Jai Santoshi Maa
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.
- Genre: Thriller
- Runtime: 145 Minutes
- Awards: 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
Jai Santoshi Maa (Devnagari: जय संतोषी माँ) is a 1975 low-budget Hindi film that became one of the top blockbusters of all time. 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).