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Loved Mother India? Now, you can read it!

Last updated on: February 25, 2010 13:15 IST

Image: Scenes from Mother India

One of India's best-reviewed films, Mother India was also the first film to be nominated for the Oscars, way back in 1958.

Directed by Mehboob Khan and starring Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar, the film's script will now be available at book stores, 53 years after its release.

We present an excerpt of one of the most touching scenes in the film, where Nargis' Radha is ready to sell herself to the local moneylender so that she can feed her starving children, Birju and Ramu.

Fade up. The rainwater has subsided. But the house is filled with slush. With a blanket wrapped around him, Birju sits next to his baby brother.

Birju: Ma, I am very hungry. Hurry up.

Radha (lighting the stove): It won't be long, my son. I am feeding the fire. It'll be nice and strong. Yes, son.

Birju looks at his baby brother who does not stir.

Birju: Ma, the baby's not sucking his thumb.

Radha runs to them. And lifting the infant, she is grief-stricken to find her baby has died.

Radha: No!

At that moment, Sukhilala enters Radha's house holding a lantern in his hand. He makes his way through the thick slimy mud.

Excerpted from The Dialogue of Mother India - Mehboob Khan's Immortal Classic, Niyogi Books, with the publisher's permission.

Loved Mother India? Now, you can read it!

Image: Scenes from Mother India

Sukhilala: Radha Rani, O Radha Rani. You told me to come at harvest time, so I said to myself, let's collect my share from Radha Rani. If I didn't show up, you'd say, "See, he didn't come at harvest as he said he would."

(Radha is holding her dead baby wrapped in a blanket)

Lord Ram! So you've sent him to his death.

(Sukhilala goes towards Birju and Ramu)

I swear to God. I feel pity for these children. Here, son, will you have some chickpeas?

Birju: I won't eat your food. I'll eat what Ma's cooking.

(To his mother who stands with the dead baby in her arms)

Ma, I'm so hungry.

(Birju looks into the pan on the burning stove. The pot cracks from the heat of the fire). It's empty.

Sukhilala: The food is ready, son. It's ready. Lord Ram be praised! How can you torture these little children? What can I do? It's just my nature I can't bear to see anyone suffer.

(Offering the children chickpeas)

Here, son, eat.

Radha: Throw them away, Ramu. Throw them away.

Ramu instantly spits them out.

Sukhilala: What kind of mother are you, Radha?

(To Birju)

Here, son, eat some. Give me your other hand. Well done! Now eat up.

Radha: Birju, spit them out. Throw them away. Birju, what do you want? Your Ma or chickpeas?

Birju spits them out, throwing a few chickpeas in Sukhilala's face.

Sukhilala: My, my! Like mother, like son. You'll come to your senses by tomorrow. Radha, I am a very patient man. When you've calmed down, think again about my offer. Yes!

Sukhilala leaves. Birju has fainted with hunger. Radha takes him in her arms, calling his name many times. She shakes Birju and hugs him.

Radha: Birju! No, Birju.

Birju (in a weak voice): Ma, I'm hungry.

Radha: Yes, son. I will find the chickpeas.

Radha desperately searches for the chickpeas in the slush but does not find any. Birju is delirious with hunger and repeatedly asks his mother for food.

Birju: Ma, I'm hungry. I am hungry.

Rahda: I will get you something to eat, son.

Birju: Ma, Lala has a lot of food. I am so hungry.

Loved Mother India? Now, you can read it!

Image: Scenes from Mother India

Dissolve to the next scene. Radha knocks at Sukhilala's door. He opens it and is overjoyed to see her.

Sukhilala: The Goddess be blessed! Radha Rani has set foot in Lala's house. How fortunate I am. Come in, come inside.

They enter the house. Made of bricks and mortar, the rich moneylender's house is untouched by the terrible flood. Radha tears off her wedding necklace (mangalsutra) and throws it towards the corner of the room. It lands on a plinth on which stands a small idol of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

Radha: My children are hungry. Give me some food. Lala. Give me some food. Give me something to eat, Lala. My children are starving.

Sukhilala: I understand, I understand.

Cut to a shot of Birju who is delirious with hunger.

Birju: Lala has a lot of food, Ma. I'm so hungry.

Cut back to Sukhilala's house. Covered from head to toe with dry mud, Radha stands proud and regal while the moneylender is almost kneeling at her feet.

Sukhilala: A simple necklace won't do. Thanks to God's benevolence. Lala will cover his Radha in gold, from top to toe. Don't worry. Rani. Anyone who grasps the hand of a generous man will always be happy.

(Winding a gold chain around Radha's neck)

If Sukhilala were to take in a stray dog, he'd put a gold chain around its collar. I swear by Lord Ram, you look like Goddess Lakshmi. Come.

Radha (smiling ironically): I look like Lakshmi?

(Addressing the idol)

O Goddess, You weren't ashamed coming to earth as Radha. Now witness Your honour being ravished. Don't laugh. Don't mock. You can carry the burden of the world, O Goddess, but You won't able to carry the burden of motherhood. Come in the form of a mother and Your feet will falter too.

Sukhilala tries to remove the idol of Goddess Lakshmi from the room.

Radha: The Goddess must stay here.

Sukhilala: I warn you, Radha, don't touch Her.

Radha (snatching the idol): Let go!

Sukhilala: Don't touch Her, Radha.

Radha: The Goddess has given you wealth and me poverty, so I had to come to you. I will tell Her that it's easy to show the way and hard to follow it. It's easy to watch suffering from a throne but hard to be the one who suffers. It's very hard. I will show the Goddess what a helpless mother is capable of doing for her children. How low she can fall. How low. O Goddess, if You cannot give me strength, then take my honour. Take it, Goddess. But I cannot sacrifice my children. I cannot sacrifice my children. Goddess, take my honour.

Overcome with emotion, Radha falls to the floor. There she finds her wedding necklace (mangalsutra). The wedding necklace renews her faith in the belief that Shyamu will return.

Radha (voice-over): My husband will come back. He is alive.

Sukhilala: Radha, a body will last only one lifetime. A woman's duty is to her children. You did well to come to me. Or else your beautiful children would have died. Come with me.

Loved Mother India? Now, you can read it!

Image: Scenes from Mother India

Radha (tearing off Sukhilala's gold chain from her neck): My children will not die. The Goddess has returned my husband to me. She will protect my children too.

Sukhilala: Of course she will. She'll give you the joys of a married life. She will give you children too, but through Sukhilala. Through Sukhilala.

Sukhilala grabs hold of Radha. She pushes him off her and he falls into a sack of cotton. Radha heads towards the door, but the moneylender now fully covered with cotton tufts, pounces on her again. Radha picks up a stick lying near the door and gives him a sound thrashing. He wails in agony.

Sukhilala: My knee! My knee is broken.

Cut to the next scene. Radha finds a root in the water-logged field. She boils it and feeds Ramu and Birju.