How Kirron Kher Is The Cool Millennial Replacement Of The Tragic ‘Bollywood Maa’ Trope

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The love for Kirron Kher as Bollywood mom is universal. The veteran actor is much more and far beyond her many roles as the quintessential filmy maa, but there is truly no match for her screen presence when she steps into those shoes. She’s not the first to essay that character, and is, in a way, only taking the baton forward from older, classic-era film moms like Nirupa Roy, Sulochana Latkar, Farida Jalal and Reema Lagoo. But what sets Kher apart from the rest is the way she carries that heavy legacy with sheer glee.

Setting her performances to the beat of the fresh young demographic, noticeably after the new millennium began, Kher fast became the coolest Bollywood mom in town. Her naturally affable demeanour on-screen was instantly appealing to a generation that was making its way forward with newer media contraptions, changing social culture and demand for relatable entertainment.

To that end, Kirron Kher as Bollywood mom was a breakaway (and much-needed respite) from the tragic trope of the ever-languishing, always-teary mother her predecessors had made popular through films like Mother India, Deewaar, Ghulami and Kal Ho Naa Ho..!

Kher seemed to bring a rare combination of drama and fun to her maa characters, which is often not typical of but aspirational for desi moms looking to be friends with their children. And until they reach that goal, there’s always Kher to light up our screens.

Kirron Kher as Bollywood mom: Here are 5 films we loved

1. Rang De Basanti (2006) 

Her role as Mitro Singh, mother of DJ (Aamir Khan) has acquired iconic status in pop culture. Her motherly entitlement to scold in Punjabi not just her son but his friends too, her angry insistence on feeding people ‘one more’ ghee-laden roti and her trust in the youth’s ability to change the world made it hard not to love her.

2. Hum Tum (2004) 

Her screen time as Rhea’s (Rani Mukherjee) mother wasn’t large, but the largest contribution to the film’s impeccable comic timing came from her. Parminder aka Bobby aunty was a widow with a keen zest for life and an aura evocative of Umrao Jaan that she prided herself upon. The charm of her candour extended to everyone – her daughter, her daughter’s friends, her daughter’s friend’s parents. Zindagi jeena koi aapse seekhe,’ someone once says to her, and really, one couldn’t agree more.

3. Khoobsurat (2014) 

To her daughter Mili (Sonam Kapoor), she was Manju. Not mom, but only Manju. Perhaps the only mother in the world one would dare to call by name. It was only fitting, since her happy-go-lucky outlook towards everything in Mili’s life, from her job to her love life to her innermost secrets, gave her a status that was more ‘friend’ than ‘mom.’

4. Om Shanti Om (2007) 

Her son Om (Shah Rukh Khan) called her his ‘filmy maa,‘ owing to her over-the-top manner and bygone career as a minor actor. As Bela, she was the typically overprotective mother for whom the slightest inconvenience to her son was cue for breaking out into dramatic monologue – her overreaction both endearing and reminiscent of our own mothers.

5. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) 

As insufferable and chauvinist her son Dev (Khan), Kher as Kamaljit was the coolest cucumber ever. Through her son and daughter-in-law’s journey of love and heartbreak and infidelity, Kamal skips down her own path away from that turbulence to forge her own friendships with a single man her age. She’s there in the background as support for her children but knows when to step back and let them exercise independence, as all mothers should.

Views expressed are the author’s own.