Yesterday afternoon, ETimes caught up with her at Yash Raj Studios to have an elaborate chat on the film and also on her journey so far.
The interview was done in-camera. Click the video below to see it:
Excerpts from the conversation that transpired:
Is ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ your most challenging role till date?
I won’t put it that way, but yes, as a film it has been my most challenging one. Trust me, I couldn’t believe what Nikkhil Advani was telling me on the phone when he called to offer this. It was pandemic time; he had called in January 2021 and we all were not in the best frame of minds. I thought he was trying to sell the film to me by telling me some dramatic and absurd things.
After we had spoken, I searched the Sagarika Bhattacharya story on the Internet. And, it was all there, comprehensively covered by the Indian media in 2011. I wondered how come I didn’t know about it, despite being an Indian citizen. That was the trigger. I immediately made up my mind that this story needs to be told.
Your three most difficult scenes in the movie?
I won’t be able to specify just three scenes. I think every scene is a dark space to be in. And I didn’t put myself as a mother in any scene. I didn’t have the courage to do that. Mind you, it’s not just one Sagarika who has suffered in this manner. The overall emotion just took over my being, the story and the writing is so magical.
I don’t think anybody else could have done this role….
Did you receive messages from the media praising your efforts in ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’? I came out of the media screening and saw that most critics looked quite stunned…
Yes, this film is something that stuns you. As an Indian, you will be appalled. As an Indian, one won’t be able to digest that his/her children can be separated from him/her. But then, truth is stranger than fiction.
Did you have to put on weight for this film to look your part?
Yes, because I am playing a mother who is still feeding her child. It was important for me to look real. It was a deliberate attempt on our part to make it look authentic. We didn’t want to make compromises to make it very Hindi, so you will see there’s Hindi, Bengali, English and Norwegian as well. People tend to break into their mother tongue when they are engulfed with emotion and ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ is full of emotions.
But that little bit of switching of language was not acting as a deterrent in ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’, unlike the several films which have been difficult to comprehend when their space has been filled with non-Hindi dialogues…
I am so glad to hear that.
You have had a wonderful career. And, this is the same lady who refused ‘Aa Gale Lag Jaa’ when Salim Khan offered it to her. Why did you refuse that film?
Because I was very young and films was not a career path that I wanted to choose or thought that I could do. My family was a film family and so getting into film was an obvious thing to do. But contrary to popular belief, every film family is not well-off. Besides, there were screen goddesses like Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi and Juhi Chawla at their peak then. And, I felt I have a very different voice, plus I didn’t think I could dance or act as well as them.
Your voice got dubbed in a few films in your early days in Bollywood…
As a newcomer, you don’t have much of a choice. Filmmakers take decisions for the betterment of their film. So yes, but just in ‘Ghulam’, my voice did get dubbed. During ‘Ghulam’, there was a question mark on my voice on whether it was good for a leading lady opposite Aamir. I was told that for the betterment of the film, my voice had been dubbed. It hurt me but I didn’t make a big deal of it. But I still feel that my soul is not in ‘Ghulam’.
Soon, I was there in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. Karan Johar asked me if I had a problem in dubbing my voice. I said ‘no’. He asked me if my first film ‘Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat’ had my own voice, and when I said yes, he said he likes my voice and wanted me to dub.
After the lull between 2006 and 2011, since ‘No One Killed Jessica’ came along, you have been the hero and heroine of the film. Would you even do a ‘Talaash’ today, I wonder…
I would like to do it as it excites me to play all kinds of roles. It’s not necessary to be the central character. I would like to do a role which is equally important to the narrative. I don’t want to be a part of a role or a film that I don’t agree with or that doesn’t touch my heart. ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’ is much more than just a mother’s love. It brings you closer to your country as well.
Let’s conclude by talking about your mother who has been your inspiration for playing Mrs Chatterjee…
What inspires me about my mother is that she hasn’t changed in the last 50 years in Mumbai. She is very proud of her Bengali roots. And, I am very proud of how she is and what she is. She has stood for me always.