Ratna Pathak Shah, not just a name but an institution in herself. Be it theatre, or television or the big screen, there is no place of the visual arts that this powerhouse hasn’t reigned. In a career spanning over decades, Ratna has managed to ace the most challenging parts and with much ease. Let’s not forget Buaji from Alankrita Shrivastava’s game-changing Lipstick Under My Burkha or Sunita from Idhar Udhar way back in the 80s.
But one thing apart from zillion others that Ratna has managed to break is the stereotype around mothers in the Indian visual content. With her minimalistic approach and touch of realism, she has played some of the most subtle mothers, contradictory to the one-tone sob saga characters that have continued to make their way to the films since the ages of yore.
Today as Ratna Pathak Shah celebrates her birthday, let’s take a look back at some of her characters and realise she is the mother we didn’t know that we always deserved.
SARABHAI VS SARABHAI
Nobody, I repeat nobody can ever take away the crown off Maya Sarabhai’s head of being the OG. As the elite high society woman, Ratna Pathak Shah blew life in a show that had the perfect comedy but needed a soul to lift it all. Every single time when one will list her career-best performances, Maya will have to make a cut. Also, all you girls out there, be honest and tell us, haven’t you all tried to enact Maya at least once?
JAANE TU… YA JAANE NA
The year was 2008. Words millennial mother and gen Z mom were not even discovered. But as usual, Ratna was way ahead of the time and gave them a definition. Flipping the notion around mother in Bollywood completely, Shah became a mom who was in synch with the updating world around her son. She wasn’t the usual cooking, waiting, and depressed mother; she was a warrior in her own spirits and witty when needed the most. Remember when Aditi said, “5 saal kaha nikal gaye pata hi nhi chala”, and Shah said, “Phone pe beta phone pe”? Oh my good lord, what treat!
EK MAIN AUR EKK TU
This was the point when the actor proved that she wasn’t out there to create mothers who are smart but righteous always. Here was a visual example of how Maya Sarabhai would have looked just with the vanity and no brain. Pressuring her son the whole time, Ratna Pathak Shah became a mother trying to show off her life to the world. Yet another elite high-class character but completely different than the previous one.
And this ladies and gentlemen is by far the best. Not because it has something completely different to offer, but is the same old arc but Ratna Pathak Shah adding her magic. Thappad was, anyways an alarm set to make you realise the wrongs around us and changing it. Ratna played Taapsee Pannu’s mother, who advises her to forgive the husband. But while she does that, there is a sense of concern, love, agreement too, but not to be shown. The silent moment with Kumud Mishra, who plays her husband, will always stay with me.
KAPOOR & SONS
Last but not the least, Kapoor & Sons was never about its lead actors. Shakun Batra’s analysis of relationships had a mother in the centre who has all the secrets hidden with her. She was a grinding homemaker, a mom, a wife trying to side-eye her husband’s infidelity and an entrepreneur. Who better than Ratna Pathak Shah to play her? You don’t come across such characters every day, and when actors of this calibre are playing them, you have to stop and marvel.