30 years ago, Yash Chopra made an immensely well-crafted Lamhe. But the domestic box-office had a lukewarm reaction to it; a love story between a parent-like figure and a daughter-like girl was alien.
The audience has grown up since then. So when director Aanand L Rai wades into sensitive waters, you want to support him for attempting a complex theme.
At the same time, you are left wondering if this was the best way to film such a complicated issue.
Jabaria shaadi, or the kidnapping of bridegrooms in some parts of Bihar, is a well-documented reality. Mayhem therefore reigns when senior medical student Venkatesh Vishwanath Iyer alias Vishu (Dhanush), in love with another, is nabbed and forcibly married to Bihari girl Rinku Sooryavanshi (Sara Ali Khan). But the poles-apart couple clicks instantly when both agree to go their respective ways. He to his fiancée and she to the undisclosed love of her life, magician Sajjad Ali (Akshay Kumar).
Not so simple as Rai gives it a complex twist which is revealed pretty soon.
Aiding the narration is AR Rahman’s music which has rhythm (Garda, Chaka chak) and melody (Tumhein Mohabbat Hai).
What brims over is the energy that comes from Sara Ali Khan and Dhanush. Though an everlasting memory is of Sara running like an athlete from the first sequence to the last, both at railway stations, and then some on the road and elsewhere.
Dhanush is cast accurately as a Tamilian in love with a Bihari extrovert but flummoxed by what’s going on.
Akshay looks more paternal than lover boy which should have worked well in such a strange story. But the quirkiness leaves a question mark.
And there are a few areas of bafflement in the narrative written by Himanshu Sharma.
Why does Vishu encourage Rinku to come to his engagement?
In the era where an overactive social media and instant communication exist, why do Vishu and other medicos take a long route to get to the bottom of Rinku’s family history?
Why is there a feeling of unreality on the campus? Neither Vishu nor his buddies do anything that a medical student normally would but seem collectively invested in Rinku’s dilemma.
Also, Vishu gets over his fiancée a tad too quickly while his chemistry with Rinku doesn’t really sizzle. You’re told they’re in love, you don’t feel it.
Perhaps, if the intrigue over Rinku and Sajjad had been kept at an engaging level all through, and unravelled bit by bit, with frivolity segueing into something deeper, it might have been a better way of handling a situation that required delicacy.
Since you already know what the problem is and you know where it has to end, the distance between the two had to be a delightful watch. But it slips sometime in the middle into a mix of melodrama and ‘yawnsome’ patches.
Aanand Rai likes the Hindu-Muslim angle (Raanjhanaa) and three-way romances. It’s never about one hero and one heroine. Sometimes it works bigtime (Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanaa), sometimes it doesn’t (Zero).
Atrangi Re leaves you ambivalent because you can’t help feeling, was this the best way to tell this story?
It’s therefore safe that Atrangi Re is on an OTT platform which has a more patient audience than the mass in a theatre.