Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway Review: Rani Mukerji, Jim Sarbh Are Acting Powerhouses
'Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway' is based on a true story of a mother fighting child services for custody of her kids.
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An Indian family moves to Norway for better opportunities and a better life but in a somber turn of events, their children are taken away by Norwegian Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet).
This forms the crux of Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, based on the true story of Sagarika Chakraborty (and further based on her book 'The Journey of a Mother').
Rani Mukerji plays the titular role of a mother, Debika, fighting a foreign country's system with little to no help. The actor is unrecognisable in the film, playing the role with the finesse of a seasoned actor.
As Debika, a lot is expected from her primarily by virtue of being the person the camera is trained on for a majority of the time.
Most of the film's emotional core rests on Mukerji's able shoulders as she emotes and acts with equal promise. As Debika, she plays a mother in an immigrant family who is trying to imbibe, in her children, her culture.
These cultural differences (as minute as feeding her child by hand) are cited as reasons for her children being unsafe in her care.
Her act in the film's first half might come off as overbearing in places but with a quieter background score, there would've been less to complain about. When Mukerji is left to her own devices and is granted the space to emote, she is near impossible to look away from.
Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, directed by Ashima Chibber is divided in two halves thematically and even as a movie-going experience. In the second half the film all but redeems itself, in equal parts thanks to Jim Sarbh as the Norwegian representative Daniel Singh Ciupek and Debika’s lawyer (Balaji Gauri).
The film’s biggest flaw is that most of the themes it touches upon are cursory or anecdotal at best.
Mrs Debika Chatterjee isn’t just fighting Norway’s system, her efforts are further dampened by a husband (played by Anirban Bhattacharya ) who is abusive at his worst and indifferent otherwise. Further, she has a language barrier with the authorities and has no support system in a foreign country.
Even though these aspects are touched upon, a deeper understanding of these issues would’ve helped the film.
How has Mr Chatterjee's patriarchal family, and his own demenour towards his wife, affected Debika? Why does everyone in the film so easily label Debika as 'mentally unstable' or 'unfit' to raise her kids? Why does she have no financial agency? The answers to these questions is in the film's fabric but doesn't makes it to the audience.
As Debika’s battle becomes increasingly stifling and alienating, everyone who antagonises her is easy to dislike but that’s because of how well Mukerji portrays Debika's anguish.
Everyone else, from the Barnevernet enforcers to practically evil in-laws, are so unidimensional that even their reactions become predictable to a fault. Anirban, for instance, though an impressive performer gets no support from the script to display his craft.
Ciupek is given a sliver of a backstory but that too gets lost in the film's chosen message.
Ciupek's character attempts to bring up the point that while Debika's battle is one against injustice, it would be incorrect to assume that every parent on Earth provides a safe and nurturing environment for their kids.
But this argument is hardly made and easily lost.
The long battle that Sagarika (and in the film Debika) fought for her kids often went around in frustrating circles but since the characters around Debika aren’t well-written, what should’ve seemed like a suffocating maze seems more like a convoluted, long-stretch of road.
The film, written by Sameer Satija, Chibber, and Rahul Handa, suffers from a half-baked screenplay. Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway contains a lot of promise, especially since the story in itself is gut-wrenching, but this promise is rarely utilised.
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