When it comes to Pakistani cinema, a great many actresses have played the role of the screen mum, both in their young as well as old age, and been a huge success at it. In the 1949 release Pheeray, the role of actor Nazeer’s mother was played by Maya Devi, a role which cannot be overlooked when a concise history of Pakistani cinema is written down. Then in the 1958 film, Zehr-i-Ishq, Babbo Begum portrayed the role of Habib’s mum so effectively that she won a Nigar award for it. Salma Mumtaz (mother of Nida Mumtaz) in the 1963 film Mauj Mela portrayed the role of the screen mum to utter perfection, followed by the same in classics like Heer Ranjha, Rangeela and Puttar Da Pyar.
Actress Nabila in the 1970 film Maa Puttar perfected it, followed by more of the same in latter films Badmash Puttar and Ziddi. Then Talat Siddiqui (mother of Arifa Siddiqui) in the film Phir Subha Hogi, Behen Bhai and others won accolades for her convincing portrayal of the screen mum. Zeenat Begum, Najma Mehboob and Seema Begum later followed in the footsteps of such illustrious predecessors.
Those who stole the spotlight for the longest period of time were Sabiha Khanum, Nayyar Sultana and Bahar Begum — especially Sabiha Khanum whose tragic portrayal of the screen mum in films like Ek Gunah Aur Sahi, Tehzeeb, Shikwah, Miss Hippy etc became legendary. Ek Gunah Aur Sahi was screened at the Tashkent Film Festival and got a Nigar award back at home. Such was Nayyar Sultana’s screen charisma as the tragic screen mum that she effectively garnered sympathies of all the women in the audience the moment she put her histrionics to work in classics like Aulad and Pyaasa, among others.
The screen mum has a pivotal role in Pakistani cinema
In Punjabi films, Bahar Begum played the late Sultan Rahi’s red-blooded jatti mum in an unaccountable number of films, including Sheraan Di Maa. Others that immediately come to mind are Aaina, Society Girl and Mehendi Lagay Mere Haath.
In the film Aankh Ka Nasha, a young Mussarrat Nazir made cinema history by playing the role of Sabiha Khanum’s screen mum.
Similarly, Rani in the 1966 film Ghar Ka Ujala, played the role of Mohammed Ali’s screen mother, and then in the 1979 film Khushbu, she played mum to actress Mumtaz’s character.
Deeba in films Shaheen and Sita Mariam Margaret played Rani’s foster mother.
Shabum breathed new life in the role of the screen mum in films Zeenat and Dooriyan, and in Lady Commando played screen mum to Babra Sharif’s character.
Actress Firdous won a Nigar award for her maternal instincts in the film Aansoo. Phool Mere Gulshan Ka and Ibadat saw Zeba in a similar role.
Babra Sharif played a similar role in films Zindagi, Aangan and Maa Bani Dulhan.
Like Urdu and Punjabi films, in Pushto films too, the screen mum played an all-important and pivotal to the central plot. Actresses Nagina Khanum and Shireen Taj portrayed these maternal characters with aplomb for many a year. Likewise, in Sindhi films, Roshan Atta ruled the roost.
After such glorious innings, the role of the screen mum now seems to be largely ignored in latter day independent cinema, except for Dukhtar in which Samiya Mumtaz stole the limelight. Actress Raheela Agha is another name to watch out for in the coming years when it comes to the effective portrayal of the screen mum.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 8th, 2016