Trajectories of Care: Representations of Empowered Mothering in Contemporary Bollywood

Main Article Content

Pratyusha Pramanik
Ajit K Mishra


Mothering a child with disability increases caregiving responsibilities considerably, making the
mother assume the role of the nurse, the therapist, and the educator. Uninterrupted care work,
societal surveillance and prevalent stigma severely interfere with the mental, physical, and
existential well-being of such mothers. Through a thematic analysis of select contemporary
Bollywood films, this article maps the trajectories of care and examines the alternative mothering
strategies adopted by mothers of children with disabilities to take care of their children and
themselves. A critical examination of these on-screen mothers provides an insight into the
shifting discourses of mothering practices in India.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Author Biography

Pratyusha Pramanik, Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi

Pratyusha Pramanik is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Humanistic Studies, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, India. Her works have appeared on various online portals and indexed journals like Feminism in India, Café Dissensus, Rupkatha and others.  Her areas of interest include Gender Studies, Film & Literature and Indian Writing in English. She is a Teaching Assistant in her institute and engages students in several Elective courses offered by her department.


Ainbinder, Judith G., et al. "A qualitative study of parent to parent support for parents of children

with special needs." Journal of Pediatric Psychology, vol. 23, no. 2, 1998, pp. 99-109.

Aneja, Anu, and Shubhangi Vaidya. Embodying motherhood: Perspectives from contemporary

India. SAGE Publications India, 2016.

Arora, Anupama. "Nobody puts Rani in a corner: Making of the new Indian woman in Queen

(2014)." South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 17, no. 2, 2019, pp. 145-157.

Anwer, Megha, and Anupama Arora, editors. Bollywood’s new woman: Liberalization,

liberation, and contested bodies. Rutgers University Press, 2021.

Banga, Gazal, and Subharati Ghosh. "The Impact of Affiliate Stigma on the Psychological

Well‐being of Mothers of Children with Specific Learning Disabilities in India: The

Mediating Role of Subjective Burden." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual

Disabilities, vol, 30, no. 5, 2017, pp. 958-969.

Barfi!. Directed by Anurag Basu, performances by Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor. Ishana

Movies and UTV Motion Pictures, 2012.

Black. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, performances by Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh

Bachchan. Applause Entertainment and SLB Films, 2005.

Bowes, Susan, et al. "Chronic Sorrow in Parents of Children with Type 1 Diabetes." Journal of

Advanced Nursing, vol. 65, no. 5, 2009, pp. 992-1000.


Braun, Virginia. and Victoria Clarke. "Reflecting on Reflexive Thematic Analysis." Qualitative

Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, vol. 11, no. 4, 2019, pp. 589-597.

Burke, Mary L., et al. "Current Knowledge and Research on Chronic Sorrow: A Foundation for

Inquiry." Death Studies, vol. 16, no. 3, 1992, pp. 231-245.

Calandra, C., et al,. "Grief Elaboration in Families with Handicapped Member." Annali

Dell'istituto Superiore di Sanitam, vol. 28, no. 2, 1992, pp. 269-271.

Case, Stephen. "Refocusing on the Parent: What are the Social Issues of Concern for Parents of

Disabled Children?." Disability and Society, vol 15, no. 2, 2000, pp. 271-292.

Dellve, Lotta, et al. "Stress and Well‐being Among Parents of Children with Rare Diseases: A

Prospective Intervention Study." Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 53, no. 4, 2006, pp.


Dowling, Monica, and Linda Dolan. "Families with Children with Disabilities-Inequalities and

the Social Model." Disability and Society, vol.16, no. 1, 2001, pp. 21-35.

Dwyer, Rachel. "Bollywood's India: Hindi Cinema as a Guide to Modern India." Asian Affairs,

vol. 41, no. 3, 2010, pp. 381-398.

Eakes, Georgene G., Mary L. Burke, and Margaret A. Hainsworth. "Middle‐Range Theory of

Chronic Sorrow." Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, vol. 30, no. 2, 1998, pp.


Ersoy, Ali Fuat, and Sıdıka Bulus. "Burnout in Mothers with Disabled Children: A Qualitative

Study." Turkish Journal of Social Research, vol. 23, no. 3, 2019, pp. 764-781.

Feinstein, Adam. A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. John Wiley & Sons,

Fraley, Ardella M. "Chronic Sorrow in Parents of Premature Children." Children's Health Care,

vol. 15, no. 2, 1986, pp. 114-118.

