Starring: Rani Mukerji, Jim Sarbh, Anirban Bhattarcharya, Neena Gupta
Director: Ashima Chibber
A film about a mother’s love, based on a true story and releasing in cinemas just in time for Mother’s Day in the UK has all the ingredients to grab the audience attention.
Mrs Debika Chatterjee (Mukerji) is an Indian expatriate with two little children – toddler Shubh and infant Shuchi – living with her overseas citizenship obsessed husband (Bhattacharya) in Stavanger, Norway. While we meet this desi family from Bengal in not entirely happy circumstances, there are signs of an underlying loving bond of the parents with their children – even if the couple’s love for each other is clearly strained.
Coping with the pressures of being a new mother and juggling many different balls in the air to ensure her son’s school projects and the family meals are all ready in time, it is evident that Debika isn’t functioning at an optimal level of mental health. Despite this, her naturally cheerful and hospitable personality shines through, offering sandesh and chai to the dubious Norwegian social workers investigating the family.
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When the welfare authorities snatch her kids away with allegations that Mrs Chatterjee is an unfit mother, we see Debika transform into a fierce lioness determined to protect her cubs at any cost. The allegations against her are as bizarre as feeding the kids with her hands, akin to millions of Indian mums, and being incapable of coping with the natural pressures of motherhood. Even the male chauvinist husband’s lack of input in the day-to-day household chores somehow is classed as her shortcoming. Will Mrs Chatterjee be able to beat a powerful foreign country like Norway’s flawed and prejudiced welfare system?
The answer to this question is known, given that this film is based on the real-life struggles of Bengali mother Sagarika Chakraborty – who fiercely took on the Norwegian Child Welfare Services in 2011 and regained the custody of her children. But even though a happy ending to this emotional tale is assured, the intense roller-coaster that’s in store is entirely unexpected.
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Rani Mukerji is well and truly the star of this power-packed family drama, delivering a career-best performance as a simple Bengali mum transforming into Goddess Durga to snatch her kids back from the jaws of a heartless care system. She plays the character of an overwhelmed new mum devoted to her children with an intensity that will guarantee her place in the minds of this year’s film award juries. Her convincing fightback against a violent and abusive husband is also sure to win over much applause.
‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ is undoubtedly an impressive addition to Mother’s Day special films, with director Ashima Chibber bringing a poignant feminine touch that will strike a chord with many worldwide.