The plot revolves around a boy called Shyam and his relationship with his mother. It shares the effect Shyam's mother has had on Shyam's life and upbringing, and how he is taught to stick to his ideals and principles, even in the face of poverty.
The relationships of all the individuals within Shyam's family are explored. The novel of the same name Shyamchi Aai was acclaimed upon release, and is autobiographical. The author of the novel is Sane Guruji. Shyam is said to be the author in the book. The film ends with the illness and death of Shyam's mother.
The film won the first ever President's Gold Medal/Golden Lotus Award for Best Film at the inaugural National Film Awards Set up by the Government of India in 1954.
The film incorporates the heavy nationalist symbolism associated with the mother (Vanamala), a devoutly religious person with an earthy philosophy, as well as the sentimental depiction of her relationship with her son (Vaze).
This is a major Marathi melodrama based on one of the most influential 20th C. Marathi novels (1935), a fictionalised account of the childhood years of Sane Guruji (1899-1950). A nationalist influenced by Vinoba Bhave and esp. Gandhi, he was imprisoned repeatedly for his work among the peasantry and participation in the Quit India agitations. His book 'Shyamchi Aai', written in jail, has 45 episodes in which Shyam, a youth living in poverty in Konkan, recalls the teachings of his mother. Despite its emphasis on a ruralist realism, the characters remain exemplary and (surprisingly for Atre) humourless stereotypes. The film, like the book, relies on flashbacks as Sane Guruji (D. Joshi) tells the stories in homage to a person to whom he owes everything. Episodes showing the young Shyam’s maturation culminate in the mother’s death.
The hit film has remained a generic landmark in Marathi melodrama, esp. for Vanamala’s maternal prototype. The book has been analysed by Shanta Gokhale (1990).
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