Francis, Ara. 2010. “Mothering children with disabilities”. Encyclopedia of Motherhood. Edited

by Andrea O’Reilly. Sage Publications, 2010.

Frey, Karin S., Mark T. Greenberg, and Rebecca R. Fewell. "Stress and Coping Among Parents

of Handicapped Children: A Multidimensional Approach." American Journal on Mental

Retardation, vol. 94, no. 3, 1989, pp. 240-249

Gérain, Pierre. and Emmanuelle Zech. "Does Informal Caregiving Lead to Parental Burnout?

Comparing Parents Having (or not) Children with Mental and Physical Issues." Frontiers

in Psychology vol. 9, 2018, p. 884.

Gordon, Jessica. "An Evidence-Based Approach for Supporting Parents Experiencing Chronic

Sorrow." Pediatric Nursing, vol. 35, no. 2, 2009, pp. 115-9.


Gowen, Jean W., et al. "Feelings of Depression and Parenting Competence of Mothers of

Handicapped and Nonhandicapped Infants: A Longitudinal Study." American Journal on

Mental Retardation, vol. 94, no. 3, 1989, pp. 259-271.

Gray, D. E. (2003). Gender and Coping: The Parents of Children with High Functioning Autism.

Social Science and Medicine, vol. 56, no.3, pp. 631–642. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/

S0277- 9536(02) 00059-X.

Guzaarish. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, performances by Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya

Rai Bachchan. UTV Motion Pictures and SLB Films, 2010.

Gupta, Vidya Bhushan, Priyanka Mehrotra, and Naveen Mehrotra. "Parental Stress in Raising a

Child with Disabilities in India." Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, vol. 23, no.

, 2012, pp. 41-52.

Hallstein, Lynn O'Brien, Andrea O'Reilly, and Melinda Vandenbeld Giles, editors. The

Routledge Companion to Motherhood. Routledge, 2019.

Hauser‐Cram, et al. "Family Influences on Adaptive Development in Young Children with

Down Syndrome." Child Development, vol. 70, no. 4, 1999, pp. 979-989.

Hewetson, Ronelle, and Shajila Singh. "The Lived Experience of Mothers of Children with

Chronic Feeding and/or Swallowing Difficulties." Dysphagia, vol. 24, 2009, pp. 322-332.

Hill, Shirley A., and Mary K. Zimmerman. "Valiant Girls and Vulnerable Boys: The Impact of

Gender and Race on Mothers' Caregiving for Chronically Ill Children." Journal of

Marriage and the Family, vol. 57, no. 1, 1995, pp. 43-53.

Hobdell, Elizabeth F., and Janet A. Deatrick. "Chronic Sorrow: A Content Analysis of Parental

Differences." Journal of Genetic Counseling, vol. 5, 1996, pp. 57-68.

Hobdell, Elizabeth. "Chronic Sorrow and Depression in Parents of Children with Neural Tube

Defects." Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, vol. 36, no. 2, 2004, pp. 82-88.

Hoare, P., et al. "A Community Survey of Children with Severe Intellectual Disability and Their

Families: Psychological Adjustment, Carer Distress and the Effect of Respite Care."

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, vol. 42, no. 3, 1998, pp. 218-227.

Home, Alice. "Challenging Hidden Oppression: Mothers Caring for Children with Disabilities."

Critical Social Work, vol. 3, no. 1, 2002, pp. 88-103.

Hummel, P. A., and D. L. Eastman. "Do parents of preterm infants suffer chronic sorrow?."

Neonatal network: NN, vol. 10, no. 4, 1991, pp. 59-65.

Iqbal. Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, performances by Shreyas Talpade and Naseeruddin Shah.

Subhash Ghai, 2005.

Joesch, Jutta M., and Ken R. Smith. "Children's Health and their Mothers’ Risk of Divorce or

Separation." Social Biology, vol. 44, no. 3-4, 1997, pp. 159-169.

Kaabil. Directed by Sanjay Gupta, performances by Hrithik Roshan. Filmkraft Productions Pvt.

Ltd, 2017.

Kandel, Isack, and Joav Merrick. "The Birth of a Child with Disability: Coping by Parents and

Siblings." The Scientific World Journal, vol. 3, 2003, pp. 741-750.

Kanner, Leo. "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact." Nervous Child, vol. 2, no. 3, 1943,

pp. 217-250.

