Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway: The True Story Behind The Legal Drama

The Bollywood movie "Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway" opens with a scene that is every mother's worst nightmare — three women quickly get into a car with an infant and drive away as the mother, Debika Chatterjee (Rani Mukerji), chases after them, even hanging onto the car briefly as it speeds off. The scenes are jarring, even more so when we realize the film is based on the real-life experiences of Sagarika Bhattacharya (now Chakraborty), whose children were taken and put into foster care, while she was deemed an unfit mother.

Sagarika's story brings to light the criticism of Norway's child protection system, known as Barnevernet. Despite only having a population of 5.5 million, there are 12,000 children living in state and foster care. For Sagarika and her husband, Anurup, many of the reasons Barnevernet asserted they took the children had to do with cultural differences in how Indian families — like the Bhattacharyas — raise their children, versus Norwegians. Barnevernet claimed Sagarika hand-feeding the baby girl, Aishwarya, was the same as force-feeding, and that there was something wrong with the three-year-old, Abhigyaan, sleeping in the same bed with his father, neither of which is unusual in India.

But while we get to see the story wrap up in two hours on Netflix, the real-life case dragged on for two years.

There are some differences between the real-life story and the film's telling of the events

While "Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway" is based on Sagarika Chakraborty's book, "The Journey of a Mother," there are obviously some differences between what really happened and what happens in the film. In reality, one of the charges against the Bhattacharya family was that the representatives alleged that the parents hit the kids, while this is never spoken about in the film. Sagarika and Anurup split up during the trial, and at one point, Anurup's brother was given custody of the kids. As Sagarika fought for custody of their children, Anurup and his family allegedly claimed she was mentally ill. In the film, Anurup and his family are portrayed as villains, with Anurup's brother only agreeing to take custody of the children for the money.

The Bhattacharya case is far from the last time Norway's Barnevernet has been accused of having too much authority and overstepping. In September 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that it violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it allowed the adoption of a boy without the mother's consent. In 2021, the ECHR ruled that Norway was guilty in six more cases, all involving Barnevernet.

Sagarika is thrilled that the world is seeing and responding to her story. "I hope it will inspire many more parents whose children have been taken away by Barnevernet to fight back," she told the Times of India.