"Mother India" is a remake of Mehboob Khan's earlier film "Aurat" (1940) and was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar (Best Foreign Film) in 1958. In the canon of Indian cinema, it's a classic.
About to inaugurate a new water pump for her village, Radha (Nargis) - now an old woman - remembers her past.
She works hard alongside her husband (Kumar) to pay off debts owed to money-lender Sukhilala (Kanhaiyalal). However, when an accident robs her husband of both his arms, he abandons his family, leaving Radha to raise her children alone and fight off debts, starvation, and the lecherous Sukhilala.
Khan's drama is an epic tale with many themes running through it: good against evil; motherhood; patriotism and honour. He successfully gives a powerful (if a little romanticised at times) view of rural life in a small Indian village.
The drama is heavy going, but Khan punctuates this with tender scenes of family life, in particular the fateful bond between Radha and her rebellious son Birju (Dutt).
The film is interspersed with well-placed songs that highlight emotion. And, yes, there is the obligatory dancing and running around the trees when love rears its head!
The concept of Radha's 'mother' as representative of the land 'India' might be seen as exaggerated. But put in the cultural context that the 'mother' is integral to the survival of its society, it works.
The film is too long but otherwise this is a gem made in the 'Golden Age' of Indian cinema. Enjoy!
In Hindi with English subtitles.