended.

Mother India was released throughout the nations of the Eastern Bloc and dubbed in a number of European languages, including Spanish, French, and Russian.


Mother-India-Review-Image.tring.jpgMother India, directed by Mehboob Khan, is a 1957 Bollywood masterpiece that has stood the test of time. With its powerful narrative, stellar performances, and captivating visuals, Mother India remains an iconic and unforgettable classic in Indian cinema.

The performances in Mother India are nothing short of exceptional. Nargis delivers a powerful and captivating portrayal of Radha, capturing the essence of her character's strength and determination. Sunil Dutt's portrayal of the rebellious and hot-headed Birju is equally impressive, and his on-screen chemistry with Nargis adds depth to their complex relationship. The supporting cast, including Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, and Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi, also deliver memorable performances, further elevating the film's impact.

Visually, Mother India is a stunning piece of art. The cinematography by Faredoon A. Irani captures the beauty and harshness of rural India, immersing the audience in the film's world.

The music in Mother India, composed by Naushad, is another highlight of the film. The songs are not only melodious but also serve to enhance the narrative and convey the emotions of the characters. The timeless tunes, such as "Duniya Mein Hum Aaye Hain" and "Nagri Nagri Dware Dware," continue to be popular even today.

One of the greatest strengths of Mother India lies in its powerful storytelling. The film explores themes of love, sacrifice, and resilience, which resonate with audiences across generations. The portrayal of Radha as a symbol of strength and determination has left an indelible mark on Indian cinema, making her character an iconic representation of the spirit of Indian women.



Character Analysis






Chundariya Katati Jaye

Manna Dey


Nagari Nagari Dware Dware

Lata Mangeshkar


Duniya Mein Hum Aaye Hain

Lata Mangeshkar, Meena Mangeshkar, and Usha Mangeshkar


O Gaadiwale

Shamshad Begum and Mohammed Rafi


Matwala Jiya Dole Piya

Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi


Dukh Bhare Din Beete Re

Shamshad Begum, Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, and Asha Bhosle


Holi Aayi Re Kanhai

Shamshad Begum


Pi Ke Ghar Aaj Pyari Dulhaniya Chali

Shamshad Begum


Ghunghat Nahin Kholoongi Saiyan

Lata Mangeshkar


O Mere Lal Aaja

Lata Mangeshkar


O Janewalo Jao Na

Lata Mangeshkar


Na Main Bhagwan Hoon

Mohammed Rafi

Behind the Scenes

Mother India's initial filming began even before the screenplay and cast were finalised. Flooding devastated portions of Uttar Pradesh in 1955. Faredoon Irani, the cinematographer, travelled to flood-affected areas to film similar flood sequences. With a budget of ₹25 Lakh (about $525,000 in 1957), scheduled primary photography began in 1955.

However, due to the outdoor shoots and cast and crew expenses, the budget grew from ₹35 Lakh to ₹60 Lakh (about $1.3 million in 1957) towards the end of the production.

In 1956, several indoor scenes for the film were shot at Mehboob Studios in Bandra. Both Khan and Irani made efforts to shoot scenes outside as much as they could in order to give the movie a more authentic feel. The locations included a number of villages in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. The movie was filmed on 35mm.

An incident occurred on March 1st, 1957, at the fire scene when the wind shifted, and the fire escalated out of control, trapping Nargis. Dutt was the one who came to her rescue; he instantly grabbed a blanket, entered the premise, and saved her. The shooting temporarily stopped since both had been hurt.

Sunil Dutt was taken to the hospital because of the burns, and Nargis helped care for him at Khan's house in Billimora. Dutt, who played Nargis's son in the movie and was just starting his acting career, won Nargis's heart, and the two were married on March 11, 1958.



After the actor Sunil Dutt rescued Nargis from a fire accident on the set, she found herself falling in love with him. Stating that a real-life marriage between the on-screen mother and son would be damaging to the picture, Khan disagreed with Nargis' plans to get married soon after the movie's release. 

Box Office Collection

There is no public information that can be relied upon regarding the earnings that Mother India made at the box office. Up until the middle of the 1990s, it had a consistent run in theatres across the entire country of India.

During the 1970s, there was a revival of interest in the movie, which led to an increase in the number of people buying tickets.

Estimates of its business can be found on film trade websites. Box Office India said that the film's net collection was ₹40 million and its gross was ₹80 million, the most for an Indian film till Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Mother India was later estimated to have over 100 million domestic box office footfalls, making it one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time when adjusted for inflation.







11th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Best Actress



30th Academy Awards

Best Foreign Language Film

Mehboob Khan


5th National Film Awards

Best Feature Film in Hindi

Mehboob Khan


5th Filmfare Awards

Best Film

Mehboob Khan


5th Filmfare Awards

Best Director

Mehboob Khan


5th Filmfare Awards

Best Actress



5th Filmfare Awards

Best Cinematography

Faredoon Irani


5th Filmfare Awards

Best Sound Design



Interesting Facts


Mother India is a timeless classic that deserves all the praise and recognition it has received over the years. The film's powerful narrative, exceptional performances, captivating visuals, and memorable music make it an unforgettable experience. It is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling and the magic of cinema.


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