You know how some inspired-by-real-events movies are so sharp and compelling that, as a viewer, you stop caring about the authenticity – the creative licences – of the narrative?There are plenty of modern-day examples: Spotlight (2015), Talvar (2015), Neerja (2016) and most recently, Trial by Fire (2023).
Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway, directed by Ashima Chibber, is certainly not that film. In fact, it’s the exact opposite – the film is so loud and overstated that, as a viewer, you stop caring about the creative concessions of the narrative.The research (or lack of it) doesn’t really matter anymore.
Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway is based on a book called ‘The Journey of a Mother’ by Sagarika Chakraborty, an Indian immigrant whose children were taken by the Norwegian Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet) in 2011 on grounds of improper treatment. The woman’s agonising two-year journey is the subject of this film.
This film is intent on suggesting that a mother’s love must reflect the love for the motherland – no matter how noisy and stubborn, both cannot be questioned. (The national anthem makes a cameo towards the end, if you’re wondering.) It’s a blindly passionate stance rather than a dispassionate one.
At the centre of this high-pitched mess is Mukerji’s role.She spends much of the film breaking down, being duped, or arriving with a hopeful smile seconds before being duped. In other words, the film condescends on Debika. It doesn’t help that Mukerji’s performance feels like a part of the deafening background score. Her use of language is particularly jarring.
Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway paints itself into a corner and becomes a prime candidate for cinematic deportation. It’s hard to go wrong with a mother’s fight for justice, yet the movie does such a hamfisted job that I cringe-watched most of it.