Has Bollywood's Portrayal Of Working Moms Changed For Good?

Hindi films have given us a wide diversity in the character of the mom. Still, on a deeper note, there is a dire need for roles that help in breaking the ancient stereotypical definition of mother.

smita singh
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Thank god that we are over the portrayal of misery-moms in our films. If we take a peek at our filmy timeline during the 50s or even 80s, having any kind of a relationship with a woman who pursued something beyond a marital relationship was a far-off concept. Other than a few rare examples of working women, leave alone working moms, the norm for years was for the female character’s personality, aspirations and conflicts to revolve solely around her desire to marry the man of her dreams and when she married to look after her family and kids.

From 1970 to 1990 we see the rise of an angry young man (think of Amitabh Bachchan films) and his suffering mother. The suffering mother was necessary as to how will the angry young son justify his wrongdoings. The character of the mother during this period showed her suffering at its peak. The father would always be lost, dead, or would have abandoned the mother, and she would bring up her children with difficulty while doing menial work. Who can forget films like Deewar (1975), Khoon Pasina(1977), Suhag (1979), and Mard (1985) which had weeping and crying mothers draped in white saree trying to save her ‘honour’ from gangsters. The concept of a career mom had not entered the filmy world. Think of Rekha when comes back from death in Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) to become a successful model. However, she only does that to get revenge and get back her family. Her career is a plot point, not a character point. 

Portrayal Of Working Moms

If we move further to films being between the 1990s and 2000s, we see a changed image of the mother. Films like Maine Pyaar Kiya (1987), Saajan (1991), Hum Aapke Hain Koun(1994), Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995),  Dil Toh Paagal Hai (1997), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Pardes (1997), and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) set an altogether different trend, this mother (or in-law) successfully broke the much tried-and-tested image of the weepy and sacrificing mother prevalent in the Hindi cinema. She was the typical middle-class doting mother, who had a good understanding and rapport with her children. But she was still inside the house, she was no career woman.

Then came the reign of the cool mom of Bollywood. This mom is straightforward and shares an amicable relationship with her children as in the film Hum Tum (2004). She tells them to be open about their dreams and feelings like in the film Rang De Basanti (2006). She is a confident, progressive, and tech-savvy mother who stays in touch with her children on Skype or Facebook in the film Khubsoorat (2014) and is cool with her son’s 'alleged homosexuality' like in the film Dostana (2008).

But the latest trend of moms in Bollywood is what makes me happy. In Paa, she is a gynaecologist, who looks after her son suffering from progeria and refuses to go back to the man who left her to build his political career. In the film Mom (2017), she is a biology teacher who avenges her step-daughter’s rape and shows that step-mothers are not always the bad ones. She is a space scientist and part of the Mars Orbiter Mission in Mission Mangal (2019) balancing both work and family life.

Mary Kom is a 2014 biographical sports film, based on the life of the boxer Mary Kom. It’s noteworthy because of the challenges the star boxer faced during her career. She makes a comeback as a mother of two after her marriage. Despite all odds, Kom maintains her amazing journey. In the film Jazbaa (2015), the lead female actor is a lawyer, yet again proving that a woman can be both a mom and a career woman.


women dealing lockdown Kangana Ranaut in a still from Panga

The film Panga (2020) honours the countless hours of labour that moms put into their families while also encouraging them to never give up on their aspirations and to give themselves a second opportunity. She initially struggles to cope with the pressures of a stressful job and the exercise routines that her son’s enthusiasm forces her to complete, but she eventually regains her composure and, with the help of her family, marks her comeback to the sport as a mother of a 7-year-old. If we look at last weekend's release Mai (2022), the mother is a caretaker of an old-age home and seamlessly looks after both fronts.

Suggested Reading

Grammy Winner Falu On How Motherhood And Her Indian Identity Shaped Her Art


Hindi films have given us a wide diversity in the character of the mom. Still, on a deeper note, there is a dire need for roles that help in breaking the ancient stereotypical definition of mother, including working moms and single moms, which was designed for her a long time ago.

Today’s mother is a career woman with a mind of her own (and, the society does not inspire it) and an identity, which is not associated with her husband or children. But through all this, she still is the mom who lives and dies for the happiness of her children. And this has been portrayed in today’s films.

The views expressed are the author's own.

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