The film has me foxed. I don’t know what to make of it. Of course, coming from the writer-director team of Himanshu Sharma and Aanand L. Rai, whose previous outing Zero had the narrative travel from Meerut to Mars, one can expect almost anything – basic logic and reasoning be damned. But the absence of logic is not the only, or indeed the worst of the many atrocities it unleashes on the viewer.
The film opens with a young woman being chased by a group of men in Siwan. She runs into a railway station just when a man gets off a train with his buddy. In the first 15 minutes, we have the girl held captive and the guy being kidnapped and forced to marry her by her family members. The girl is Rinku (Sara Ali Khan), who, in her first meeting with the boy, tells him that she has ‘eloped’ with her lover, a magician Sajjad (Akshay Kumar), 21 times in seven years.
The man is Vishu Iyer (Dhanush), studying to be a doctor in Delhi, engaged to be married to his dean’s daughter in two days’ time in Chennai. Now, I might have missed something, but why should a doctor studying in Delhi, whose life is all set, who is about to marry his dean’s daughter in Chennai in two days, be in Siwan? Except in the interests of the plot point enabling groom-kidnapping! Plot loopholes like these abound.
What follows is equally inexplicable. The duo is put on a train to Delhi by Rinku’s family – Vishu is still drugged. After he comes to his senses, they decide to go their own separate ways once Sajjad gets back from his world magic tour and Vishu goes to Chennai for his engagement. Meanwhile, Vishu finds a room for Rinku in his all-boys medical hostel, no questions asked. And Vishu’s friend Madhusudan (Ashish Verma) executes a hare-brained idea of getting Vishu to his engagement without divulging his forced marriage to Rinku.
Next follows the film’s one twist that sets it up and makes it go off-rails. This is preceded by Madhusudan mouthing one of the film’s many objectionable dialogues: ‘I am a psychiatrist. And I know women.’ On the evidence, the filmmakers are blissfully unaware of either. Soon after, in another sequence, the doctor actually clubs together people with bipolar/psychiatric disorders and schizophrenia in an offhand manner that’s offensive and alarming. It is this cavalier attitude to mental health – everything being played for laughs with no consideration for the effect of long-term trauma – that is the film’s biggest failing.
Consider the scene where Sajjad is supposed to make the Taj Mahal disappear and fails to do so – only because immediately prior to the act, the patient has popped a pill (that seems to be the only way the doctor knows here, considering the montages involving the patient being given pills to swallow). If only mental health issues were that easy to address and cure. Then there’s the dodgy approach to love. Vishu, competing with Sajjad for Rinku’s affection, resorts to breaking beer bottles on his head. And its other PJs (Vishu is berated by Rinku’s family at the wedding as someone from India’s neechla hissa!)
By the time the film plays out its final twist, you couldn’t care less for either the message it’s trying to convey – the redeeming power of love that bleeds and hurts and yet endures, the curative aspects of faith, a paean to eccentricity – or AR Rahman’s music or the lead performers trying valiantly to rise above material that strains credibility and is an affront to good taste.
Title: Atrangi Re
Cast: Dhanush, Sara Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar
Director: Aanand L. Rai
Rating: 1 ½ stars
(Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is an award-winning publisher, editor and a film buff)
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