Karandikar, et al. "She Did it Her Way: An Analysis of Female Rebellion in Contemporary

Bollywood Movies." South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 19, no. 2, 2021, pp. 149-163.

Khanlou, Nazilla, et al. "Mothering Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Critical

Perspective on Health Promotion." Health Care for Women International, vol. 38, no. 6,

, pp. 613-634. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1080/ 07399 332. 2017. 12968 41

Kittay, Eva Feder. "When Caring is Just and Justice is Caring: Justice and Mental Retardation."

Public Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, 2001, pp. 557-579.

Knox, Marie. "Family Control: The Views of Families who Have a Child with an Intellectual

Disability." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, vol. 13, no. 1, 2000,

pp. 17-28..

Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth. On Death and Dying. Macmillan, 1969.

Leiter, Valerie, et al. "The Consequences of Caring: Effects of Mothering a Child with Special

Needs." Journal of Family Issues, vol. 25, no. 3, 2004, pp. 379-403.

Lindahl Norberg, Annika. "Burnout in Mothers and Fathers of Children Surviving Brain

Tumour." Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, vol. 14, 2007, pp. 130-

Malacrida, Claudia. Cold Comfort: Mothers, Professionals, and Attention Deficit Disorder.

University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Mallow, Gail E., and Gregory A. Bechtel. "Chronic Sorrow: The Experience of Parents with

Children who are Developmentally Disabled." Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and

Mental Health Services, vol. 37, no. 7, 1999, pp. 31-35.


Manzar, Benazir, and Aju Aravind. "(Re) Thinking Women in Cinema: The Changing Narrative

Structure in Bollywood." South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 17, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-13.

McDonnell, Jane Taylor. "Mothering An Autistic Child: Reclaiming the Voice of the Mother."

Narrating mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities, pp. 58-77, University of

Tennessee Press, 1991.

Mikolajczak, Moïra, and Isabelle Roskam. "A Theoretical and Clinical Framework for Parental

Burnout: The Balance Between Risks and Resources (BR2)." Frontiers in Psychology,

vol. 9, 2018, p. 886.

Mikolajczak, Moïra, James J. Gross, and Isabelle Roskam. "Parental burnout: What is it, and

why does it matter?." Clinical Psychological Science, vol. 7, no. 6, 2019, pp. 1319-1329.

Mohapatra, Atanu. "Portrayal of Disability in Hindi Cinema: A Study of Emerging Trends of

Differently-abled." Asian Journal of Multidimensional Research (AJMR), vol, 1, no. 7,

, pp. 124-132.

Murray, Pippa. "Disabled children, parents and professionals: partnership on whose terms?."

Disability and Society 15, no. 4 (2000): 683-698.

My Name is Khan. Directed by Karan Johar, performances by Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. Fox

Star Studios, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Dharma Productions, and Red Chillies

Entertainment, 2010.

Olshansky, Simon. "Chronic Sorrow: A Response to Having a Mentally Defective Child." Social

Casework, vol. 43, no. 4, 1962, pp. 190-193.

Olsson, Malin B., and Philip C. Hwang. "Influence of Macrostructure of Society on the Life

Situation of Families with a Child with Intellectual Disability: Sweden as an Example."

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, vol. 47, no. 4‐5, 2003, pp. 328-341.

O'Reilly, Andrea, editor. Feminist Mothering. State University of New York Press, 2008.

Paa. Directed by Balki, R, performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan. MAD

Entertainment Ltd., Amitabh Bachchan Corporation, and Reliance Big Pictures, 2009.

Parks, Susan Hillier, and Marc Pilisuk. "Caregiver burden: Gender and the psychological costs of

caregiving." American journal of Orthopsychiatry 61, no. 4 (1991): 501-509.

Paster, Angela, David Brandwein, and Joanne Walsh. "A Comparison of Coping Strategies Used

by Parents of Children with Disabilities and Parents of Children Without Disabilities."

Research in Developmental Disabilities, vol. 30, no. 6, 2009, pp. 1337-1342.

Paunksnis, Runa Chakraborty, and Šarūnas Paunksnis. "Masculine Anxiety and ‘New Indian

Woman’ In the Films of Anurag Kashyap." South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 18, no. 2,

, pp. 149-162.

