Mehboob Khan`s Mother India has achieved the status of Indian cinematic epic. It is this Indian Gone With the Wind, which is Khan`s most famous film. It took 3 years to complete it and is actually the remake one of his earlier films, Aurat (1940). This film was about the struggle for survival of a peasant woman abandoned by her husband, left with children and pursued by an avaricious moneylender. Aurat convincingly paints the conflicts of an agrarian society and the role that the woman plays in the survival of the entire family. Mother India was made after the director had made a minute study of a village in Gujarat and with a completely new perspective of the aesthetic language of cinema.
In a way Mother India idealized the woman and the mother as an almost sacred concept. The film purports to be an illustration of women`s fight against male oppression of nature as well as celebration of the Indian farmer`s will to save his land from domination by external forces.
The central character Radha, played brilliantly by Nargis, takes on the symbolism of `national mother` as well as that of mythical mother goddess. The relation between her and her two children (played by Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt) are wonderfully scripted and shown on the silver screen. Mehboob Khan shows the strength of a woman who can go to any extent to fight the unethical, even to the extent of killing her own son.
In the Indian patriarchal society the mother is immensely respected and is revered as much as God himself. Mother India continued to propagate this image. It is also a landmark film in the history of Indian cinema. It is one of those earlier films that are woman centric. A great success with the public when it was released, this film continues to be as popular whenever it is shown in theatres or television, in India, the Middle East and the world over.