Jai Santoshi Maa

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Jai Santoshi Maa
Jai Santoshi Maa.jpg
Cover art for the DVD release of the film
Directed by Vijay Sharma
Produced by Satram Rohara
Starring Kanan Kaushal
Bharat Bhushan
Ashish Kumar
Anita Guha
Music by C. Arjun
Cinematography Sudhendu Roy
Release date(s) 1975
Running time 130 minutes
Language Hindi

Jai Santoshi Maa (Devnagari: जय संतोषी माँ) is a 1975 low-budget Hindi film that became one of the top blockbusters of all time.[1][2] Santoshī Mā (also called Santoshi Mata or Santoshi Maa) is a goddess of satisfaction. Usha Mangeshkar, sister of Lata Mangeshkar sang the devotional songs for the film along with Mahendra Kapoor and the famous poet Pradeep (who wrote the lyrics of the songs).

Plot[edit]

The film opens in Dev Lok or “the world of the gods,” a Hindu heaven located above the clouds, where we witness the “birth” of Santoshi Ma as the daughter of Ganesha, the elephant headed god of good beginnings, and his two wives Riddhi and Siddhi (“prosperity” and “success”). A key role is played by the immortal sage Narada, a devotee of Vishnu, and a cosmic busybody who regularly intervenes to advance the film’s two parallel plots, which concern both human beings and gods. We soon meet the maiden Satyavati (Kanan Kaushal), Santoshi Ma’s greatest earthly devotee, leading a group of women in an aarti (song and ceremony of worship) to the goddess. This first song, "Main To Arti Utaru", “I perform Mother Santoshi’s arti,” exemplifies through its camerawork the experience of darshan —of “seeing” and being seen by a deity in the reciprocal act of “visual communion” that is central to Hindu worship.

Through the Mother’s grace, Satyavati soon meets, falls in love with, and manages to marry the handsome lad Birju (Ashish Kumar), youngest of seven brothers in a prosperous farmer family, an artistic flute-playing type who can also render a zippy bhajan on request (Apni Santoshi Maa, “Our Mother Santoshi”). Alas, with the boy come the in-laws, and two of Birju’s six sisters-in-law, Durga and Maya (named for powerful goddesses) are jealous shrews who have it in for him and Satyavati from the beginning. To make matters worse, Narada (in a delightful scene back in heaven) stirs up the jealousy of three senior goddesses, Lakshmi, Parvati, and Brahmani (a.k.a. Sarasvati)— the wives of the “Hindu trinity” of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma—against the “upstart” goddess Santoshi Ma. They decide to examine (pariksha) her perseverance (Shraddha) by making life miserable for her chief devotee.

After a fight with his relatives, Birju leaves home to seek his fortune, narrowly escaping a watery grave (planned for him by the goddesses) through his wife’s devotion to Santoshi Ma. Nevertheless, the divine ladies convince his family that he is indeed dead, adding the stigma of widowhood to Satyavati’s other woes. Her sisters-in-law treat her like a slave, beat and starve her, and a local rogue attempts to rape her; Santoshi Ma (played as an adult by Anita Guha), taking a human form, rescues her several times. Eventually Satyavati is driven to attempt suicide, but is stopped by Narada, who tells her about the sixteen-Fridays fast in honor of Santoshi Ma, which can grant any wish. Satyavati completes it with great difficulty and more divine assistance, and just in the nick of time: for the now-prosperous Birju, stricken with amnesia by the angry goddesses and living in a distant place, has fallen in love with a rich merchant’s daughter. Through Santoshi Ma’s grace, he gets his memory back and returns home laden with wealth. When he discovers the awful treatment given to his wife, he builds a palatial home for the two of them, complete with an in-house temple to the Mother. Satyavati plans a grand ceremony of udyapan or “completion” (of her vrat ritual) and invites her in-laws. But the nasty celestials and sadistic sisters-in-law make a last-ditch effort to ruin her by squeezing lime juice into one of the dishes (key point here: the rules of Santoshi Ma’s fast forbid eating, or serving, any sour food). All hell breaks loose —civil war between goddesses(?)— before peace is finally restored, on earth as it is in heaven, and a new deity is triumphantly welcomed to the pantheon.

