Atrangi Re is a rom-com that follows two people from wildly different walks of life who are brought together under forced circumstances. It tells the tale of how they get closer to each other ever since that event. The film is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
Rinku (Sara Ali Khan) belongs to a very traditional family in rural Bihar where she lives with her grandmother and other relatives. Her parents were murdered by the family for bringing dishonour to their name and she is similarly vilified because of her constant attempts to run away with her lover, whose identity she keeps hidden from the rest.
Vishu (Dhanush) is a senior medical student who is set to marry the daughter of the university dean. He’s visiting Bihar to set up a medical camp and at the railway station is where he gets his first glimpse of Rinku.
At her grandmother’s request, Rinku’s family kidnap Vishu and have him forcefully marry her so that they do not have to worry about her well being anymore, palming her off to the next person. Vishu and Rinku realise that they’re both against this union and agree to part ways at the earliest.
Vishu has to go back to fulfil his engagement and wedding with the dean’s daughter while Rinku has a lover named Sajjad (Akshay Kumar) who is a magician who has travelled abroad to improve his craft.
Over the next few days, Vishu begins to fall for Rinku which even causes his engagement to break. He mentions his feelings to Rinku which is exactly when Sajjad finally shows up to take her away. However, the truth is that Sajjad is a figment of Rinku’s imagination created during a traumatic event from her past.
What follows is an exercise in psychiatry and old fashioned wooing as Vishu tries to win over Rinku and make her realise on her own that Sajjad isn’t real.
While the performances of the cast aren’t truly outstanding, they are very much solid when considering the various characters on offer.
Dhanush performs well as the selfless romantic who plays along with Rinku’s fantasies just so that she doesn’t get hurt while secretly longing for her to get better soon. A special mention to the fact that he got to portray the ‘south Indian in the north’ trope without really having to excessively lean into the stereotype which is often the case.
Sara Ali Khan continues to show her promise, this time encapsulating the role of the firebrand Rinku who is also deeply affected by her trauma and deals with it in a not so uncommon manner. To see her growth across the film and the final moment where she lets go of the past is quite cathartic.
Akshay Kumar does his bit but isn’t given the shine one would usually expect from a star of his calibre.
Ashish Verma as Vishu’s best friend, Madhusudhan ‘MS’, does a lot of the heavy lifting on the comical side of things and performs quite admirably while doing so.
The script is well written with Himanshu Sharma adding quite a considerable flair to many of the lines, only enhanced by their delivery. There’s no shortage of quotable lines, and while some jokes may fall flat at times, a majority of them can get the job done.
The music is slightly on the extensive side yet extremely lively and pleasing to listen to. It’s the least you would expect from the esteemed A.R. Rahman and there is no letting up in this film. The songs are catchy while the score pipes up at all the right moments.
There is no particular structure to this film, with the story rushing forward in the first half and then dragging along during the second.
One requires a significant suspension of belief to accept that within a very short period, Vishu has begun to fall for the stranger that he has been forced to marry, enough to offset the disappointment of his relationship breaking down.
And that’s only the first half, the second half feels like a different film with the love story starting from there as Vishu attempts to win Rinku’s heart.
While the concept is intriguing, the execution is not at all what it should have been. The approach towards such a serious mental issue is treated with the subtlety of a bull in a China shop.
There is some initial promise with moments of clarity and good decision making when dealing with Rinku’s issue, but it all devolves into a ridiculous exercise in feeding into her idiosyncrasies.
Atrangi Re contains is worth a watch owing to its commendable performances and a pleasing soundtrack that can be enjoyed by many. Yet, its attitude towards mental illness and trauma as well as the casual attitude towards the traditional issues of rural Bihar are quite difficult to overlook.