Why Does My Mother-In-Law Dominate Me? Bengali Movie Mukherjee Dar Bou Explores

Posted: August 13, 2019

Very rarely do find movies that look at the conflicted relationship between two women with empathy. Mukherjee Dar Bou is one of them.

Why it is that women often face a problem of identity crisis? Have we ever thought that the love-hate relationship between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law might at times be due to mental illness? Do we know that we don’t always have to be mentally ill to consult a psychologist?

These were the questions that crossed my mind after watching the Bengali movie Mukherjee Dar Bou, directed by the debut film maker Pritha Chakraborty.

I have watched women centric movies like Parama (1985) and Paromitar Ek Din (2000) where the saas bahu saga had already been delineated. I thought this movie would be no exception either but I ended up watching it thrice. And yes, I liked watching it alone.

Did it strike a chord somewhere with me? Oh yes, and you will know the reason why.

This movie released on 8 March 2019 on International Women’s Day. I must say it is a well directed feminist movie dealing with simple yet complex human relationships.

Spoilers ahead!

The movie deals with the story of an average middle class family – the Mukherjees – in Kolkata. The plot revolves around the daughter-in-law Aditi, who manages the entire household while also taking care of her recently widowed mother- in-law, Shobharani. Aditi is, somehow, unable to win the affection of Senior Mrs. Mukherjee.

Aditi enjoys a bitter sweet relationship with her husband similar to that in many Indian families and they dote on their school going daughter. Witnessing the deteriorating relationship between the shashuri and bouma, (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) Aditi takes matter in her hands and decides to consult a psychologist to sort out their inner family turbulence.

The intervention of a counsellor not only changes their lives but it also changes the lives of people surrounding them – forever.

Why I liked Mukherjee Dar Bou

I generally avoid watching movies/TV soaps based on emotional family dramas but as the film progressed, I found myself in Aditi’s shoes on several instances.

The camaraderie between the senior and junior Mrs. Mukherjee undergoes several changes. I found myself thoroughly enjoying those tides that came within.

The director selected a unique plot to discuss the identity crisis every woman faces. Post a women’s marriage, in a stereotypical Bengali household, there are very few instances where women are ever addressed by their names. The woman is someone’s Bouma (daughter-in-law), Jethima/Kakima/Mashima/Pishima (aunt) or Boudi (sister-in-law). This can reduces their sense of self.

Shobhrani tends to be an attention seeker who forces her dominance down everyone’s throat in the household while also snatching at Aditi’s happiness. Aditi some times, counters her with compliance and at other times by arguing. She even goes ahead and disobeys what Shobharani has asked her to do. Neither party’s goal is achieved and does no good to anyone, except that it does release some pent up anger, lots of emotions and insecurities.

Seeking help to resolve daily issues

The film focuses on mental health in everyday life. The concept the director uses, that of two women seeking the help of a psychologist to deal with their daily issues, is indeed unique.

Childhood issues of self worth, anxiety, depression and identity crisis are showcased very delicately. The director makes it a point to explain to the audience that mental illness is neither a stigma nor a taboo.

In fact, a lot of solutions can be found once we deal with our mental demons without the fear of being judged. One, also, doesn’t necessarily need to be mentally ill in order to seek help. This is where the movie creates a bang!

Neither Aditi nor Shobharani were mentally ill but they needed a psychologist to understand themselves and to regain their lost existences.

The movie ends on a positive note with both women understanding the importance of identities in relationships.

Shobharani regains her identity as a woman and also gifts Aditi her own individual existence.

I related to it, maybe you can too

Earlier, I made a statement that the movie struck a chord with me and I felt myself in Aditi’s shoes in several parts of the movie.

Just so you know, I had a love marriage where I tried my best to appease my mother-in-law to win her affection. Despite that, I never won her affection. My ex-husband suffered from some mental illness and in spite of me asking him several times, he refused to seek professional help.

Had we, my husband, mother and father-in-laws seen a counsellor, maybe I still would have been married.

In a review of this movie, Puja Banerjee writes at Millenium Post, “The beauty of the film lies not in dwelling on these scars, but in showing a way how even such stubborn scars can be wiped off with a pinch of understanding and love. It’s about repairing human relationships slowly.”

So what are you waiting for? Go watch the movie.

It is not to be counted among those inane husband-wife or saas-bahu sagas but should be watched with a completely different perspective.

Picture credits: Screenshot from the movie

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Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of

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