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Monday, May 17, 2021

Happy Birthday Jaya Bachchan: When the first lady of Bollywood played memorable mother roles on screen

On Jaya Bachchan's 73rd birthday today, we take a look at her illustrious acting career when she has played memorable mother roles with a difference.

Written by Komal RJ Panchal | Mumbai |
April 9, 2021 4:44:33 pm
Jaya BachchanJaya Bachchan's portrayal of a mother in Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Kal Ho Na Ho have been memorable. (Photo: Dharma Movies)

Veteran actor Jaya Bachchan turns 73 today. An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India, Jaya made her film debut at the age of 15 in auteur Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar (1963). Her entry in Hindi films happened with Guddi (1971). The Mili actor has done some of the most memorable films in her career as an actor. After a hiatus of almost 18 years, Jaya was seen in a spate of films essaying the role of a mother.

Her mother’s roles have been impactful where she is not only seen as a part of an ensemble — a fate generally reserved for mothers in Hindi cinema.

Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998)

Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa had one of the most heartfelt mother roles in the history of films. Jaya, in this Govind Nihlani directorial, is seen playing Sujata, a mother grieving her son’s sudden passing. As she tries to find out how her son died, she realises her son Brati, played by Joy Sengupta, was a part of a rebel group. As she delves deeper into Brati’s former life, she begins to understand her son’s struggle, and decides to continue to further his cause.

Today, such films would be termed anti-national, but in 1998, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.

Fiza (2000)

Jaya Bachchan took a sabbatical for almost 18 years before starring in Govind Nihlani’s movie, but once she came in front of the cameras again, there was no stopping her. She was seen in a mother’s role yet again. Khalid Mohamed’s directorial debut had Jaya probably playing a Muslim character for the first time. In Fiza, Jaya was seen in a completely different avatar as she donned a burqa and soorma to complete her look. She plays a steadfast mother to Fiza (played by Karisma Kapoor) and Man (played by Hrithik Roshan). Somewhat similar to her character in Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, her character goes through severe turmoil when she realises her missing son has turned into a terrorist.

As a mother in Fiza, Jaya really showed how deep-rooted her grief really was, and her acting chops really brought a certain sense of integrity to her character.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

Jaya kept getting mother’s roles in films now, but each of them was different from the other and every role had its own story, and look.

Jaya’s Nandini Raichand in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was an affluent woman who would wear heavy Manish Malhotra sarees and designer jewellery even at home, for this is Karan Johar’s movie and his world.

Through all the glitz, Jaya will still be remembered more for playing a mother who eventually stands up to the autocratic husband for her adopted son — Rahul, played by Shah Rukh Khan.

While her chemistry with husband Amitabh Bachchan in this film gave audience a chance to peek into what their actual relationship would be like — look wise, it was her synergy with Rahul that was heart-warming. Her intuitive hearing of his footsteps, the two meeting after a gap of 10 years in a foreign city have been some of the most defining moments in the movie.

People still use her line from the movie — ‘Keh diya na, bas keh diya’, when they have to put a final word on something.

Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)

Jaya as Jennifer in Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Na Ho showed the true strength that a mother houses within herself. Jennifer, who is struggling with her restaurant business in New York, is the sole bread-earner of her family.

Jennifer, an urbane and upbeat woman who hides her vulnerability is a widow who had to hold her family of women – a nagging mother-in-law (played Sushma Seth), a cynical daughter (played Preity Zinta) and an unacknowledged step-daughter (played by Jhanak Shukla) together. Her chemistry with her neighbour Aman (played Shah Rukh Khan), who comes to relieve her woes, was an emotional ride for the audiences.

Her look from the film, where she was seen donning jeans and block coloured shirts, with a high pony tail was appreciated by women of all ages and inspired many to wear the look themselves.

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007)

Jaya’s Savitri, who lives by the banks of the Ganges in Banaras with two daughters and an ailing husband struggles to make ends meet. She financially backs her family by sewing clothes, but that’s not enough.

Her role in Laga Chunari Mein Daag was small, but quite an impactful one. He son, Abhishek Bachchan too featured in the movie along with Rani Mukerji and Konkona Sen Sharma.

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