Indian cinema’s long history of eulogising mothers has always “annoyed” actor Vidya Balan as she believes it prevents them from being seen as people who can be flawed.
In her recently released film Shakuntala Devi, Vidya played the titular math genius, who is not the perfect parent to her daughter Anupama Banerji.
“People are realising that mothers are human beings. A friend of mine wrote to me saying she realised she never looked at her mother as a person but just a mother.
“I”m getting long messages of appreciation, about personal experiences and moments from the film that they enjoyed, how they realised that children should not expect their parents to be perfect,” Vidya told PTI in an interview.
Directed by Anu Menon, Shakuntala Devi streams on Amazon Prime Video. The film’s supporting cast includes Sanya Malhotra, Jisshu Sengupta and Amit Sadh.
In Indian cinema”s long history, Vidya said, there has never been an attempt to understand the personal side of a mother. They are meant to be self-sacrificing and empathetic without personal ambitions.
“There was glorification of mothers and that always annoyed me. Why don”t we see that mother on screen, who has her own dreams and does not give it up or she can have a life outside of her family after marriage?
“These questions bothered me and this is why this film is so important to me. There is a line in the film, which says, ”Maa ko bhagwan ka nahi bhagwan ko maa ka darja diya jata hai”. That is the kind of glorification of a mother which doesn”t allow her to be seen as a person.”
Vidya believes women are often portrayed in shades of good or evil though there is an attempt to explore different facets of their personality in cinema now.
The guilt of a mother, Vidya said, comes from being passionate about something outside the family due to the patriarchal thinking.
“There are more and more women in the workforce, trying to do all the work. The pressure on them is immense. Some of them have flourishing careers, some of them have jobs. Everyone is trying to compensate for the time when they are not with their children at home. Women feel so guilty when we make ourselves and our needs priority.
“Because you compare yourself with the women who came before you. There are a lot of women of our mother”s generation or before that who had to sacrifice their dreams for us because at that time, I don”t think they knew there was another option.”
Vidya said she has come to admire Shakuntala Devi for her spunk and her laughter, which is similar to the way she laughs.
“We both laugh loudly so that came easily to me. The passion for life is something I share with her. I used to always feel restless about following the norm. I would not describe myself a rebel but you can”t tell me to do something in a particular way. I would ask, ”maybe there is another way to do it”.”
The actor said she tries to be true to herself in life the way Shakuntala Devi was.
“She didn”t let society, her gender or her roles in life define her. She defined those roles. It is not that I”m married now or that I am a mother so I have to change my priorities. She was like, ”I will be me in the roles that I play in life. I have also strived towards…I try to be true to myself first”,” she said.
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