By Rajeshwari Shastri Last Updated:
Bringing a human being into this world and then raising them is an incredibly daunting experience, even for married couples. Those who either decide to raise a child by themselves or are forced to do so due to a broken relationship face an entirely different struggle of their own. Single mothers especially have to battle the unfair social expectations and standards ascribed to women while juggling looking after themselves and bringing up a child without the physical and emotional support of a partner.
Despite the stigma attached to single motherhood, there are several Bollywood stars who have managed to become trailblazers as single mothers by not only balancing their professional careers with singlehandedly raising their children but also raised powerhouses like themselves, giving us serious mother-daughter relationship goals.
Babita was already a Bollywood leading lady when she married the Kapoor starlet, Randhir. She gave up her career when she was pregnant with her first child, Karisma, who was born in 1974, around the same time that her husband’s career began to take a hit. When they eventually separated, their second child, Kareena, was only 7. Babita raised her two daughters all by herself and paved the way not only for single mothers to flourish but also for daughters brought up by a single mother to shatter all social conventions. Kareena and Karisma Kapoor credit their mother for giving them the courage to face everything. Bollywood can only thank Babita for giving it one of its biggest stars, Kareena Kapoor Khan.
Sarika started acting in Bollywood films at the age of 4, had her first child, Shruti, with superstar Kamal Haasan out of wedlock at the age of 24 and got married only after she had her second child, Akshara, years later. When her firstborn, Shruti, was 15, Sarika moved into her own apartment with her two kids, before returning to Bombay decades later to restart her career as an actress. Now, Shruti and Akshara Haasan are both successful actresses, which they undoubtedly learned from their mother—who won a National Award on her return to acting after 20 years!
As an established actress, Karisma married industrialist Sanjay Kapur in a high-profile celebration in 2003, had her first child, Samaira, in 2005 and a son in 2010. However, the marriage ended in a controversial divorce in 2014 and Karisma retained full custody of her kids. Karisma took a leaf out of her mother’s book and raised her kids singlehandedly without letting the pressures of her broken relationship and her public life get to them. Her daughter, Samaira, has grown into a confident and beautiful young lady, often seen in photographs at family events with her mother and aunt, Kareena, living her best life!
At the mere age of 19, actress Raveena Tandon decided to adopt Pooja and Chhaya, two girls of age 11 and 8 respectively. Even at a time when women were not even expected to work after marriage, Raveena fell in love with her girls at first sight and defied all those who said that the adoption out of wedlock would ruin her career. She flourished as an actress after the adoption while simultaneously raising her girls as an older sister. Today, not only are both her daughters married but one of them has already given Raveena her first grandchild. Raveena now has two kids with her husband and her girls continue to remain her closest friends.
Miss Universe and beauty with brains, Sushmita Sen made headlines all over when she decided to adopt a baby girl, Renee, in the year 2000 when she was merely 25 years old. She fought a legal battle to secure full adoption rights over her older daughter as an unmarried single mother. Through her ups and downs, she didn’t compromise on either her professional or her personal life as a mother, adopting her younger daughter, Alisah, in 2010. It is a pleasure to see the transformation of these young girls, especially Renee, into empowered ladies with their doting mother on social media. Meanwhile, Sushmita Sen remains a torchbearer for many others in Bollywood who have now chosen adoption as single parents.
A trajectory similar to many others on this list, Amrita Singh was already a successful Hindi film heroine when she fell in love with Saif Ali Khan. She gave birth to their first child, Sara, in 1995 and Ibrahim in 2001, while Saif’s career began to take off during the same time and their marriage began to crumble. The couple finally divorced in 2004 and Amrita retained full custody of her kids. Now that Sara Ali Khan is one of Bollywood’s rising starlets, not enough credit is given to her mother, who did all the hard work of raising and supporting her kids. Sara is not only one of her best friends but also a reflection of the strong, independent and successful woman imbibed with Amrita’s own humble values.
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One of the most controversial stories of motherhood in Bollywood, actress Neena Gupta secretly had an affair with married West-Indian cricketer, Vivian Richards, and subsequently chose to have his lovechild, Masaba, born in 1989. Today, Masaba is one of India’s best and youngest fashion designers and runs her own fashion house. But the close emotional relationship she shares with her mother, commonly known as Neenaji, and how they support and uplift each other professionally, is unmistakable.
Kabir Bedi’s daughter and Bollywood celebrity, Pooja Bedi’s marriage to Farhan Ibrahim only lasted 10 years, but gave her a daughter, Alaya, and a son, Omar. After the divorce, she raised both her kids herself, with help from her widowed father. Alaya Furniturewala, now 22 years old, debuted last month in Saif Ali Khan’s Jawaani Jaaneman, and stole hearts with her fresh face, her effortless performance and her humble personality, which she credits to her mother and her best friend, Pooja Bedi.
One of the biggest household names in India, Shweta Tiwari rose to fame as the leading lady in Ekta Kapoor’s most popular daily soaps, including Kasautii Zindagii Kay. Her daughter, Palak, born in 2000, was a product of her first marriage to Raja Chaudhary, which turned into an extremely abusive and violent relationship. Shweta bravely fought her way out of the marriage by offering her husband a choice between ownership of their house and custody of their daughter, in which he chose the former. Today, Palak is a grown young woman and emphasizes how her mother has always been her rock, describing Shweta as one of the strongest people she’s ever known.
Kanika Kapoor, the award-winning singer of Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan and other hit Bollywood numbers, moved to London upon marrying NRI businessman Raj Chandok in 1997. She has three kids from her marriage but separated in 2008, after which she moved back to Lucknow with all her kids in 2012. Although she has ensured that her kids are given full privacy, right down to their names, her relationship with her kids, especially her two daughters, is mother-daughter goals as her Instagram is full of photographs of them posing on the streets of London.
Whatever these women went through in the course of raising their children and balancing all their goals and duties at the same time, these mother-daughter relationships are proof of the fact that the bond between a mother and a daughter is truly that of best friends. We think it's incredible that the world now has even more examples of strong and independent ladies to look up to!