It takes a journey of 2 to 3 movies before one gets acquainted with the universe of Aanand L Rai. By all counts, it seems very probable that in some past life, the duo of Director Aanand L. Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma were magicians based in far of small-town India. What else can explain the characters they create? Characters that go from Meerut to Mars and humans that can control stars along with some very realistic albeit colorful characters.
On a work visit to Bihar, Rishu, played by Dhanush is abducted, fed and knocked senseless on laughing gas and forcefully married to Rinku, a girl in her early 20's. It is only the next morning that the two get introduced to each other. Rinku is a serial eloper from Bihar while Rishu was a post-grad medical student. She is wild, crazy and passionate, while he is more restrained, quiet, and follows the norms. The marriage is complicated as Rishu was to marry Dean's daughter and Rinku is already in love with an entertaining magician Sajjad who has remained her companion since childhood. What follows is an unconventional love triangle.
At first, Atrangi Re works for me for its unique attempt at creating something different. The movie is a brave attempt by the Writer-Director who perhaps care little to justify their vision and take a leap of faith in this love story. The movie combines elements of magical realism, imagination and, medical science to tell its story.
A very talented Dhanush, once again (after Ranjhanaa) takes the driving wheel in Atrangi Re. He plays his part with a silence that conveys more meaning than loud sequences. His eyes speak, and his face talks. In perhaps the best scene from the movie, Rishu confesses the state of confusion he was in as he falls for Rinku in Tamil. We, along with Rinku, do not understand a word he says yet could not be more moved. The integration of North and South India simulates nicely by Dhanush’s control over his art.
Sara Ali Khan is also nice as Rinku, if not exceptional. Asish Verma as Rishu’s best friend has also done a good job.
Yet, Atrangi Re also has a few misses. Every story, no matter how beautiful to read, depends on how well it is adapted. The dialogues in the movie are not as crisp as they needed to be and do not trigger the same laughs as something like, “Pyar Nahi UPSC ka exam hogya, 10 saal se clear hi ni ho raha” from Ranjhanaa. Moreover, the audience is never taken through how Rishu falls in love with Rinku. The first scene where Rishu has caught feelings for Rinku feels too early and abrupt. There is also a scene where Sajjad tries to make the Taj Mahal disappear which feels a bit of a drag.
The biggest miss of Atrangi Re is that in its imagination, the film presents a very generalized view of mental health disorders. For anyone who has been through such conditions, it can very upsetting. In a scene that may come of as ‘offensive’, they club patients of Schizophrenia, OCD, Bipolar Disorder and OCD under the same category. The audience has strongly criticized the movie for this oversimplified portrayal and rightly so.
Atrangi Re is thus a magical trick that lands in some ways and remains unsuccessful in others. You may like it, or not, but it’s a movie worth experiencing.
The problems remain, yet the love story tugs at my heart. This, along with the bedazzling music composed by legendary Rahman with songs like Chaka Chak, Rait Zara Si keeps the film poignant and entertaining. Finally, the song Tere Rang makes me want to wear a saree, run in the wind and dance in celebration. You can watch Atrangi Re on Disney plus Hotstar.