Being Women

How Bollywood Makes A Departure From Stereotypes? Portrayal Of The Evil Mother In Qala.

Qala, the film on Netflix, makes a marked departure from the stereotypical portrayal of a mother.

As an 80’s kid, I grew up on a healthy (or maybe not) dose of Bollywood movies, which the good old loyal Doordarshan used to telecast. Weekdays were also filled with anticipation, as we waited for Chitrahaar with bated breath.

Mothers stereotypes in Bollywood…

Maa! That word conjured up myriad images of a coughing Nirupa Roy as her feet worked tirelessly on an old sewing machine pedal. Always draped in a white cotton saree, her life revolved around getting her sons a proper education (read first class first degree) and finding a decent boy for her daughter. Soon, the 90s kicked in. Moms started to wear salwar kameez and slightly brighter Kanjivarams & Benarasis. Farida Jalal and Reema Lagoo took over the mantel of motherhood.

But a common thread ran through all the Bollywood mothers. They were the epitome of kindness and sacrifice, filled with the never-ending milk of Mamta.

Mothers can never be cruel, I thought to myself. And if they were, they must be stepmoms. How can someone torture her flesh and blood?

Qala makes a departure…

Qala gave my unwavering belief in the quintessential Bollywood mom a vigorous shake, leaving me gasping in shock and disgust.

Urmila Manjushree (played with perfection by Swastika Mukherjee) is not the compassionate mother the Hindi film industry is used to. Viewers get to peep into her dark side when she, with an impassive face, absorbs the news of the death of her infant son. The grieving singer looks at her daughter ominously, who, according to the doctor, proved the adage ‘Survival of the Fittest’ true. Urmila places the baby Qala in the cradle but looks with affection at the empty one meant for her son.

I said to myself, “We’ve already seen Qala as an award-winning singer. Maybe Urmila will come to terms with reality and train her daughter to scale the heights in music.”

Alas! How wrong I was!

I remained rooted to my sofa as Urmila locked Qala out in the freezing snow. No, this is not how a mother behaves. I prayed fervently for this to be a one-off incident. Maybe the perfectionist mother indeed wanted the best for her daughter. After all, hadn’t Aamir Khan in Dangal done the same? Wasn’t he the bapu who was hanikarak for his daughters’ sehat?

It went only downhill from there onwards. While my heart went out to the orphaned Jagan, I couldn’t ignore the blatantly open bias displayed by Urmila in encouraging him and sidelining Qala in the process.

Didn’t a mother have a soft corner for her biological offspring? Didn’t she encompass enough love in her bosom to love all her children equally? How could she bring herself to push her naive daughter to the precipice of death? These questions haunted me long after the end credits rolled.

Breaking stereotypes

Urmila Manjushree broke the stereotype of an ideal maa oozing maternal love. She was toxic, domineering, and abusive. While she left no stone unturned to train Qala in the nuances of classical music, she made it clear about the boundaries her daughter should never cross.

Qala’s attempts to sabotage Jagan’s budding career are questionable. So is the tendency to brush her mental issues under the carpet by her doctor. But what propelled Qala to take such a drastic step? What destroyed her innocence? Rather, who? It was her mother. All the girl craved was acceptance. A pat on her back. A word of shabash. But what did she get in return? The cold shoulder. Urmila’s steely icy eyes could have sent a shiver down the spine of a hardened criminal.

It’s been months since I watched Qala on Netflix. But Tripti Dimri’s poignant performance refuses to leave me. I still hum Ghoday Pe Sawaar. But how I wish I could obliterate the memories of that monstrous mother. Yes, I have always been rooting for a change in Bollywood. I have mocked the film industry for showcasing nepotism and investing in mediocre scripts. So a part of me should laud director Anvita Dutt for shattering our notions of a perfect mother.

In hindsight, I do. The credit for my discomfort goes to Anvita. She has done a fabulous job of making me squirm when I think of Maa. Visions of Sulochana and Lalita Pawar go up in smoke, as reality kicks in. Not all mothers are saints. Some are the devil incarnates. Urmila Manjushree is one.

A film indeed mirrors society, but I wish we are spared of mothers like Urmila. A lump forms in my throat when I realise there might be countless Qalas lurking around the corner, seeking validation.

With Qala, Bollywood grew up, taking along with it a part of my innocent childhood.

By Narayani V Manapadam

“Narayani is an IT Professional lost in the dreary world of Excel. When time permits, she loves to get lost in the maze of Word(s). But nothing makes her happier than being a cat momma to her beloved Uttam.”

She can be contacted at

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