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Did you know, Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, starring Rani Mukherjee and Anirban Bhattacharya is based on a true story?
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, starring Rani Mukherjee and Anirban Bhattacharya, is all set to release this March. Did you know that the film is based on a true story?
From the trailer of the film, we know we are going to get an emotional roller coaster ride! Watching a mother fight tooth and nail for her children is going to make the audience cry and suffer.
Before you go to the theatre, here is a little background on the actual events on which the film is made. And what to expect from it.
More than a decade back, Shagarika Bhattacharya and her husband Anurup were deemed unsuitable parents by Norwegian Child Welfare Services also known as Barnevarne. Their two toddlers aged 3 (son) and 1 (daughter) were taken away and put into foster care under the order of the court.
Until the age of 18, the children were meant to be in the care of foster parents, and the Bhattacharya couple were given permission to visit them twice a year.
Norway has one of the strictest rules for child protection; considers hitting children illegal and ethically wrong, which endangered their well-being!
Like many Indian parents, in a moment of misjudgement, Shagarika slapped her son for some mischief, which resulted in an anonymous tip to the CWS. The authorities came to observe the couple multiple times, again when Anurup was working and Shagarika was alone with the toddlers. Later they took away the children.
The charges other than the issue of the slap made and cited for the decision were Shagarika hand feeding her children seen as force-feeding, putting on nazar tikka. Parents and children sharing a bed was another argument put forward, following unsuitable clothes and toys and lack of playing space!
After losing the custody battle twice at lower courts in Norway and her visa nearing expiration, Shagarika turned to the Indian government for help. This led to a diplomatic row between the two countries, as both parents were immigrants in Norway and the children were Indian citizens by birth.
After two years of legal battle, Norwegian authorities handed over the custody to Shagarika’s brother-in-law, who brought them back to India! She united with her children in 2013!
Foster care, is still an alien terminology in India. Whereas in Europe and a few other rich western countries, they have been actively involved in shaping their societies. In simple words, foster care is a child care and rehabilitation program.
According to Child Welfare Information Gateway: Foster care (also known as out-of-home care) is a temporary service provided by States for children who cannot live with their families. Children in foster care may live with relatives or with unrelated foster parents. Foster care can also refer to placement settings such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living.
The system, though created with the novel intention of protecting children, has met with criticism and backlash from people; foster children and their parents. More than often, children from foster care end up becoming homeless adults without safety nets. The children are also at higher risk of being unhealthy physically and mentally. Children in the USA have gone missing at an alarming rate! Foster care has also been called legalized kidnapping
Though, countries like Cambodia and Japan have used this system to provide better care for their vulnerable children. And no system is perfect, for systems like this where children are involved, what is most important is empathy and understanding the context that would’ve led to a family’s conditions becoming unsuitable in the first place.
From the trailer, we know, it will be a mother’s story.
Mrs Chatterjee is a foremost immigrant, who is totally reliant on her husband financially, in a society she is culturally alien to and held back by her communication skills. Watching her be helpless makes me sad.
I have a distant aunt who was married off at 19, put on a flight to Sweden, and became a mother at 20. My cousin was diagnosed with autism a few years later. Twice, my aunt, had CWS knocking on her door when my cousin had meltdowns, as her neighbours feared the worst– Asian parenting, i.e. hitting children to discipline them.
It took her weeks and two Indian diplomats to make the CWS understand my cousin’s issues.
In this film, we are going to see a different face of racism, the benevolent master. Which sees the methods of eastern parenting as crude, primitive and inferior.
Hitting is bad, parents, especially Indian parents, should just stop!
But hand-feeding and sharing the bed with parents seen as poor parenting sound ridiculous to our ears. In south-east Asia, personal space is non-existent! And middle-class and lower-middle-class Indians cannot afford or create a room for their children. As for clothes and toys, we do try to save money on them!
Lack of cultural/social understanding and moral superiority on the part of the Norwegian authorities was evident from the trailer. Prejudice against the oriental is not a new topic that is getting explored.
But what I would like to see is a sensitive treatment of the issue. And not cardboard cut-outs of evil white women and heartless western institutions have no ounce of compassion vs the sacrificing powerless Indian mother who will do anything to protect her children.
Yes, it is about a mother’s unconditional love, which is why she fought so hard. I also want to see how the children processed the two years of separation, and not just the film ending at a happy reunion!
Most importantly, it is also the story of an immigrant Indian woman with an unsupportive husband who was up against a culture she was not prepared for.
Image source: Still from trailer of Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, edited on CanvaPro
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