Aanand L Rai’s recent cinematic project Atrangi Re was Atrangi indeed (not in a good way). Initially, the Akshay Kumar, Dhanush and Sara Ali Khan starrer embroiled in a controversy for roping in a young actress alongside two senior actors. But once you see the film, you’ll move past that topic. Owing to the fact that the film has a bigger issue- its problematic take on mental illness.
However, Bollywood has a long history of trivialising and romanticising crucial issues. Atrangi Re is no different.
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
After you navigate through Sara Ali Khan’s unflattering ‘Bihari accent’, Akshay’s monotonous portrayal of characters, toxic notion of love and failed attempt at destigmatizing mental disorder, you’ll find the soul of the film - Dhanush.
Watched #AtrangiRe today, and #mentalhealth is covered in such a poor manner in it. You take a brilliant actor like #Dhanush who delivers, and make a film that has the potential to make sense but lacks in simple things.— Asmita Anuragini (@asmitaanuragini) December 24, 2021
All the actors are brilliant. The music ❤️ but...
#AtrangiRe a terrible rom-com that inaccurately portrays mental illness and is filled with logical loopholes. Only AR Rahman's music & score and Dhanush's comic timing are the positives in this poorly written film. Disappointed.— No Name (@bldgcontractor) December 23, 2021
Following the 2013 release Raanjhanaa, Dhanush returned to play a role in a Bollywood film after eight long years. And one of the major takeaways from his comeback was that the actor deserves far better scripts when it comes to Hindi films.
Dhanush features as Vishwanathan Iyer or Vishu, a Tamil medical student from a Delhi college, in the film. On one of his visits to Siwan town in Bihar, he falls victim to the infamous tradition of groom kidnapping and is forcefully married to Rinku Suryavanshi. Following a negotiation, they decide to part ways as they are in love with different people. The narration provides no foundation to Vishu and Rinku’s relationship, as the former falls for her in no time. In spite of a vacuum there, he proceeds to confess his love and makes the whole episode conceivable.
Dhanush's acting prowess acts as a life jacket that keeps the messy plotline of the film afloat. In another such scene, the actor delivers the most powerful monologue in Tamil, in a Hindi film, yet thoroughly engages the viewers. His conviction and candor transcends the language barrier, to say the least.
The more fascinated you feel watching Dhanush’s performance, the more you would question why we don’t see him in Bollywood more often. And when we do, why does he have to be part of such underwhelming projects? The actor doesn’t differentiate among films and addresses all cinematic projects as Indian cinema, as he mentioned during his appearance in Koffee with Karan. But it would be thrilling to witness him charm us with his simplicity and effortlessness as often as not.
It’s futile to assert on Dhanush’s craft when it comes to delivering remarkable performances. The Hindi film audience probably witnessed it for the first time when he featured as an obsessed lover in Raanjhanaa. Even though the premise was utterly problematic, the earnesty he brought to the character Kundan, kept us glued to the screen.
Two years ago, he collaborated with Vetrimaaran to bring us Vada Chennai, a story of an underdog emerging as people’s messiah. The actor who is often hailed as the Midas of Tamil cinema has proved his acting in numerous films — Pudhupettai, Pollathavan, Maryan, Aadukaalam and Kodi to name a few.
Therefore, while Bollywood unearths a compelling script and a more worthy role for Dhanush, you can watch his astounding performances in regional cinema.