Sara Ali Khan, Dhanush and Akshay Kumar starrer Atrangi Re released on Disney+Hotstar recently.
The title of film translates to ‘colourful’ or something ‘unsusual and entertaining’. Sure, the film tries to be entertaining in many instances and will leave you with occasional chuckles, but all this at the cost of what – romanticising toxic love and mental health?
Dear filmmakers and writers please take professional help while handling sensitive topics like these. Pretty sure it's not a thing that will increase the budget. It needs to be dealt in a empathetic way and not in a gimmicky manner.— Nitesh (@singh_dr) December 27, 2021
Written by Himanshu Sharma and directed by Anand L Rai, the film is basically a love triangle between Rinku (Sara Ali Khan), Vishu (Dhanush), and Sajjad (Akshay Kumar). Rinku is a 24-year-old woman from a village in Bihar who has lived with her extended family since the death of her parents. Ever since she was 14 years old, she ran away from home with her boyfriend (who nobody can see) multiple times.
Her family kidnaps Vishu, a medical student from Tamil Nadu and gets Rinku married to him forcefully. The problem with the film is not that it’s an unusual love story, it’s the problematic depiction of mental health issues.
In the film, Rinku has symptoms of schizophrenia (a mental disability), and it’s shocking to see that Vishu and his medical college friends (one of whom is studying psychiatry), did not seek proper medical help for her even once. Rather they try to make the situation funnily weird by giving her medicines for a new virus from China named David and calling it COVID ka bhai.
Honsetly, the film is a lesson in why Bollywood should stay away from mental health topics. Rinku is a girl with deep-seated childhood trauma which according to the film makers can be treated with love or just popping some pills without proper consultation and therapy.
Vishu’s pyschatrist friend who also claims to know women well doesn’t know even a thing about mental disabilites and their treatment. This is not how it works – you give someone a pill and it shows effects immediately.
There’s nothing even slightly funny about living with a mental illness and schizophrenia is a MENTAL DISABILITY. You will see Vishu’s friend-cum-psychatrist calling her psychosis ‘paagalpan’ or ‘madness’.
Not just faulty depiction of mental health, the film also glorifies toxic love. In one scene where Vishu and Rinku discuss what true love is, Rinku puts forth her definition.
Jis love mein 4-5 ka sar na phoote, gharwale kutte na ban jaaye, shehar mein badnaami na ho, mohalle mein chappal na chal jaaye…
As far as the characters are concerned, Sara Ali Khan does her job well as Rinku but I think her character deserved better writing. Dhanush, like always is charming. He is the only reason you watch the movie till the end waiting for some closure, but we get none.
In a pivotal scene of a mainstream Hindi film, can an actor’s monologue be in another language (Tamil) n be able 2 convey it 2 the audience only thru the facial expressions n get an👏?— Sriram Sriharsha శ్రీరాం శ్రీహర్ష (@SriharshaSriram) December 24, 2021
It is said, “Art is beyond languages, cultures and boundaries.”
Dhanush is an art! #AtrangiRe pic.twitter.com/EAzaxuYw8m
Akshay Kumar does nothing more than what he has done in all his latest movies – playing a larger than life man.
The film missed a golden chance to educate the audience about the mental health condition in a simple way because it tried to make it funny and entertaining.
Just watched Atrangi re. Didn’t realize Bollywood was living in the 18th century. Its depiction on mental health and illness was absolutely horrifying. Why would you take a topic that is ALREADY stigmatized and make it so much worse???— Hetvi Desai (@HetviWriter) December 24, 2021
Dhanush, the fine actor that he is, deserves much better than what Hindi cinema has offered him — from a hugely problematic Raanjhnaa that normalises stalking & abuse, to Atrangi Re, which has a bizarrely facetious take on mental health.— Ruhi Tewari (@RuhiTewari) December 26, 2021
For a country where mental health is still heavily misunderstood or not understood at all, the dramatisation and romanticisation by the film, makes me want to say once again – Dear Bollywood, please do not indulge in this discourse at all.
All images are screenshots from Disney+Hotsat unless specified otherwise.