Until recently, a standard combination used by moviemakers was the 'machete-wielding hero' and his mother. But things are changing. True, when compared to Bollywood, mother roles are still in demand in Sandalwood and other South Indian film industries. But, in over hundred or so Kannada movies released every year, only a few movies have a mother role. Ironically, the few roles still leave their impression among the audience.

There was a time when the mother's role was made eternal by Pandaribai. Her soft looks, deep dialogue delivery and an air of affection made her the ideal screen mother. Not just on screen, Pandaribai was like a mother to many off-screen as well, several others recall. Also, Aadvani Lakshmidevi, Savithri, MV Rajamma, Sahukar Jaanki too brought mothers' roles alive on screen. Besides senior artiste, Leelavathi made the characters 'one-of-a-kind' with her versatility.

During 80s, Kannada movies were undergoing a transition. Family movies had begun giving a lot of importance to villain roles. Villains, who always targeted the hero's mothers, were a popular then. There were some 'bad' mother characters too - portrayed by Ramadevi, Uma Shivashankar, Sathyabhama, Kaminidharan, Ashalatha, Shobha Shivashankar, Hema Choudhry.

Umashree's character in 'Putnanji' character was inspired by Sakavva of 'Odalala' play. The movie gave a new dimension to mother's role. In 'Annaiah' movie, Bollywood artiste Aruna Irani had earned audience praise for portraying a mother with a negative shade.

There were movies that brought mothers' struggle close to audience's heart. Falling in this category are - 'Taayisaheba', 'Taayi', 'Avva'.

The combination of 'machete' and mother was made popular by filmmaker Prem through his blockbuster, 'Jogi' in the early 2000s. Veteran actor Arundhati Nag had given a stellar performance as a mother in the movie. The mother had an equal role to play, matching the action-packed scenes. But unfortunately, the audience still regards the movie for its 'machete' elements.

Even in 'Excuse me' movie (again directed by Prem), Sumalatha Ambareesh had played a mother's role. But it was her lipstick tone that made the news, rather than her performance. This popular combination was experimented by many movies. But the moviemakers have reduced a mothers' role to a joke in their exaggerated effort to boost the hero's character.

Mothers are weepy, over-emotional and far-fetched in these movies.


At stand out from that sort of mother's role is 'Mungaru Male'. Yograj Bhat's 'Mungaru Male' came as a fresh breeze not only in terms of content, music and even the picturization but most importantly the way it portrayed a mother's role. Portrayed by Sudha Belawadi, her character is one of the best roles that Sandalwood has seen. Her character was not only a friendly mother with modern thoughts but the one who guides her son on to the right path when she finds out that he is in love with a girl who is engaged to another man.

"My character was strong in Yograj Bhat's movie. I haven't got such a character, till now. It is sad to see, mothers do not have their own identity or opinion in today's movies. Directors are failing to create such characters with substance," laments Sudha Belawadi.

Inspired by this, many moviemakers too created similar roles for mothers, but they have failed to leave an impact. In 'Vamshi', Lakshmi's role as a mother was lapped up by the audience. 

Despite the rich legacy of mothers' roles that the Sandalwood can boast of, mothers of today's movies have nothing much to do. Directors seem more keep to highlight the 'father-son' combination.

Will she smile again?

Popular Sandalwood mothers and their movies: Pandaribai (Purandaradasa, Satya Harishchandra, Anuraga Aralithu), Adavni Lakshmidevi (Gandhada Gudi), MV Rajamma (Bangarada Panjara), Leelavathi (Tayiya Madilalli, Nagarahavu, Yaradu), Kanchana (Shankarguru, Daari Tappida Maga), Sarojadevi (Bhagyavantharu), Aarathi (Kaliyuga), Aruna Irani (Annaiah), Umashree (Putnanji), Bharati (Dore), Sumithra (Ramachari), Sumalatha (Excuse Me), Arundhati Nag (Jogi), Lakshmi (Amma, Hoovu-Hannu, Vamshi), Sudha Belawadi (Mungaru Male) and Tara (Deadly Soma).