The portrayal of mothers in Tamil film began with sensational, profoundly enthusiastic moms whose lives take a complete U-turn after marriage, where they sacrifice their entire lives for their family and kids. We could see this in movies like Thillu Mullu, Thalapathi, Padayappa, Per Sollum Pillai, Michael Madana Kama Rajan and so on. Perhaps those characters worked for the audience back then, since a huge percentage of our mothers lived in a similar reality. As a few exceptions, we saw some really bold mothers, like in Mappillai, who showed us that a woman could very well be the head of the family and also lead a phenomenal business empire. As times change, with a considerably larger number of working mothers in real life, we have seen a drastic change in Tamil cinema representation. Here are a few characters that truly stood out.
The character Mahalakshmi, played by Nadhiya, from M Kumaran S/o Mahalakshmi, was one of the first in terms of the representation of a single working mother trying to provide for her only son as a college professor. Unlike the characters that Nadhiya has played, this role of a mother was every kid's dream: your closest companion, somebody who might offer you relationship guidance and subtly make life-changing plans with the love of your life!
Another single mother that truly stood out was Radhika from Naanum Rowdy Dhaan, who played the role of a police inspector in Puducherry. Her son grew up being friends with various thugs, because of his mother's profession, and then secretly becomes a funny and incompetent thug. She was most definitely one of the cutest and bubbliest mothers that Kollywood has seen!
Similarly, Jyothika from Kaatrin Mozhi represented every housewife who was ever looked down upon because she wanted to follow her dreams. She always aspired to take up white-collar jobs, but couldn't do so, as she did not complete her high school education. Then, she aspired to become a late-night RJ, but she did not have the support of her family. She was a fantastic multi-tasker and rightly balanced a professional and personal life despite all the emotional turmoil.
Amala Paul from Amma Kanakku is a widowed, young mother who worked as a domestic help in several homes to save money for her child's future. She dreamt of her daughter being an IAS officer, to have a better lifestyle in the future. Seeing her child's lethargy towards education, she challenged her kid by studying in the same school and class as her, to prove that age is not a deterrent for education, and that she can easily adapt to the system and inspire her child to develop an interest towards academics.
Jyothika from 36 Vayadhinile worked in the revenue department and is a mother craving the respect of her husband and daughter, who wish to move to Ireland. Unfortunately, as her age posed a problem with the Irish Companies, she stayed back in India with her in-laws. She then takes up organic greenhouse farming and goes on to win many laurels in the same field, and also achieves what she desires most: the respect of her family.
Ramya Krishnan from Baahubali, the Rajmata of an entire kingdom, Magizhmathi, posed as a mother not only for her own child but also the child of her sister-in-law who passed away during childbirth. She led the entire kingdom and acted as a ray of hope for those who belonged to her kingdom. She was a badass queen, and a badass mother, one could say.
In all of the characters mentioned, the other commonality is that they all had weak or even absent male partners (which is also a fairly new representation in cinema since we have seen too many movies with only the heroes saving the world, the country, the woman they love and so on). This gives more individuality to the women characters featured here. Society usually demands only women to give up their careers for their children, but these characters not only caught the emotions that lie between a mother and child but furthermore proved that they can beautifully maintain a work-life balance. It breaks the stereotype that men ought to be the head of the family and shows us what women are truly capable of despite emotional turmoil, societal pressure, and external disturbances.