Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway: A Real-Life Saga Marred By Flawed Execution

Deserves better on-screen adaptation!

Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway (Hindi)

  • Cast: Rani Mukherjee, Anirban Bhattacharya, Jim Sarbh, Balaji Gauri, and Neena Gupta (cameo)
  • Writer-Director: Ashima Chibber
  • Producers: Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani, and Nikhil Advani
  • Music: Amit Trivedi
  • Runtime: 2 hours and 14 minutes

Stories based on real life have an inherent potential of moving the audience, particularly, the mother and the children’s sagas. For those who are not aware, Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway is inspired by a real-life legal drama.

The children of Sagarika Chakraborty were taken away from her by the Norwegian government as they considered her to be an unfit mother. Sagarika fought relentlessly for her children’s custody and eventually won the battle.

At one point, the whole issue almost led to a diplomatic row between India and Norway.

Sagarika Chakraborty wrote about her entire ordeal in a book titled “The Journey of A Mother”. By its very nature, this is a story that has all the potential of a heart-wrenching saga.

But director Ashima Chibber lacks the nuances that are needed to depict this subject.

However, Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway isn’t a complete washout either, thanks to a more engaging second half and Jim Sarbh who elevates the proceedings.

Synopsis

In the onscreen adaption, Sagarika’s name has been changed to Debika (Rani Mukherjee). Debika is a young Bengali housewife grappling with motherhood and a new way of life in Norway.

Though her husband (Anirudh Chatterjee) adapts to the ways of the Norwegian language and norms, she prefers to retain her Indian roots and often wears them on her sleeve.

Her refusal to let go of her Indianness draws the attention of some officers in the Norwegian childcare services.

Common Indian practices like eating with hands and hand-feeding your children among others are seen as bad parenting. The officers feel these reasons are enough to separate the kids from their parents.

Debika decides to fight for her children’s custody at any cost. But her impulsive behaviour becomes her worst enemy and things start spiralling downwards.

It also doesn’t help that the husband’s character is more bothered about securing his Norwegian citizenship rather than helping his wife in this emotional and legal battle.

The rest of the story of Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway chronicles the long journey of Debika in getting back her children.

First half falters

The first half of Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway is a mixed bag, to be honest. It begins on a dramatic note and you are instantly invested in the pain of Debika. But things go downhill post that.

Debika’s constant screeching does get on the nerves of the audience. The tone is constantly high pitch, as a result, some of the emotional scenes don’t completely land. Also, most of the characterisations leave a lot to be desired.

The Norwegian officials come across more like the Bollywood villains of the 80s than actual human beings.

The husband and co have zero redeeming features. They are more cardboard cutouts meant to increase the audience’s sympathy for Debika.

There is no explanation for why Debika’s In-laws aren’t on her side. There is also a small subplot about domestic violence but that also is dumped midway.

Engaging second half

Things take a turn for the better with the entry of Jim Sarbh as Daniel Singh Ciupek, a lawyer of Indian descent practising in Norway.

He brings certain poise to the proceedings. His scenes with Rani Mukherjee are particularly good.

Neena Gupta plays a character based on Sushma Swaraj. She has a small but pivotal cameo in the second half. She gives a new direction to Debika’s fight.

Rani Mukherjee’s performance also gets better in the second half where the strain doesn’t show.

She shines particularly in the quieter bits. Her emoting through the eyes leaves a lot more impact than the melodramatic moments.

The courtroom drama in the second half is when the film finally comes together.

The face-off between Jim Sarbh and Debika’s counsel played by Balaji Gauri is exceptionally good. The arguments between them are laced with strong dialogue.

Balaji Gauri also brings a touch of humour to the proceedings. Both Jim Sarbh and Balaji Gauri leave the biggest impact despite their limited time.

Through Jim Sarbh’s character, Ashima Chibber raises questions about the stereotypes regarding adoptive parents.

Amit Trivedi’s music isn’t of the popular variety but the music composer is successful in embodying the spirit of a fearless mother. “Shubho Shubho”, in particular, is a worthy number in Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway.

Verdict

In a nutshell, the spirit of Mrs Chatterjee does deserve kudos. But her battle deserved a better on-screen representation.

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