In today's Bollywood or in Hindi movies, ‘Maa’ has become a pass(e) and (glam) Mom is the word. Mothers in a majority of Hindi films today are either filthy rich or very poor, leaving no space for family dramas and the middle-class
Gone are the days when the on-screen mothers in Bollywood would sing lullabies in their soft voices, those pain-filled eyes reflecting their sacrifices, their adoring smile and strokes that soothed away fears, their all-encompassing equation with their on-screen sons.
From "Mother India" (1957) to "Vicky Donor" (2012), the portrayal of on-screen mothers have changed over a period of time with the 'Maa" of yesteryear becoming 'Mom' today.
Then, no story was complete without them but today those roles have become mostly clichéd. Now, in most films, mothers have become marginalised, they are mere props instead of propelling the story.
"There is less importance of mothers in films today. Even if there are roles for mother, there is hardly anything for them to do on screen. Things have changed, there is hero and heroine for everything, so there is no need of mother," Zarina Wahab, who essayed the role of a mother to Shahrukh Khan in Karan Johar's "My Name is Khan" and Hrithik Roshan in the remake version of "Agneepath", told PTI.
"The kind of emotions and sentiments that is attached with the character of a mother is not there in today's films. I am happy that after a long time I got to do a film like 'Agneepath' (remake one)," she said.
Can anyone forget actor Shashi Kapoor's famous dialogue as a cop, "Mere paas maa hai", to his smuggler brother Amitabh Bachchan in "Deewar", where Nirupa Roy was the mother. She became the most epitomised on-screen mother in Bollywood history.
Nargis played a fiery single mother in Mehboob Khan's "Mother India", who brings up her two sons, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt. Nargis does not hesitate to fire a bullet at her criminal son, Sunil Dutt.
Leela Chitnis created the archetype of Hindi cinema mother, as she often played an ailing mother or one going through hardships and struggle. She played the mother of leading men, including the legendary Dilip Kumar.
Then we had Waheeda Rehman in Yash Chopra's "Trishul", Dina Pathak in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Khubsoorat', Raakhee in Ramesh Sippy's "Shakti'", Nirupa Roy in Manmohan Desai's "Amar Akbar Anthony".
Then came a new set of mothers-Rajshri Movies' favorite maa, Reema Lagoo in "Maine Pyaar Kiya", "Hum Aapke Hai Kaun" and "Hum Saath Saath Hai", the cutest maa-Farida Jalal in "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayege" and "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", the glamorous maa-Kirron Kher in films like "Veer Zaara", "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna' and "Dostana", Zarina founded a new image of an on-screen mother by the donning the roles in "My Name is Khan", "Rakhta Charitra" and the latest "Agneepath".
"Times have changed and so have the role of mothers in Bollywood. As films reflect society, the portrayal of mothers has become more westernised like in terms of clothes. There are not much family drama movies today-either we have a filthy-rich mother or a mother from Dharavi (a slum locality in metropolitan Mumbai). Where is the middle class mother who goes through struggle, pain?" asked Reema Lagoo, who has played the on-screen mother to Salman Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt ("Vaastav") and Shahrukh Khan ("Yes Boss").
"I feel mothers have merely become a prop today... there is hardly anything for them to do on screen. I miss playing the kind of roles I did earlier," she said.
How can one forget the drinking mother, Dolly Ahluwalia, in "Vicky Donor". She played the mother to Ayushman Khurana and had the audiences in splits with her act.
In "Vicky Donor", the scene between Dolly and her mother-in-law (Kamlesh Gill) sharing a drink has become the most talked about act of the film released last month.
Dolly has admitted she had apprehensions about the audience accepting the saas-bahu's drinking sessions. "To our good fortune, our bonding, including the drinking part, has been liked," Dolly has said.
Though the author had stayed in some of the top hotels in the world as a guest, this was the first time he was on the opposite side of the table, taking care of the guests. The 32nd part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
In line with my appointment, I came to the Crystal City Courtyard, to meet Krista Webster, director of human resources. It was a general review of what we had discussed the previous day and about half an hour later, met the deputy general manager and the front office manager. The exchange was pleasant; they asked me if I wanted any lead time for giving a notice to my present employer. I had already told Krista that I was ready, willing and be able to report for duty the next morning!
I reported for duty the next morning at 0645 hours, but nobody knew anything about me, until the manager on duty turned up just about 7am. I was introduced to a young girl, by name of Linda, who was the supervisor on duty and who was to induct me in the various job responsibilities that had to be taken care of. I had taken care to bring my own note books to write down the various steps that had to be taken at the front desk. The first step was to take me around the hotel, which had some 242 rooms (almost four times the Travelodge capacity); the rooms were well done, and facilities excellent, and their charges were just as higher!
By the time we had finished the basic work, it was almost lunch time. Linda took me to the staff canteen and it was a good spread, unlike the experience I had earlier. Half an hour later, she had to punch her card out, and I was told that mine would be given the next day, and my training continued. By about 2 .45pm, the afternoon shift staff turned up, and the handing over process by the morning crew began; by 3pm the new staff were in position and handling the incoming guests.
