Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway movie review: Rani Mukerji reigns in this tragic tale
Directed by Ashima Chibber, the film finds the right balance between high sentiments and subtle emotions
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t convinced by the trailer of Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway. It seemed like another of those watch-baity, one-woman-against-the-system, syrupy melodramas which, towards the end, will be peppered with tiring sermons on motherhood and nationalism. It was some of it, but all in perfect proportions.
Starring: Rani Mukerji, Anirban Bhattacharya, Jim Sarbh
Directed by: Ashima Chibber
Directed by Ashima Chibber (Mere Dad Ki Maruti, 2013) and starring Rani Mukerji Chopra, Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway is based on the real-life story of Sagarika Chakraborty and Anurup Bhattacharya, whose children (aged 5 and 3) were taken away by Norwegian Child Welfare Services in 2011 to be kept in foster care till they turned 18. The reasons? Feeding children by the hand, sleeping in the same bed as them and also corporal punishment (Sagarika had hit one of the kids once). What ensued was a year-long battle of a mother against a nation and a system to bring back her children.
The best course of action while adapting a real-life story is to tone down the dramatics. Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway doesn’t exactly go for that but finds the right balance between high sentiments and subtle emotions. The story might seem predictable in the beginning, but it has enough in its arsenal to propel the drama whenever it starts lagging. A lot of times, though, the film is elevated on the strong shoulders of its lead, Rani Mukerji.
Rani, in the film, is a tour de force. She gives a perfect arc to her character Debika Chatterjee. Debika starts off as a naïve Bengali woman struggling to assimilate into the culture of a foreign land. After her children are taken away, Rani doesn’t shy away from emoting profusely. She anchors herself to the side of a running car in which her kids are being taken, she pleads, screams and stomps her feet and ultimately has to be pulled out of a care centre after she is denied their custody. On first viewing, it might seem like she is jumping the gun and hurting her own case in the process. But when her relationship with her husband Anirudh Chatterjee (a menacing Anirban Bhattacharya) opens like a can of worms, Debika's seemingly excessive reactions find grounding. It is also a nuanced take on how women’s vexation with a patriarchal society is construed as them being hysterical. In a poignant scene, Debika returns home after voicing her ordeal to an Indian minister at a press conference. She rushes to the kitchen, breaks some eggs, mixes them with bananas in a serving bowl and starts gobbling them with her hands. All this while, her mother-in-law continues to taunt her on how her husband has grown thin while she eats like a barbarian. Debika quietly washes her hands and walks away.
The film also gets enriched by its supporting cast. Anirban as Debika’s husband, gives a perfect portrayal of a gaslighter. He isn’t openly evil and is rather manipulative and scheming. Jim Sarbh, as Daniel Singh Ciupek, a lawyer representing the Norway government, revels in a shade of grey. Ashima Chibber handles the story with grace and grips it tight whenever it slightly slips. I won’t deny, there are some tired monologues, but Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway made me feel for its characters after I exited the theatre. It’s a lot to expect from Hindi cinema these days.