Rani’s film ruffles Norway’s feathers

| | New Delhi
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Rani’s film ruffles Norway’s feathers

Saturday, 18 March 2023 | PNS | New Delhi

Norway has termed Rani Mukherjee starrer “Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway”, a film based on Indian couple who fought the Norway Government for custody of their kids as a “work of fiction”.

Norway also said “child welfare is not driven by profit”.

Meanwhile, film producer Nikkhil Advani said Norwegian Ambassador was invited for a screening of the movie where he “admonished” them for film, based on Sagarika Chakaraborty’s book The Journey of a Mother.

Asserting that “some general facts must be set right”, the Norwegian Embassy in a statement said on Friday.

“In Norway, we value and respect different family systems and cultural practices, also when these are different to what we are accustomed to — apart from corporal punishment in the upbringing. There is zero tolerance for violence in any shape or form,” said the Norway Embassy.

The film follows the story of an Indian immigrant couple whose world came crashing down in 2012 when their two children were removed from their care by the Norwegian foster system due to differences in culture.

 “Children will never be taken away from their families based on cultural differences described. Eating with their hands or having children sleeping in bed with their parents are not considered practices harmful to children and are not uncommon in Norway, irrespective of cultural background,” the Norwegian Embassy said.

“The reason for placing children in alternative care is if they are subject to neglect, violence or other forms of abuse.”

The Embassy statement said child welfare is “not driven by profit” and refuted the alleged claim made in the film that “the more children put into the foster system, the more money they make”.

“Alternative care is a matter of responsibility and is not a money making entity,” it said.

The Embassy stated that children are placed in alternative care when they face neglect or are “subject to violence or other forms of abuse”.

The statement highlighted that “such experiences” are difficult for those involved in it and that “child welfare cases are not easy” for the children, parents, and the Child Welfare Service.

While taking away Sagarika Chatterjee’s children, the Norwegian Government had alleged that she fed her kids using her hands. The couple was also accused of beating their children and not giving them enough room to play and giving them “unsuitable” clothes and toys.  The Norwegian authorities later handed custody of the children to their uncle, enabling him to bring them back to India.

Meanwhile, ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ producer Nikkhil Advani said Norwegian Ambassador Hans Jacob Frydenlund was invited for a screening of the movie where he ‘admonished’ them for film.

Producer Nikkhil Advani took to Twitter to share what actually happened at the screening where Frydenlund was invited. He said the Ambassador ‘admonished’ two women after the show. It is not known if the ‘women’ mentioned includes director Ashima Chibber.

Nikkhil wrote in his twitter message, “Atithi Devo Bhava! is a cultural mandate in India. Every Indian is taught that by our elders. Last evening we hosted the Norwegian Ambassador and volunteered to show him our film Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway. Post the screening, I sat quietly watching him admonish two strong women who have chosen to tell this very important story. I was quiet because just like Sagarika, they don’t need me to fight for them and ‘culturally’ we do not insult our guests. As far as a clarification is concerned. Video Attached.”

The attached video in his tweet featured Sagarika, on whose life the film is based. She said in the video that the Ambassador spoke about her case ‘without having any decency’ to speak with her first. She added that the Norwegian Government ‘continues to spread lies’ about her. Nikkhil also attached a picture of the Ambassador with the film’s team from the screening.

In his op-ed for Indian Express, the Ambassador wrote that ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ has ‘factual inaccuracies’ and the story is a ‘fictional representation of the case’.

He also said in the film cultural differences has been shown as the primary factor in the case, which is ‘completely false’. Hans also ‘categorically’ denied that ‘feeding with hands and sleeping in the same bed would be the reason for placing in alternative care’. He hoped that the film will not discourage Indian from going and settling in Norway.

In the film, Rani plays the role of a mother battling the state for her kids. Helmed by Ashima Chibber, ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ also stars Neena Gupta, Jim Sarbh and Anirban Bhattacharya among others.

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