Epilogue
History,Memory,Event
A decade after the independence and partition of India in 1947, Mayo’s si
ter appropriation of the nationalist slogan ‘‘Mother India’’ continued to ca
long shadow on collective national memory in India. Hence the mandarin
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of India found the title
forthcoming film Mother India sufficiently suspicious to summon the script
review. Neither the Ministryof Foreign Affairs nor the Ministryof Informat
andBroadcasting(likewisecautiousabouttheforthcomingfilm)couldmiss
resonance of the film’s title with its infamous namesake from 1927. The te
making the film dispatched the script along with a two-page letter dated S
tember17,1955:‘‘Therehasbeenconsiderableconfusionandmisunderstandin
they wrote, ‘‘in regard to our film production ‘Mother India’ and Mayo’s bo
Notonlyarethetwoincompatiblebuttotallydifferentandindeedopposite.
fact,astheletterwentontoinsist,‘‘Wehaveintentionallycalledourfilm‘Mot
India,’ as a challenge to this book, in an attempt to evict from the minds of
people the scurrilous work that is Miss Mayo’s
book.’’1
The rest, as they sa
history:apageturned,acaseclosed.
ThephenomenalsuccessofMehboobKhan’sfilmMotherIndia(1957),argua
the most significant national epic produced by Bollywood (the heart of Ind
mainstream film industry located in Bombay), ensured that the ghost of K
erine Mayo was eventually exorcised from the most famous nationalist ca
phrase. For all this, it is useful to be reminded of the sheer serendipity of
outcome.Thefilmmaker’salternativesourceof inspirationwasactuallyanot
American writer, Pearl S. Buck, whose books such asThe Good Earth (1931)
The Mother (1934) had inspired his oeuvre. Mehboob had seen Sidney Frankl
Hollywood version of The Good Earth (1937), and The Mother had inspired
ownfilmAurat(Woman,1940),whichhadservedasanearlyversionforhis Mo
India.2
Even the title Mother India had already been taken byan earlier Bom
film(1938).YetMehboob’s MotherIndia wentontobecomeaposterchildfor
patriotisminspiredbythenewIndiannation-state.
EventhoughthefilmcouldnotbereleasedonAugust15,IndependenceD
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