In the morning session, I saw the process of checking out guests; and in the afternoon, guests began to arrive. Our hotel was next to the airport, less than a mile away, and we had a shuttle service, which collected our guests regularly at thirty minute intervals. Our shuttle drivers not only collected and dropped the guests at the airport, but also handled their baggage until the check in point, when the front desk crew took over. All these actions took place in great spirits and in the friendliest manner. As the eager beaver doing a new job in a large hotel, I was furiously making my notes, observations and to many incoming guests, I had to tell them shyly that I was a new trainee, learning the operations!
When I returned back home, I got the message that the other two hotels too had called and Hyatt asked for a final interview, while, Days Inn's manager informed me that I was on their wait list for the next vacancy. The next day, after my duty was over, I walked across to Hyatt (which was next door) and informed them that I have accepted an offer from the Courtyard, and had began my work.
By the end of the first week, I was on the job and on the front desk operations. My other colleagues were very friendly and helpful; I had no time to breathe, and I was standing on my job all the time! Only, much later, may be a couple of months, when I was told that the management had "test runs" by their own senior staff to check how I was actually faring in dealing with guests, and thankfully they had no complaints; in fact, they were surprised that I could handle difficult situations well.
Bill Harwin, our afternoon shuttle driver to the airport and near by restaurants, etc, had called off and Linda asked me if I could take care of the shuttle runs. As part of the training, I had done that too, but this time it was for real and I had to make the runs to and fro from the airport; collect and deliver the guests at Gate No 5 and No 9, bring them into the hotel, carry their baggage and deliver them to the front desk! This was a profitable experience, as many of them gave tips!
I think the management was trying to find out a "suitable fit" for me; finally I was allotted the afternoon shift, starting at 3pm and ending at 11pm. In the meantime, my wife was equally fortunate to get a job in a school, as a care giver for young children. She worked in the morning shift, leaving home by 6am and returning back by 3pm. This sort of timing suited both of us perfectly.
One fine afternoon, we went to the Nissan showroom and picked up a new car in less than one hour and drove it back home. Our apartment in Dorchester was part of huge complex of many, which included swimming pool, gym, etc. It was in quiet neighbourhood. As the crow flies, it was less than two miles away from the famous Pentagon complex!
I think it was around this time, my wife decided to return back to India for a holiday; she went there to meet our family (my ageing parents) and hers, but returned back after a good six months, just in time before expiry of her permissible overseas stay. Green-card holders were not allowed to stay more than six months at one stretch, unless they had complied with certain formalities and were entitled to this absence due to overseas jobs, etc.
On the very first day, we had got this new car and parked it right in front of our apartment, having notified the security and got clearance to do so, because all cars parked had to have ID tags issued by Dorchester, we got into trouble, as the car was 'towed' away by the parking security people. It was a shocking experience, but after the big noise I made, I went with the security, and got the car released, without a fine, and reported it to office.
Meanwhile, our son was working with the aviation company and had a few friends, who were bachelors like him and they were subject to my cooking spicy Indian curry and rice! Most of them were from Vietnam, Thailand, and Pakistan, apart from locals, but luckily they enjoyed my fare! In fact, I used to get his lunch prepared and this was look forward to by his colleagues!
Though it was a nice community, all owned by the same family, because of the market conditions, I suppose, they simply raised the annual rent by a 10%. In the meantime, our son moved to Washington DC itself, to be closer to his office where he worked long hours. We asked for a change in our apartment, which was even more secure with centralized door locking systems. We moved to the new apartment and within the next few months, we received the notice for another increase by 10%. When I raised the issue, I had a typically blunt answer, "take it or leave it", as "we have a long wait list" to fulfil!
Quietly, we began to work out the alternatives; luckily my wife was able to obtain a suitable position in Fort Belvoir, a ministry of defence establishment, in Alexandria. She began to attend it by bus, which sometimes took almost 45 minutes travel time each way.
In the meantime, two things happened in the hotel. I did not know that I was one of the many candidates nominated by the hotel to the Hospitality Superstar contest conducted by the Arlington County to encourage tourism. I received the 2000 Hospitality Superstar Award "in recognition of outstanding leadership, professionalism, and distinguished service to the Arlington County Hospitality Industry". This was presented on behalf of the Arlington County Board and Arlington Travel and Tourism Commission.
In the same year, at the annual day function of the Courtyard, I received also the "employee of the year" award. The Courtyard continues to be a member of the Marriott family and their guest relations is summed up by each of the associate or agent, having 'pride' in his/her job, which represented "personal responsibility in delivering excellence". Their training has been a keynote to my approach to deal with people.
I would never forget the assistance, co-operation and guidance that I received from my colleagues, who have remained my friends to this day. It was not a bed a of roses running the front desk in a hotel; often we have had to deal with highly irate customers who have simply landed up and demanded the best of the suites or other facilities when the hotel was sold out. There were times when guests turned up and found their names missing in the booking and so on. We were trained to handle these situations, when we had to go above and beyond the call of duty. That's part of life of the agent at the front desk, cheerful, friendly and willing to serve always.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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