Mrs Chatterjee Vs. Norway is based on gut-wrenching real-life saga
The core story on which this film is based is searing, chilling and gut-wrenching.
How does a biological mother, Debika (Rani Mukerji) feel when her children are taken away from her, the matter made worse by the fact that it is done by deception, by the Norwegian authorities on the pretext that she and her husband Anirudh (Anirban Bhattacharya) are unfit to take care of them.
The elder child is said to have autism-like symptoms, while the younger is just five months old and is also breast-feeding. A long battle follows with the government and the agency (named Velfred here) that is making a business out of “confiscating” such kids from immigrants. The lawyers appointed by them too are not really above board, though Indians are assigned to “represent” Indian families.
The desperate Debika tries all means to get back her kids, legal and otherwise, and is finally deemed mentally unstable as much by the authorities as by her callous and suddenly out-of-love husband and his parents. Finally, the kids’ custody is given to Anirudh’s bachelor brother and the children are shifted to Kolkata. But Debika is still not allowed to even see the kids, who naturally crave for her.
The Indian government authorities have already intervened and now it is time to have the case tried in an Indian court where a compassionate judge and a passionate lawyer (Balaji Gauri) make sure that justice is done and the kids are handed over to Debika after three torturous years. Of course, her marriage has long ended.
Based on a real case that made headlines in 2012 and led to a India-Norway faceoff and intervention by the then-Union Minister Sushma Swaraj and others, the film is not a documented version of the truth but is obviously dramatized.
Though most of the key elements are retained, the garnishing that is done that, oddly enough, reduces the grit in the screenplay when the intention was the reverse. Stereotyped Bengali-isms in speech and demonstration of culture, over-the-top gimmicks like the smirks and leers of the negative characters that lead to make them look like cardboard villains, and sequences that reek of fake-looking melodrama take away from the intensity that should have come in more forcefully under better scripting and direction. In fact, some scenes make us wonder if they could have really happened in such a country.
Hitesh Sonik could also have made his background music more inventive and subdued at the same time. And all that remains with us from the songs is the refrain, Shubho shubho. The cinematography (Alvar Kõue) is expectedly of high order, but Namrata Rao’s editing is just alright.
On the plus side, the humane side of Indian culture and parenting is vividly brought out by showing the stark contrast between emotional and clinical parenting, the inherent feelings of small children and the patriarchy that even now affects Indian families.
Rani Mukerji towers as Debika in the film and gives the movie its much-needed weight. As the plump Bengali hausfrau who becomes a tigress on a mission, she delivers a magnificent essay in motherhood that has no doubt been part-inspired also by her own emotions as a mother.
Jim Sarbh as the counsel for Norway and Balaji Gauri as Debika’s Kolkata counsel are wonderful, Jim showing his brilliance yet again. The latter is a natural scene-stealer. The Kolkata judge and the actors playing Debika’s parents are effective if routine.
As a work of passion, the film works. As a mission, the film could have been more cerebrally made to enhance the drama that has actually taken place, not just with Debika but with many others.
Rating: ***1/2 (Almost)
Zee Studios & Emmay Entertainment present Mrs. Chatterjee VS Norway Produced by: Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani & Nikkhil Advani Directed by: Ashima Chibber Written by: Ashima Chibber, Sameer Satija & Rahul Handa Music: Amit Trivedi Starring: Rani Mukerji, Jim Sarbh, Anirban Bhattacharya, Balaji Gauri, Neena Gupta, Tiina Tauraite & others