It has been quite a while since we have seen a good love story come out of Bollywood. ‘Atrangi Re’ gives you hope that tinsel town still has it and can deliver, but hope is all it provides because this is not it. To the average viewer, the movie is certainly entertaining, and many instances will leave you smiling along with the occasional chuckle, and this is credit that must be given. But if your soul possesses even a tiny percentage of cynicism, you will be annoyed.
Let’s start by making one thing clear. The term ‘Atrangi Re’ translates to ‘colorful.’ For non-Hindi language speakers, it is used in a few contexts, depending on which it could also mean unusual and entertaining. But the director of the film, Anand L.Rai, decided to go with the meaning as ‘Funnily Weird,’ which he clearly intends for the tone of the film to be.
The film is a love story, in fact, more of a love triangle between Rinku, Vishu, and Sajjad. Rinku, played by Sara Ali Khan, is a feisty 24-year-old woman from rural Bihar who has lived with her extended family since the death of her parents and has run away from home with her boyfriend multiple times since she was 14 years old. Her family has never been able to find out who this person is and are tired of her so-called ‘antics’ when they finally decide to get her married. Their only requirement is the man be someone outside of Bihar. They spot Vishu, played by Dhanush, a medical student who is in the area for a college trip. They kidnap him, make him breathe laughing gas, and get him married to a sedated Rinku. As a non-expert in Chemistry, the question is, why not sedate him as well? What was the purpose of the laughing gas other than the comedic effect?
After the wedding, as they are leaving the place, they start talking about each other, when Rinku tells him about Sajjad, her supposed boyfriend, who will come and take her away in a few days. Rinku and Vishu reach a mutual agreement to part ways once Sajjad returns. In the meantime, Vishu is getting engaged in two days and chooses not to tell his to-be fiancé about his forced marriage on the advice of his friend who claims to understand women.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, and secrets are revealed, feelings are confessed, old flames return, and discoveries are made, all in the span of 20 minutes. It’s ok; we won’t complain about that.
What Went Wrong With ‘Atrangi Re’?
We can’t help but wonder how Vishu fell in love with Rinku in a supposed span of two days when all we saw him do was look at her with extreme discomfort. Is ‘uncomfortable’ the new ‘look of love? Either way, this is for the first half of the movie.
The second half of the movie is proof of why Bollywood should stay away from mental health topics. Here we have Rinku, a girl with obviously deep-seated childhood trauma that has manifested very strongly into her adulthood and is a defining part of her current circumstances. And what does our protagonist Vishu, who happens to be a medical student, do about that? He decides to start treating her, and by that we mean, give her medication without her consent and hope she gets better. He is assisted by his friend, a fellow medical student studying psychiatry and who thinks he understands women.
Let’s be clear that there is not a single certified therapist or psychiatrist in this situation. They are all still medical students. And the whole ‘treatment without consent is not only illegal but also very morally wrong. The writers of the movie and the director have treated her trauma as they would treat the common cold, which is extremely worrying considering the soft power Bollywood has in this country, along with the current attitude and misinformation people have towards the subject of mental health. The whole team should have done better.
‘Atrangi Re’ Ending Review
Once we get past the unforgivably problematic aspect of the movie, we encounter the reason why Bollywood has fallen into a dearth of good rom coms. The answer is simple- it’s because the characters are very one-dimensional, and we don’t see why they have fallen in love other than that they were supposed to. Rinku is your garden-variety manic pixie dream girl, and Vishu is your typical Bollywood guy in love who would do anything for his lady love. We have to say here, Dhanush, who plays Vishu, is so incredibly charming, and despite our lack of conviction in the love story, he plays it so well that you find your heart actually breaking for him. We really wish his character was more than the ‘man in love’ as he had that potential. He is undoubtedly the star of the show.
Sara Ali Khan, as Rinku, does what she is supposed to do and does it well, but her character deserved better writing. Akshay Kumar, as Sajjad, does what he has done in every movie- he plays the desi and sassy larger-than-life guy who everyone loves. This movie has a major fault, and that is that it does not show how Rinku falls in love with Vishu? She was always caught up in the love triangle, but when did she see the love? She does confess at the end, but it comes across as something done for the sake of the story and not real.
The ending scene where Rinku realizes the truth of Sajjad and ‘gets over her trauma’ should have happened in a therapist’s office, not in a packed railway station. And the girl needed to get her life together after that, not just simply run into the arms of the ‘hero.’
Should You Watch ‘Atrangi Re’?
We are honestly torn about this recommendation. On the one hand, it was definitely entertaining. It’s not a love story for the ages, but it is also not a waste of time. And for anybody following the promotions of the movie or any of the actors for the matter, there is a moment of petty satisfaction when Vishu teasingly sings and dances to the hit song ‘Chaka Chak’ to Rinku. But on the other hand, there is the messed-up representation of mental health.
So, our advice would be, watch it with a filter. You will be listening to the aforementioned song on loop and maybe want to start binge-watching Dhanush’s other movies after that. It will, however, always be a thorn in our side that a film with such a fantastic director, such amazing music, and a definitely talented star cast fell short of being a ‘must-watch’ simply because of its insensitivity to mental health. If you can intelligently ignore that aspect of it, it is a good 2 hours and 20 minutes of your time spent smiling throughout, and if you can’t ignore it, just listen to the movie’s album on YouTube. That’s the best part either way.
Atrangi Re is a 2021 Indian Romantic Drama film directed by Aanand L. Rai. It is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.