Mother India is a 1957 Indian Hindi-language epic drama film, directed by Mehboob Khan and starring Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, and Raaj Kumar. A remake of Khan's earlier film Aurat (1940), it is the story of a poverty-stricken village woman named Radha (Nargis) who, in the absence of her husband, struggles to raise her sons and survive against a cunning money-lender amidst many troubles. Despite her hardship, she sets a goddess-like moral example of an ideal Indian woman.
The title of the film was chosen to counter American author Katherine Mayo's 1927 polemical book Mother India, which vilified Indian culture. Allusions to Hindu mythology are abundant in the film, and its lead character has been seen as a metonymic representation of a Hindu woman who reflects high moral values and the concept of what it means to be a mother to society through self-sacrifice. Mother India metaphorically represents India as a nation in the aftermath of independence, and alludes to a strong sense of nationalism and nation-building. While some authors treat Radha as the symbol of women empowerment, others see her cast in female stereotypes. The film was shot in Mumbai's Mehboob Studios and in the villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh states. The music by Naushad introduced Western classical music and Hollywood-style orchestra to Hindi cinema.
The film was the most expensive Hindi cinema (Bollywood) production and earned the highest revenue for any Hindi film at that time. Adjusted for inflation, Mother India still ranks among the all-time Indian box office hits. It was released in India amid fanfare in October or November 1957, and had several high-profile screenings, including one at the capital New Delhi attended by the country's president and prime minister. Mother India became a definitive cultural classic and is regarded as one of the best films in Indian and world cinema. It was India's first submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958, where it got the nomination and lost the award by just one vote. The film won the All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film, the Filmfare Best Film Award for 1957, and Nargis and Khan won the Best Actress and Best Director awards respectively.