I will not lie – I went to watch Atrangi Re with a lot of biases. From the age difference between Akshay Kumar and Sara Ali Khan — 28 years — to the idea that this might simply be a Tanu Weds Manu reprise. But I was both surprised and impressed with a love story that stays with you long after you leave the theatre. It is original, and equal parts heartwarming and a fun ride.
The film’s clever marketing does not give away what the movie holds, and that’s its trump card. That is why it catches you unaware, makes you watch and live every frame — laughing and crying.
The film’s protagonists are Rinku Maheshwari, played by Sara Ali Khan, a Thakur girl from Bihar who has eloped with her lover — who no one knows — 21 times and Vishu, played by Dhanush, a doctor who comes to the state to work during floods.
Dhanush is the groom in a ‘jabran shaadi’ (forced marriage); kidnapped and put under the influence of nitrogen to keep the wedding pictures look good. He is married off to a drugged Sara, whose grandmother is glad to watch her get out of sight, mind, and trouble. But this is precisely when the trouble begins as Rinku reveals to Vishu that she is in love with a Muslim magician, Sajjad, played by Akshay Kumar.
From Bihar to Delhi to Chennai, it takes a is a whirlwind ride of a love triangle for Vishu to realise he has fallen for the spunky, outspoken Rinku, who is his antithesis. And then there’s the roadblock — a larger-than-life ‘magician’ lover, Sajjad.
The plot reads pretty similar to Tanu Weds Manu, the phenomenon Aanand L. Rai — the director of Atrangi Re — created back in 2011. His latest creation is mature, fun, and a grown-up version of the love we all secretly yearn for and the healing we all deserve.
Violence and love
While the device deployed to treat a sensitive issue is humour, violence is in every frame — be it how Sara is beaten up when she is brought back home after eloping, or Dhanush’s kidnapping, or the story of Sara’s parents who were killed for their interfaith marriage.
The film, in some ways, is the microcosm of India, where intolerance and the dream of a love marriage co-exist. Sara’s character is the eye of the storm of the violence around her, and she has done a pretty good job playing Rinku, who says, “Ek baar ek ladki ko dono (aadmi) mil jaenge toh kya aafat aa jaegi?” (What’s the problem if a woman gets both men she wants?)
The way Atrangi Re looks at the repercussions of living in a conflicted atmosphere, and the consequences of violence deserves special mention. I did not walk into the cinemas expecting such a tender and mature depiction of trauma by a commercial Bollywood movie. The film has the potential to begin conversations on mental health that, I, frankly, did not think the industry was mature enough to initiate, even in 2021.
Dhanush vs Akshay
One wonders why Dhanush has not acted in a Hindi film since Shamitabh (2015). Atrangi Re brings to mind why he became a sensation after Raanjhanaa (2013).
Dhanush makes you fall for him — from watching him kidnapped and breaking off of his engagement with his girlfriend to him falling in love with Sara’s character. He owns every single moment.
Credit to Rai for making Akshay deliver a performance suited to his identity of being a performer, but with just enough control to never outshine Dhanush. I never thought that it was possible for Akshay not to hog the limelight in a film.
The scene where Akshay and Dhanush dance off, hoping to win Sara over, is one of the highlights. A. R. Rahman’s scores ensure the songs move the narrative forward, as does Irshad Kamil’s lyrics.
I would definitely say give it a watch, and immerse yourself in this year’s most unexpected love triangle.
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(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)