Only mothers can understand the life of another mother. Yet, actors seem to do it all the time. Their job is to bring to life characters, and it's not always characters that they understand and have been themselves. Still, some actors manage to make characters come alive, so much so that they are unforgettable. That's the difference between an actor and a talented actor.

A lot has been said about Bollywood's on-screen moms. Over time, one can really see a marked shift in the way mothers have been portrayed on-screen. We've seen their love, their protection, joy, tears, but every once in a while the mother who is somehow always reduced to a supporting character comes to the forefront as the driving force of a film. So here are 9 actors who've done exactly that with their characters, over the years.

Bollywood on-screen moms

9 actors who gave us the best Bollywood on-screen moms

Mostly in Indian cinema mothers have not gotten their due as much as they should have. Often we have a flawed understanding of what makes a good mother, and that flawed understanding when it makes it to the screen is a disappointment. However, with the room they're given, some actors can turn even the simplest mothers into the most powerful mediums to tell a tale. 

Not all actors can do this, and that's why on Mother's day let's celebrate how far the mother's role has come by looking at some of the best highlights:

1. Reema Lagoo- Hum Apke Hain Kaun, Kal Ho Na Ho

Reema Lagoo
Reema Lagoo in Hum Aapke Hai KaunTwitter

There's no denying that Reema Lagoo was the ideal casting for a mom, with her affectionate expression and diamond eyes. In the 90s Bollywood's mothers were meant to show endless love to their children and in Suraj Barjatya's universe that meant smiling through sadness. But, when it came to Kal Ho Na Ho (2003), Reema Lagoo as Shah Rukh Khan's mother, trying to contain her emotions, is an essay on the mother's struggle to see her child happy. 

2. Jaya Bachchan- Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kal Ho Na Ho

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
k3G posterInstagram

Jaya Bachchan is another actress who has made a mother's role her own in the few film she's done as a mother. Her character in K3G (2001), was the epitome of a mother's sixth sense, right from the opening scene. In Kal Ho Na Ho (2003), however, she plays a single mom, a role rarely etched out in a film, having to deal with a failing restaurant, her mother-in-law's taunts and three children. Jenny was one of Bollywood's best mothers yet. 

3. Kirron Kher- Khoobsurat, Dostana

Kirron Kher
Kirron KherTwitter

How can we talk about mothers and forget Kirron Kher's iconic characters? In Khoobsurat (2012), the bubbly Punjabi mother who can kill with words is so lovable and relatable all at once. She's all heart and more, the same goes for her character in Dostana (2008). A special mention must be made about her role in Main Hoon Na. All the mothers she's played are strong, with a fiery personality. Who'll disagree that her characters don't remind us of our own?

4. Sridevi- Mom, English Vinglish

Sridevi in English Vinglish
English Vinglish directed by Gauri ShindeTwitter

Sridevi is a superior actress on all accounts. English Vinglish (2012) was a performance of a lifetime for Sridevi where she played Shashi with perfection. Shashi's hesitance and her quest for an identity of her own make the film so powerful. In Mom (2017) she played Devki with fierceness and shows that blood isn't always what makes a mother. Such characters are still far and few in between.

5. Ratna Pathak Shah- Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Khoobsurat, Kapoor and Sons


Ratna Pathak Shah is a fine actor, and her characters always seem to have so much depth. In Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008) she played a single mother who abhors violence, and even though she's not the main lead a lot of the time she holds your attention longer than they do. In Khoobsurat (2014) she played a majestic queen with a heart and concern for her family, fierce but just as lovable. And in Kapoor and Sons (2016) Shah played Sunita as the mother of a broken family, someone who is trying to pick up the pieces. She has the ability to make you feel with her characters, not for them. A subtle difference not everybody may get. 

6. Vidya Balan- Paa, Kahaani

Wall poster of "Kahaani"

Vidya Balan as a mother is never helpless, and that's what makes her characters so special. In Paa (2009) where she plays a single mother of a child with a rare disease, she imbues that character with so much strength, that you never need to ask, will she be ok? In Kahaani (2012), she plays a pregnant woman and the reason why this role is so notable, is that where pregnancy is rarely dealt with properly in Bollywood, this is one where it doesn't make you change your opinion of a character. The power of the roles Vidya does is that you never pity her, instead, she keeps you asking what is she going to do next?

7. Priyanka Chopra- The Sky is Pink

The Sky Is Pink
The Sky Is Pink still featuring Priyanka Chopra and Farhan AkhtarInstagram

Priyanka Chopra in The Sky is Pink (2019), positively glows with a glint of madness. Her character shows a different side of motherhood, the constant worry of being a mother. As Moose Priyanka shows you love, care, worry, courage and fear all in one frame. Don't ask us how. 

8. Swara Bhasker- Nil Battey Sannata

Swara Bhasker

In Nil Battey Sannata (2016), Swara Bhasker shows a mother from a different background, but with just as much love to offer. A mother whose willing to overcome her own gaps to allow the growth of her child. She does what few mothers would do, which is go back to school. But, that's not all, she shows you a mother-daughter relationship, one that she's willing to deal with all the daughter's tantrums and hurt just so that they can see a better day. Not once does her character seem brash or overprotective, just concerned and that's more than enough, more than we can ever know. 

9. Neena Gupta- Badhaai Ho

Badhaai Ho

Neena Gupta is another brilliant actress. Her character in Badhaai Ho (2018) was not just unique, it was a role Bollywood wouldn't have fathomed even a few years ago. Her character may be a timid mother, who is dealing with her mother-in-law's taunts. But her strength in taking a decision, standing by it and not holding back her love despite all the taunts and fingers pointing at her, is powerful.

All these actors and their roles showed us shades and perspectives on motherhood. At least Bollywood has moved out of the one standard one-size-fits-all approach to motherhood making us complain a little less and appreciate our mothers a bit more. Happy Mother's Day!