Cast[edit]

Release and response[edit]

This low-budget film with forgotten stars and unknown actors unexpectedly emerged as one of the highest-grossing releases of 1975—sharing the spotlight with the likes of Sholay and Deewar. This bewildered critics and intrigued scholars (resulting in a modest literature on the film as a religio-cultural phenomenon), but made perfect sense to millions of Indian women, who loved its folksy story about a new “Goddess of Satisfaction,” easily accessible through a simple ritual (which the film also demonstrates). A classic example of the “mythological” genre—the original narrative genre of Indian-made films—and one of the most popular such films ever made, it gave a new (and characteristically Indian), inflection to the American pop-critical term “cult film,” for viewers often turned cinemas into temporary temples, leaving their footwear at the door, pelting the screen with flowers and coins, and bowing reverently whenever the goddess herself appeared (which she frequently did, always accompanied by a clash of cymbals).

The screenplay is based on a vrat katha: a folktale (katha) meant for recitation during the performance of a ritual fast (vrat) honoring a particular deity and undertaken in order to achieve a stated goal. The Santoshi Ma vrat seems to have become popular in north India during the 1960s, spreading among lower middle-class women by word of mouth and through an inexpensive “how-to” pamphlet and religious poster of the goddess. However, the printed story is very sketchy and the film greatly embellishes it, adding a second narrative to its tale of a long-suffering housewife who gets relief through worshiping Santoshi Ma.

Analysis and social significance[edit]

In an era dominated by violent masala action films aimed primarily at urban male audiences, Jai Santoshi Maa spoke to rural and female audiences, invoking a storytelling style dear to them and conveying a message of vindication and ultimate triumph for the sincerely devoted (and upwardly-mobile). Above all, it concerns the life experience that is typically the most traumatic for an Indian woman: that of being wrenched from her mayka or maternal home and forced to adjust to a new household in which she is often treated as an outsider who must be tested and disciplined, sometimes harshly, before she can be integrated into the family. Satyavati’s relationship with Santoshi Ma enables her to endure the sufferings inflicted on her by her sisters-in-law and to triumph over them, but it also accomplishes more. It insures that Satyavati’s life consistently departs from the script that patriarchal society writes for a girl of her status: she marries a man of her own choosing, enjoys a companionate relationship (and independent travel) with her husband, and ultimately acquires a prosperous home of her own, beyond her in-laws’ reach. While appearing to adhere to the code of a conservative extended family (the systemic abuses of which are dramatically highlighted), Satyavati nevertheless quietly achieves goals, shared by many women, that subvert this code.

This oblique assertiveness has a class dimension as well. The three goddesses are seen to be “established” both religiously and materially: they preside over plush celestial homes and expect expensive offerings. Santoshi Ma, who is happy with offerings of gur-chana (raw sugar and chickpeas—snack foods of the poor) and is in fact associated with “little,” less-educated, and less-advantaged people, is in their view a newcomer threatening to usurp their status. Yet in the end they must concede defeat and bestow their (reluctant?) blessing on the nouvelle arrivée. The socio-domestic aspect of the film (goddesses as senior in-laws, oppressing a young bahu or new bride) thus parallels its socio-economic aspect (goddesses as established bourgeois matrons, looking scornfully at the aspirations of poorer women).

Satyavati’s relationship to Santoshi Ma, established through the parallel story of the goddesses, suggests that there is more agency involved here than at first appears to be the case—though it is the diffused, depersonalized agency favored in Hindu narrative (as in Santoshi Ma’s own birth story). Satyavati’s successful integration into Birju’s family, indeed her emergence as its most prosperous female member, parallels Santoshi Ma’s acceptance in her divine clan and revelation as its most potent shakti. Santoshi Ma's rise as a goddess happens without the intervention, so common in Indian cinema, of a male hero.

Satyavati's rise to wealth is partly dependent on her husband Birju. Birju is portrayed as a devotee of Santoshi Ma from the start, and it is this that first attracts Satyavati's interest. He then rescues her from being molested, and this leads to their marriage. His infidelity with the merchant's daughter is balanced by his honest labour that becomes the source of his and Satyavati's later wealth. Satyavati's story would hardly be satisfying if she did not have a worthy husband, capable of displaying strength when necessary, and anger on her behalf when he sees how his family have treated her in her absence. Ultimately her gentleness wins through as she persuades him to re-unite with her family.

