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Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway. Through every frame it makes you feel this mother’s pain and a woman’s strength to endure many adversities, yet stand tall and undefeated.
The trailer of Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway is heartbreaking, more so when you learn that isn’t fiction, but based on the actual fight of one mother against a foreign country to gain or rather regain custody of her two children.
Rani Mukerji is the perfect choice for this role, evoking emotions in a way only she can, through her craft. For the entirety of the movie you are reeled in with her pain and struggle to understand where she went wrong and what she did. A doubt constantly fed by her husband and many a times blaming her outright for this circumstance.
The movie wastes no time building a background story but dives into the first instance when her children are taken from her in the initial minutes of the film. The entire movie sheds light on many aspects of her journey, which no doubt took place over several years though well depicted in the short span of a film reel. Several moments of the movie stand out to portray the harsh reality of women as mothers, wives and even daughters in law.
Few minutes into the film we get insight into the family dynamics, traditional roles at play with the husband as the breadwinner and the mother taking care of the home and two young children, that too in a foreign land where she does not speak English fluently or the local language. She raises her children just as an Indian mother would, with her cultural essence, that of Bengalis, through food, language and rituals.
As lovingly as her maternal role is depicted, the father isn’t shown in a bad light as father (till later), but merely as a man busy trying to make a living for a family of four in Norway. He proceeds to blame the wife constantly for things that irritate him like her mentioning to outsiders that she wished he helped around the home, more so when she does this in front of child welfare officials. We soon learn of domestic violence in the house, later through an official complaint by friends that he hit his wife and even witness this when he grabs her arm in anger while she cries out for him to stop.
During this incident the officials who claimed to check on the children for their benefit grab both the children and make a run for it, citing reasons through the film that the house and upbringing is unfit for the children’s well-being. They claim her love is smothering for her children, she is far too emotional, allows children to sleep in their bed and feeds them with her hands. All common parenting practices in India and this leads you to believe it is a misunderstanding due to cultural differences which probably led to a long legal journey. But the truth is far from this.
The true story is in fact that Barnevernet – the Norwegian the child protection service was running a scam claiming to have children’s best interest as their top priority. They would under false pretexts claim that parents were unfit to raise children and thus run their service and pay foster parents to take in these children, as well as the school system and lawyers. A full blown business by tormenting and breaking up families with zero compassion and empathy for the multiple lives affected.
The movie goes on to show how at multiple times despite her insistence the family in not reunited and days, weeks and months go by. The children are placed in foster care and while one scene shows how Mukherji cleverly finds her children and attempts to cross the border at Sweden, her plans are sadly foiled.
Through this the father seems uncharacteristically unfazed and keeps ranting on about abiding by their laws when the truth is he is more concerned about his job and citizenship, at the cost of his own children. One particular scene speaks volumes on this when he meets his children at another foster family home and the son does not even react to his presence. Young children pick up on behavioral cues of those that actually care about them and would protect them.
Through her emotional outbursts which are natural from a woman whose children have been taken away, she is labeled as mentally unstable, depressed and unfit. How many times have women’s behavior and feelings been written off with such words? To not take cognizance of what they have to say but rather dismiss them as being plain mad! One is gutted hearing her referred to in this manner constantly, by the so called welfare people to her own husband.
An argument ensues between the couple when the wife’s parents are also in presence. The heated exchange results in the husband slapping the wife with her slapping him back. While the intent is not to laud her in doing the same, but the sad reality of women’s treatment – being physically and verbally abused, even with her own parents present. Nothing is done by the parents towards the son in law or to remove the daughter from this situation because, well, marriage is sacred, right? No matter what kind of marriage it may be. Tolerate it is the unspoken message.
The in-laws too are a frightening reality that exists in society even today. The moment the mother in law lands the first reaction is not to console her for what she is going through but to immediately blame her. Making statements like ‘Where are you going? My son didn’t tell me. He gives you too much freedom. How can you eat first while my son is hungry?’
One witnesses the absolute sickness that resides in people and such so called family members who only blame, taunt, abuse and demean the mother and are only interested in money – the irony being that they all call the mother ‘mentally sick’. And yet it is through all this endured by the mother, who is unfailing in her love and protective instinct for her children, that she wages a legal battle against an entire country to have her children safely and happily back with her – a journey that lasted 3 long years.
The movie does justice to Sagarika Chakraborty’s case, the real life inspiration behind this story. Through every frame it makes you feel this mother’s pain and a woman’s strength to endure many adversities, yet stand tall and undefeated.
Many families who have been victimized by the Norwegian child protection system are happy that the movie is shedding light on these problems in Norway. Many families have been torn apart by this system with the children traumatized for life. Chakraborty’s case has paved the way for many such cases being reopened and reexamined.
As goes the movie’s opening quote – “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Sagarika Chakraborty’s love for her children is a true testament to this phrase.
Soul centric and free spirited all the while living life through travel and adrenaline junkie activities. Counselling Psychologist and Educator by vocation. And a life and laughter enthusiast by heart. Usually found daydreaming about her read more...
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