Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway Review: Rani Mukerji shines in this epic fight of a mother to reunite with her children

As a helpless mother who refuses to give up, Rani Mukerji delivers her career-best performance yet in this sensitively directed Ashima Chibber movie  

Film: Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway
 Rani Mukerji, Anirban Bhattacharya, Jim Sarbh, Neena Gupta, Tiina Tauraite, Balaji Gauri
Director: Ashima Chibber
Music: Amit Trivedi
Writer: Sameer Satija, Ashima Chibber, Rahul Handa
Producer: Zee Studios, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani, Nikkhil Advani
Production House: Zee Studios, Emmay Entertainment
Release date: 17th March 2023
Rating: ⭐1/2

What would you do if your children are forcibly taken away from you? This is a nightmare that you don’t have to be a parent to imagine or understand! But that’s what Sagarika Bhattacharya faced in real life prompting her two year fight against a country to get them back. And this real-life heart-wrenching incident inspires the storyline for the Rani Mukerji starrer Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, adapted from Sagarika’s autobiography ‘The Journey Of A Mother’. The incident – a clear violation of human rights – itself tugs right at the primal instinct of any mother to want to protect her children come what may!

Rani plays Bengali housewife Debika Chatterjee who moves to Norway with her husband Anirudh Chatterjee (played by Anirban Bhattacharya) soon after marriage and they start a family there. There’s a clear demarcation of the roles between the husband and wife in the household with the chauvinistic ‘man of the house’ declaring that he earns for the family, while Debika – a doting mother – is left with managing the house and taking care of the two children Shubh, and the younger Suchi aged 5 months old. A case of domestic violence puts them on the radar of the Norwegian Child Welfare agency (Velfred), and after an assessment period, where regular Indian customs, like feeding by hand and applying the ‘kala tika’ are frowned upon, the two children are forcibly taken away from the parents without any prior notice or warning and put into foster care. The agency proves that Debika is an unfit mother and the house is not conducive for the two kids and after several court hearings, the kids are declared wards of the State. Rani finds out that the entire process is a scam to make money by exploiting vulnerable immigrant families. She realizes that she is not only fighting against the Government’s biased system and their legal machinery, but also her own husband and his family.

The film is intricately and sensitively handled by director Ashima Chibber and topped with a nuanced performance by Rani that speaks volumes of her finesse as an actress. Rani beautifully brings to the screen the anguish, desperation and helplessness of a mother struggling to get back the custody her two little children and reunite with them, while dealing with an unsupportive and abusive husband who’s more concerned about getting his Norway citizenship!

This was a film that lends itself to extreme doses of melodrama, but the director has managed to reign it in masterfully and not let it go over the top! There are no heroics involved with one of those over-charged monologues, or forced courtroom drama. You can feel the anguish and pain of a helpless mother, yet Rani flawlessly manages to restrain from making it look over-dramatic even in the most high-voltage charged scenes! At no point do you not feel a part of the mother and her journey to be reunited with her children and it does tend to weigh heavy emotionally.

The film is ably supported by the rest of the cast too particularly Jim Sarbh, who plays a concerned but shrewd lawyer. He brings in a fine balance of the two and maintains the character’s dignity to the end not being swayed by the emotional outbursts. A special mention here of Balaji Gauri who brings in that much needed spark as a sharp lawyer. Anirban Bhattacharya as the timid and chauvinistic husband nails his character to perfection too, while Neena Gupta makes an impact in her brief role. But the spotlight belongs to Rani who shines in this performance which can easily be billed as her career best yet!

On the downside, the songs fail to make any emotional connect at all and are easily forgettable. Also the dialogues could have been sharper and more impactful in some places especially when Rani takes the stand in the Indian court. While the pitch and delivery is perfect, the words fail to pack in that punch required in that situation. The story in several places turns to playing it very safe and old-school, keeping the characters demarcated between black and white! Like the evil in-laws, the supportive parents, the vampish-looking agency officers and scheming officials.

Overall, this one makes for a must-watch, albeit a touching and teary one!


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