Patrick-Ott, Amy, and Linda D. Ladd. "The Blending of Boss's Concept of Ambiguous Loss and

Olshansky's Concept of Chronic Sorrow: A Case Study of a Family with a Child who has

Significant Disabilities." Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, vol. 5, no. 1, 2010, pp.


Raina, Parminder, et al. "The Health and Well-being of Caregivers of Children with Cerebral

Palsy." Pediatrics, vol. 115, no. 6, 2005, pp. e626-e636.

Read, Janet. Disability, the Family, and Society: Listening to Mothers. Open University Press,

Redmond, Bairbre, and Victoria Richardson. "Just Getting on With it: Exploring the Service

Needs of Mothers who Care for Young Children with Severe/Profound and

Life‐Threatening Intellectual Disability." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual

Disabilities, vol. 16, no. 3, 2003, pp. 205-218.


Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. W. W. Norton and

Company, 1976.

Roskam, Isabelle, Marie-Emilie Raes, and Moïra Mikolajczak. "Exhausted Parents:

Development and Preliminary Validation of the Parental Burnout Inventory." Frontiers in

Psychology, vol. 8, 2017, p. 163.

Ryan, Sara. "‘Busy Behaviour’ in the ‘Land of the Golden M’: Going Out with Learning

Disabled Children in Public Places." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual

Disabilities, vol. 18, no. 1, 2005, pp. 65-74.


Ryde‐Brandt, Brita. "Defence Strategies and Anxiety in Mothers of Disabled Children."

European Journal of Personality, vol. 5, no. 5, 1991, pp. 367-377.

Sadziak, Aleksandra, Wojciech Wilinski, and Marta Wieczorek. "Parental Burnout as a Health

Determinant in Mothers Raising Disabled Children." Baltic Journal of Health and

Physical Activity, vol. 11, no. 3, 2019, p. 77-89

Salaam Venky. Directed by Revathi, performances by Shrikant Murthy and Kajol. Blive

Productions and RTake Studios, 2022.

Seltzer, Marsha Mailick, et al. "Families of Adolescents and Adults with Autism: Uncharted

Territory." In International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, vol. 23, pp. 267-

Academic Press, 2000.

Sheesley, Deborah F. “Burnout and the Academic Teaching Librarian: An Examination of the

Problem and Suggested Solutions.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 27, no.

, 2001, pp. 447-451.

Sloper, Patricia. "Models of Service Support for Parents of Disabled Children. What Do We

Know? What Do We Need to Know?." Child: Care, Health and Development, vol. 25,

no. 2, 1999, pp. 85-99.

Snell, Susan A., and Karen H. Rosen. "Parents of Special Needs Children Mastering the Job of

Parenting." Contemporary Family Therapy, vol. 19, 1997, pp. 425-442.

Smith, Timothy B., et al. "Depressive Symptomatology and Interaction Behaviors of Mothers

Having a Child with Disabilities." Psychological Reports, vol. 73, no. 3, 1993, pp. 1184-

Story, Kaila Adia. Patrica Hill Collins; Reconceiving Motherhood. Demeter Press, 2014.

Taare Zameen Par. Directed by Aamir Khan, performances by Darsheel Safary and Aamir Khan.

Aamir Khan Productions, 2007

Tarrant, Susan Kaye. Maternal Metamorphosis: Experiences of Fourteen Women Parenting

Children with High Functioning Autism in North Central Victoria. La Trobe University

Press, 2002.

Tekindal, M. The Feminist Groupwork Experiences of Women with Disabled Children: A Mixed

Method Research.(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Hacettepe University, Social

Sciences Institute, 2015.

Todd, Stuart, and Stephanie Jones. "‘Mum's the Word!': Maternal Accounts of Dealings with the

Professional World." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, vol. 16, no.

, 2003, pp. 229-244.

Traustadottir, Rannveig. "Mothers who Care: Gender, Disability, and Family Life." Journal of

Family Issues, vol. 12, no. 2, 1991, pp. 211-228.

Jalsa. Directed by Suresh Triveni, performances by Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah, Surya

Kashibhatla. T-Series and Abundantia Entertainment, 2022.

UNESCO. N for Nose: State of the Education Report for India 2019: Children with Disabilities.

UNESCO, 2019.


Vadivelan, K., et al. "Burden of Caregivers of Children with Cerebral Palsy: An Intersectional

Analysis of Gender, Poverty, Stigma, and Public Policy." BMC Public Health, vol. 20,

, pp. 1-8. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1186/ s12889- 020- 08808-0