Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway Review: Bravo Rani!
Rani Mukerji gives one of her career-best performances in Ashima Chhibber’s drama based on true events.
Ashima Chhibber’s Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway is based on the real-life story of Sagarika Chakravarti, an NRI whose kids were taken away by Norwegian authorities.
Debika (Rani Mukherjee) and Anirudh (Anirban Bhattacharya) are an Indian couple living in Norway because of Anirudh’s work. Their daughter Suchi (5 months old) and elder son Shubh are snatched away by Velfred, Norway’s child welfare agency/system. What then unfolds is a story of a mother’s plight and fight amidst racism, sexism, domestic violence, emotional trauma, and inadequacy of language while living in a foreign land alienated from her own culture.
Her culture is what’s used against her for declaring her to be an unfit parent. Typical Indian things such as feeding kids by hand, letting them sleep next to you till they’re a certain age, putting kohl on their forehead, etc. are reasoned to be unhealthy practices. Debika could fight with the system if she had her husband on her side. But Anirudh is more concerned about his citizenship than his wife’s trauma.
I wouldn’t like to give away details but to describe the plot in a line or two, the story shows how the couple is scrutinized by Velfred over the period of 10-12 weeks. It is a film based on true events, so it is difficult to tell where the writers have taken creative liberties to dramatize the screenplay.
Also read: “There was a lot of mother energy on the set of Mrs. Chatterjee VS Norway”: Director Ashima Chibber
Director Ashima Chhibber excels in world-building and character-building but struggles to maintain consistency throughout the film’s runtime. There are moments of cinematic brilliance in filming but at the same time, it makes you crave some effective editing.
I don’t want to get into some characters, Indian and Norwegian sounding a bit stereotypical, because they don’t harm the story here, and also because stereotypes still exist. As for the performances, Anirban is great as Anirudh. It’s the villain who makes the hero stronger. Jim Sarbh is remarkable as the Norwegian-Indian lawyer Daniel Singh Ciupek. Neena Gupta makes a cameo appearance as the Indian External Affairs Minister, modeled on the late Sushma Swaraj. It was because of Swaraj’s efforts along with CPI leader Brinda Karat (credits given at the end of the film) that helped Sagarika in her efforts to retrieve her children.
But it is Rani Mukerji’s show. We are fans of her radiant, contagious smile, aren’t we? But to see that smile disappear on screen (before it comes back in the flashback moments) just adds to the whole drama on a meta-level. Rani is simply being Debika. Although her real-life fine English pronunciation surfaces in a few moments in a part where she is supposed to struggle with English, it’s forgettable.
Also read: Gulmohar actor Jatin Goswami: “The fun of being an actor is that every day is a revelation!”
It’s easy for an actor to get carried away with ‘acting’ in such roles. But it was refreshing to see Rani letting her overall ‘being’ do the talking even when she doesn’t have dialogues.
One can notice in the 90s actresses who are enjoying a reboot to their careers with the advent of OTT and overall change in storytelling, that they struggle to keep the desperation to act away from their performances because that’s what they were used to doing in the undercooked, supplementary heroine parts they played in their youth. Rani herself couldn’t stop herself from getting loud in the forgettable Bunty Aur Babli 2. In Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway, the actress gives one of her career-best performances. One can watch the film for that performance alone.