A new Bollywood movie, ‘Mrs Chatterjee vs. Norway', is now showing in cinemas prior to release on Netflix. It is based on the true story of an Indian mother who fought to get her kids back after they were taken by authorities in Norway.
You don’t have to go far on the internet to find criticism of Norway’s child welfare services. Known as Barnevernet, the public agency is at the centre of several controversial cases involving foreign parents of children.
Now, a new movie puts one of those cases in the global spotlight. Starring famous Indian actress Rani Mukerji, ‘Mrs Chatterjee vs. Norway' is showing on limited release in cinemas before a Netflix release in May 2023.
Based on a true story
The movie is based on a scandal from 2011 when a young girl and boy were taken from their parents, Anurup Bhattacharya and Sagarika Chakraborty, in Stavanger.
People in both Norway and India were very interested in the case. The parents said their kids were taken because of cultural differences, like the mom sleeping with her child and feeding them with her hands.
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Both Norway and India's governments got involved, and people in India protested outside the Norwegian embassy in 2012.
The case started when a nursery raised concerns about the kids. Bhattacharya said that the problem was cultural differences, like feeding his child with hands instead of a spoon.
Stavanger Municipality said the case was only about the kids' well-being and not about culture. The kids were taken after the police were called to the family's home.
In 2012, the kids' grandparents and uncle in India got custody. Both countries' governments helped solve the case. Chakraborty went back to India, and Bhattacharya stayed in Norway. They are now separated.
The movie “should make Norway think”
A human rights lawyer, Gro Hillestad Thune, said the movie should make Norway think about its actions. She said many people get upset with Norway's child protection system.
“This film will strengthen Norway's bad reputation internationally, and it is deserved. Many people from abroad react with sensible anger after their experiences with the Norwegian child protection system,” Thune said to VG.
The Norwegian Ambassador to India, Hans Jacob Frydenlund, said the movie has some mistakes and doesn't show Norway's real attitude towards family and culture.
Also, the movie shows Bhattacharya hitting his wife, but he says that didn't happen.
Some Norwegian officials said they planned to watch the movie and were ready for discussions about it.
The European Court of Human Rights has looked into 40 cases against Norway since 2015. So what exactly does Barnevernet do?
Barnevernet works at the municipal level, supported by services at both county and national level. Its remit is “to ensure that children and youth who live in conditions that may be detrimental to their health and development receive the necessary assistance and care at the right time.”
Approximately 3% of all children in Norway are under some form of measure from Barnevernet. This includes (for parents) counselling, advice, access to day care, and other external support.
Of these, about one-quarter of the cases result in care orders for children to be placed in foster homes or institutions.
Have you watched Mrs Chatterjee vs. Norway? If so, what did you think of the story? Let us know in the comments below.