Film: Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway
Director: Ashima Chibber
Cast: Rani Mukerji, Anirban Bhattacharya, Neena Gupta, Jim Sarbh
AN immigrant couple, setting up a life together in Norway along with their two children, crosses path with the child welfare department. However, their Indian way of parenting doesn't gel with the European system, and the mother has to fight a long, lonely battle.
The film charts the story of Debika and Anirudh Chatterjee. The couple has two children — a son in school and daughter a few months old. The family is under watch of the child welfare services' officials due to a report of domestic abuse. Next we know, the children are taken away from them and put in foster care, keeping their 'best interests' in mind.
Rani Mukerji steps into the shoes of Debika. One learns early in the film that Anirudh (Anirban Bhattacharya) and Debika are not on the same page. While her life centres around her children, he is devoted to his work and values Norwegian citizenship over anything else.
Based on the story of Sagarika Chakraborty, it is indeed a tale of grit and determination of an immigrant mother who takes on an entire country. Its reel outing, by director Ashima Chibber, who has Mere Dad Ki Maruti to her credit, however, falls short of touching one's emotional chords. The film, based on Chakraborty's book — The journey of a Mother — adapted by Sameer Satija, Ashima Chibber and Rahul Handa, sure lacks the punch.
The protagonist, Debi, does everything wrong from the word go. While her talks with her infant daughter reflect her inner state, it's really not established if she is actually depressed or fighting postpartum. Maa is a staple in Bollywood, but Mrs Chatterjee fails to secure the top spot. While it is the story of a mother's fight for her children, it's also as much about patriarchy, stereotypical greedy in-laws, hapless girls’ parents and more.
While the film does paint Norway's child welfare system in villainous light, it does try to make subtle points in its favour. Daniel Singh Ciupek (Jim Sarbh) is an adopted son, and he stands for the system, as he has grown up in it. The brief phone call with his mother establishes that the duo share a strong bond. Indian ways —children sharing bed with parents — is one objection from the authorities. Later, when Anirudh's parents come to Norway, there is a scene in which his mother is seen sleeping in her son's bed, as his wife Debika takes the couch, pointing at dysfunctional family dynamics.
Blame it on writing, rather than feeling sorry for Debi, one kind of cringes at the melodramatic moves she makes to get her children. Rani is a great performer, but here as Debi she isn't convincing. Anirban, as a detached male chauvinist who gaslights his wife, and in turn tries to play the system, acts just right.
Though full of incongruities, Jim Sarbh as a Norwegian lawyer still manages to impress. Courtroom drama gets interesting with Barun Chanda as the judge and Balaji Gauri as a fiery lawyer. There is only one scene where children in the judge's chamber gravitate towards their mum, which tugs at your heart's strings.
The music by Amit Trivedi is passable. This could have been another Taare Zameen Par, but for muddled up writing, which stops you from feeling the story's emotional arc.