Film

Bollywood Moms, Ranked

Because in Bollywood, everyday is Mother’s Day.
May 8, 2020, 1:24pm
Bollywood mother's day
Image: Fawaz Dalvi

It’s that time of the year again, when you can finally tag your mother on a social media post and tell her how much you love her. Throw in a picture of her holding your baby self perhaps and you can bathe in those glorious likes from random strangers (whilst also recycling the post for Children’s Day). I, on the other hand, had to block my mom on Facebook because of all the blasphemous stuff I share on my wall. It’s for her own good. That’s just my way of wishing her, I guess.

Mother’s Day is not only the perfect opportunity for greeting card companies to meet their quarterly sales targets (except this year, sorry not sorry Hallmark), but most importantly, it’s a great day to acknowledge that these magnificent creatures who gave birth, fed, bathed and clothed us, are more than mere mortals and definitely more than what ordinary Facebook or Insta posts can hardly commemorate. But every once in a while, Bollywood manages to capture the essence of a mother’s undying love, usually by casting an actress who is two years younger than whatever Khan or Kapoor is playing her son. In all honesty though, despite its many flaws, motherhood is that one thing that several Indian films have portrayed well.

So this Mother’s Day, let’s rank some of the most iconic Bollywood moms in our ascending order of preference. And yes, I consulted my mother before I made this list.

10. Nirupa Roy

She is the quintessential matriarch image that pops into most our heads when we think of a filmy mother. She is the unofficial holy mother of sorrows, always losing something like her eyesight, or her kids, or at times, both. Nirupa Roy is literally dubbed as the "Queen of Misery" in Hindi film circles, and I wish I was making that up. That’s the only reason why she ranks the lowest on my list. I agree that mothers have it hard, but Nirupa Roy has it the worst.

9. Tisca Chopra

Tisca Chopra’s one-hit wonder was the path-breaking 2007 film

Taare Zameen Par.

I wonder how much her character would have suffered if not for Shankar Mahadevan’s rendition of “

Maa

”, because then they wouldn’t have anyone to cut to really when the word Maa was repeated 50 times. Though she hasn’t played any significant role since being the mother to a dyslexic kid in the aforementioned film, her portrayal is what gives her an edge on my list. She was at once stern and warm, struggling to deal with her child’s quirkiness and her husband’s vanishing hairline.

8. Waheeda Rehman

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Waheeda Rehman has transitioned wonderfully from a yesteryear leading lady to playing background mom roles—her most notable one being the time she served on the sets of Om Jai Jagadish. I say served time because she had to play a mom to Abhishek Bachchan and Fardeen Khan. Imagine not being cocky when your career lasted longer than both your movie sons' combined. And it’s not like her luck got any better in Rang De Basanti, where she lost her husband and her son! Bollywood writers need to give her a break, I’d say.

7. Tabu

Tabu’s portrayal of a twisted, conflicted mother in Haider was as explosive as the climax scene where she (spoiler alert) blows up. She gets mad props for translating Hamlet’s Queen Gertrude to an Indian film, a role that required her to kiss her own son. Honestly, I would be lying if I said my own mom didn’t kiss me on the lips sometimes. But that stopped when I turned eight. Capturing the intricacies of the Oedipus complex for the first time in a Bollywood film is the sole reason why she ranks higher than others in this list.

6. Kirron Kher

Kirron Kher is more than an actor in my books. She is, in fact, a conduit for all the spirits of Punjabi moms from the past, present and the foreseeable future. Rang De Basanti, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Dostana… you name it, she’s done it—the same role with different hues of boisterousness, I mean. Her portrayal in Dostana is what stuck with me personally though, where she accepted her queer son who wasn’t even queer to begin with. That takes a lot of courage, something I believe you need to build up when you’re married to Anupam Uncle.

5. Jaya Bachchan

While Waheeda Rehman was stuck with playing Abhishek Bachchan's mother on screen for one film, Jaya mummy on the other hand is stuck with him for life. Beginning her career as a quirky bubbly actress, she finally cemented herself as the go-to mommy dearest in Karan Johar films in early 2000s. Well, two of them at least. Her iconic scene in

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham,

where her heart knows that her adopted son has landed from his chopper is what I wish my mom did every time I jumped off a Mumbai local train.

4. Rakhee Gulzar

Four words: “Mere Karan Arjun aayenge”.

3. Rani Mukerji

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As far as film roles go, Rani Mukerji shows up once in a blue moon. And that is honestly the equation I have with my actual mom as well. I wasn’t so sure about putting her on the list and then I remembered that scene from Ta Ra Rum Pum, where she stole food from another kid’s birthday party to feed her own kids. And that stuck with me for a while. If you’ve never been a poor kid, you’ll never understand it.

2. Neena Gupta

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While being a badass mom in real life, Neena Gupta is the reason why most Bollywood films are even half bearable, including the shitshow that was Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. While everything around her is failing miserably, Neena aunty (shut up, I call her that) is the only thing that anchors a flimsy script. It can’t be that she has all the good dialogues, or maybe that’s just what she does best: improvise.

1. Reema Lagoo

Much like Nirupa Roy, I can’t think of a time when Reema Lagoo didn’t play a mom on the big screen. She especially found favour under the Rajshri banner, where she portrayed Salman Khan’s mother, but sadly never slapped some manners into him. If she was my mom, I’d be scared shitless because of her super expressive eyes that speak before she does. And lest we forget, that final scene in Vaastav where she fired a bullet into Sanju’s pachaas tola-toting head.

So that’s my list for the ten Bollywood moms ranked from worst to best. Feel free to @ me. There isn’t much to do these days anyway. Now, where the heck is that unblock option?

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