Hindi Reviews

Atrangi Re Review: Anand L Rai’s Film is Colourful at Times, but Never Mindful or Meaningful

(Spoiler alert)


Aanand L Rai and his writing partner, Himanshu Sharma, rarely ever make a simple film. Their first outing with Dhanush, Raanjhanaa, is deemed problematic, but the writing informs the characters and their decisions. The point is not to compare Kundan’s mistakes against Zoya’s and see who is more wrong. At least, that is not the filmmaker’s point. He is fine with the mess staying a mess, which is why it is never easy to feel one thing, and only one thing, about his films.Atrangi Reis no different. It is a mess too and can be endearingly so at times. But, unlike Zero or Tanu weds Manu, the writing isn’t rooted enough to make the mess feel inevitable or entertaining.

Vishu (Dhanush), short for S Venkatesh Vishwanath Iyer – not that long a name, but that never stopped a Hindi-speaker from making fun of it, is studying in IMS Delhi to be a doctor. He is in a relationship with his Dean’s daughter, Mandy, and is on the way to his engagement when he’s kidnapped and made to marry Rinku (Sara Ali Khan). Rinku is a young Bihari woman who has failed to run away from her house at least a few dozen times. The rest of the film is about the man she is running towards and what happens when she catches feelings for someone else on her way. 

When we are first introduced to Rinku, she is running. Away from her home, but towards the camera. For a moment, I thought she was playing a bad actor in a film within the film. Sara Ali Khan is hyper-aware of the camera’s gaze; she is so pleased with the fact that she’s an actor that she tends to overdo it. But, for a change, it works for her. As someone who is trying to outrun her pain and family, it is understandable that she doesn’t know how to underplay her emotions. She is theatrangi, after all. She has to bring all the colours because Vishu barely has any. Even if Dhanush tries and partially succeeds in conveying this man’s psyche – someone who is so sheltered that he jumps at the first opportunity to fall head over heels in love with an exciting woman, there is barely any convincing reason for him to behave the way he does. Even Akshay Kumar isn’t as sparkly as the magic around him suggests.  

This isn’t to say that there isn’t anything good about the film. An Anand Rai film is rarely without merit. See how Dhanush’s broken Hindi informs Vishu’s bad Hindi. And his Tamil isn’t ornamental either. Vishu speaks long stretches in Tamil when he is faced with an extreme situation. Not just that, the language barrier is used interestingly between the couple. When Vishu wants to express his love for Rinku but doesn’t want her to understand it, he says it in Tamil. But when he wants Rinku and the audience to know that he shares an affinity for her, he switches to Hindi. The film is also clever in the way it delays the reveal. The Sara that’s with Sajjaad looks slightly different from Rinku, but we don’t think much of it until we find out that she is her mother.

Even so, I didn’t appreciate the way the film chooses to follow Vishu’s journey closely instead of Rinku’s. Why write a complex person with an interesting character arc when you are busy empathising with the simple man in love with her? If only the film chose to work from the PoV of Rinku, with only sporadic glimpses into Vishu’s pain as a man in love with her, we would’ve gotten a thorough understanding of her trauma and the film would’ve been better for it. Not that we can blame it, but the film is preoccupied with Dhanush. Yet, Vishu holds his left cheek lovingly while celebrating a kiss planted by Rinku on his right cheek. I mean, that’s just amateur hour. 


As the film ends, the credits begin to roll with ‘A film by AR Rahman‘, followed by the names of the filmmaker, writer, and producers. This is rather fitting because, without Rahman’s music and Kamil’skaabil words,Atragi Re would’ve failed to convince us of anything it intended to. At a vital point in the film, where the viewer is introduced to the plot twist and is invited to gradually learn more about it, Arjith Singh knowingly croons: “Dil thoda jazbaati hai//Bhar jaata hai baaton se.” As if mental illness is just a side-effect of having a passionate and feeling heart and not an actual health issue that needs medical supervision. As much as I appreciated the well-placed verse that made my eyes well up, that is also the issue I had withAtrangi Re. Despite having a protagonist who is a doctor and a best friend who is a psychiatrist, his first reaction when he encounters a patient is to put her in a museum – the film’s take on trauma and mental health is comically offensive and uneducated. 


This Atrangi Re review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.