Through its visual treatment of the reciprocal gaze of darshan and its use of parallel narratives, the film also suggests that Satyavati and Santoshi Ma are, in fact, one—a truth finally declared, at film’s end, by Birju’s wise and compassionate elder brother Daya Ram. As in the ideology of tantric ritual (or the conventions of “superhero” narrative in the West), the “mild-mannered” and submissive Satyavati merges, through devotion and sheer endurance, with her ideal and alter-ego, the cosmic superpower Santoshi Ma. There is a further theological argument that the film visually offers: not only is Santoshi Ma available to all women through her vrat ritual, she is, in fact, all women. Appearing as a little girl at the film’s beginning, as a self-confident young woman in her manifestations throughout most of the story, and as a grandmotherly crone on the final Friday of Satyavati’s fast, Santoshi Ma makes herself available to viewers as an embodiment of the female life cycle, and conveys the quietly mobilizing message that it is reasonable for every woman to expect, within that cycle, her own “satisfaction” in the form of love, comfort, and respect.[3]

Following the release of the film Santoshi Maa has been worshipped as a goddess, particularly by women in Northern India.[4][5]

In the film, Santoshi Maa is depicted as a daughter of Ganesha.

In the film Ganesha is depicted as a householder (gṛhastha) with wives, sons, and a sister(Mansa:a goddess,known as mansa mata {tample at haridwaarand many places, } . As is common in North India his wives are depicted as Riddhi and Siddhi. His sons are depicted as Shubha and Labha. The boys are unhappy because they, unlike Ganesha, have no sister. But Ganesha is ambivalent about having another child. The boys and the women plead with Ganesha, and the sage Nārada convinces him that having a daughter would be good. Ganesha assents and from Riddhi and Siddhi emerges a flame that engenders Santoshī Mā. There is dispute over this, between various scholars, whether it is myth or not. Saying it as totally myth will also be totally wrong. Women in North India are a huge follower of Santoshi Maa and her main temple is situated in Lal Sagar, near Mandore, which is about 10 kilometres away from Jodhpur city.

The script for the film has no basis in Puranic legend or other known scripture. In particular the claims that Ganesha had a sister and a daughter appear to be unique to this film. In Maharashtra there is a popular belief that Ganesha has a sister in each of the four directions and he goes to meet each of them annually on the occasion of Ganesha Caturthi.[6]

The film was remade in 2006, with Usha Mangeshkar again singing most of the devotional songs. Other films like Solah Shukravaar, Santoshi Maa ki Mahima and Jai Santoshi Maa,a tele serial was also produced.


Soundtrack[edit]

Song composed by C. Arjun and lyricist written by Kavi Pradeep

Song Singer
Karti Hu Tumhara Vrat Main, Sweekar Karo Maa Usha Mangeshkar
Yaha Waha Jaha Taha Mat Puchho Kaha Kaha Hai - I Kavi Pradeep
Mai Toh Aaratee Utaru Re Santoshee Mata Kee Usha Mangeshkar
Madad Karo Santoshi Mata Usha Mangeshkar
Jai Santoshi Maa Kavi Pradeep
Mat Ro Mat Ro Aaj Radhike Manna Dey
Yaha Waha Jaha Taha Mat Puchho Kaha Kaha Hai - II Mahendra Kapoor

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • BFJA Award for Best Male Playback Singer (Hindi Section) – Pradeep for the song "Yahan Wahan"
  • BFJA Award for Best Female Playback Singer (Hindi Section) – Usha Mangeshkar[7]
  • Filmfare Nomination for Best Female Playback Singer – Usha Mangeshkar for the song "Main To Aarti"[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BoxOffice India.com
  2. ^ "Jai Santoshi Maa". IMDb. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  3. ^ http://www.uiowa.edu/~incinema/santoshimaa.html
  4. ^ Cohen, Lawrence. "The Wives of Gaṇeśa", pp. 130 in: Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, Robert L. Brown (editor), SUNY Series in Tantric Studies (State University of New York Press: Albany, 1991) ISBN 0-7914-0657-1.
  5. ^ Santoshī Mā is discussed by Thapan, Anita Raina. Understanding Gaņapati: Insights into the Dynamics of a Cult. (Manohar Publishers: New Delhi, 1997). pp. 15-16, 230, 239, 242, 251. ISBN 81-7304-195-4.
  6. ^ Thapan, op. cit., p. 239.
  7. ^ "39th Annual BFJA Awards". BFJA. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  8. ^ 1st Filmfare Awards 1953

External links[edit]