Mother Teresa ‘returns’ to Kolkata as Swiss-Indian film explores saint’s self doubts

Kolkata:  Jacqueline Fitschi-Cornaz walked through the streets of central Kolkata, clad in the blue-bordered white saree of the Missionaries of Charity, it was as if a younger Mother Teresa had come back to life.

Essaying the role of the Nobel prize winning nun, often called the ‘saint of the gutters’, long before she was canonised, Swiss-born Cornaz feels the experience in making the movie ‘Mother Teresa & Me’ has been a “life changing one”.

The movie, which shows the Mother’s life from the 1950s onwards, intertwined with the lives of two more Indian protagonists, also stars actress Deepti Naval and Banita Sandhu, a British actress of Punjabi descent, and is directed by Kamal Musale, a Swiss-Indian filmmaker.

“It was an incredible experience to be in Mother House, to meet Sister Prema and other nuns. And the most touching experience was to see her shoes as if I could see her walking in them” As if I could feel her feet, which traversed many miles,” Cornaz said.

Cornaz, an actress with over three decades of experience who is co-producing the movie with director Kamal Musale and two more European producers, feels what makes the movie interesting is it delves into the “darkness” which the Mother experienced.

In 2007, a book of letters written by Mother Teresa of Kolkata was published, which revealed she was deeply tormented about her faith and suffered periods of doubt about God.

“It touched me deeply…I felt this inner conflict is important to know (and yet) she still stayed with her vocation (as a nun dedicated to the poor and helpless),” Cornaz said in an interview with PTI Video.

The movie depicts how Mother Teresa set up a hospice next to Kalighat temple in a derelict building and the initial hostility she faced from many quarters.

“I had been to Skopje and was thrilled to learn a lot about her life, especially her childhood, the place where she had spent first 18 years of her life. I had a very enriching discussion with her family,” she said.

Deepti Naval, who has been cast in an important role of Deepa, one of the three women protagonists in the movie, said in an Instagram post, “Mother Teresa and Me — coming shortly. This drama traces Mother Teresa’s beginnings in the slums of Kolkata in 1950 and her loss of faith, alongside the story of Kavita, a young English woman of Indian origin abandoned by her partner when he learns she is pregnant. A film about compassion without a political or religious agenda.”

Musale told PTI Video the movie is quite different from earlier films on the famous saint saint as it deals with her self-doubts.

“These letters were released in 2007,” he pointed out.

Part of the shooting has been done on streets and locales in Kolkata, but the shots in indoor studios were done in Mumbai as “unions here (Kolkata) made it very costly for us to shoot the entire story in this city as we would have liked to”.