Director: Mehboob Khan
Stars: Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar
Plot: In this melodrama, a poverty-stricken woman raises her sons through many trials and tribulations. But no matter the struggles, always sticks to her own moral code.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign-Language Film category. It was India's first Oscar nomination.
The opening sequence showed a Hammer and Sickle symbol reflecting the producers company. However, since this movie was nominated for the Oscars during the cold war anti-communist period, the sequence had to be edited out.
Sunil Dutt famously saved Nargis during the fire sequence in the film. For the film sequence, Nargis was supposed to be trapped inside a raging fire while Sunil Dutt jumps in and saves her. But strong winds meant that the blaze went out of control and Nargis was really trapped. Sunil Dutt quickly grabbed a blanket and plunged inside and, wrapping the blanket around themselves, the twosome ran out. It meant several, painful burns for Sunil but it also resulted in Nargis falling in love with him. They were married within a year.
Remake of Aurat (1940).
Originally, Sabu, one of the most famous Hollywood stars of Indian origin, was to play the role that Sunil Dutt got eventually. However, delays and obstacles in beginning shooting and getting a work permit for Dastagir led to his dismissal from the project
The title of the film was chosen to counter American author Katherine Mayo's 1927 polemical book Mother India, which vilified Indian culture. Mayo's book created outrage across India
Film critics have noticed Oedipal elements between Radha and her son Birju
The film was the most expensive Hindi cinema (Bollywood) production and earned the highest revenue for any Hindi film at that time.
The Indian ministries of External Affairs and Information-and-Broadcasting learned of the title of the forthcoming film and demanded that the director send them the script for review, suspicious that it was based on the Katherine Mayo book.
The movie was inspired by the American drama film The Good Earth(1937) which chronicled the life of a Chinese woman, including her married life and lonely struggle after being abandoned by her husband.
Certain imagery in the film, such as "happy farmers, sickles in their hand, smiling from behind ripening crops", resemble posters by Soviet constructivist artists.
Dilip Kumar was considered for a lead role. However, Nargis objected that the public would not accept their casting as mother and son because she had done several romantic films alongside him
Sajid Khan, the actor who portrayed the young Birju was from a poor family that lived in the Mumbai slums. He was later adopted by Mehboob Khan.
Nargis had a long running affair with film maker Raj Kapoor before this film. He wanted to cast her in Phagun, based on a book by Rajendra Bedi. But Nargis refused because she would have to play an old woman in the film and felt it would damage her image. However Nargis later agreed to play an old woman in Mother India. Raj Kapoor saw this as a betrayal and is cited as one of the reasons for their break up.
Nargis wished to marry Sunil Dutt soon after the film, but the director protested that real-life marriage of the onscreen mother-son would be disastrous for the film.