Filmmaker Aanand L Rai’s latest directorial Atrangi Re (2021) was at the centre of controversy for its portrayal of mental health.

The film, starring Sara Ali KhanDhanush, and Akshay Kumar, released on December 24 on streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar and received polarised reviews with some criticising how the film deals insensitively with mental health.

In the movie, the 26-year-old Khan plays Rinku Sooryavanshi, a child born out of an interfaith marriage who lives with the trauma of losing her parents at a young age. After another failed attempt at running away from her maternal family home in Bihar, Rinku is forcefully married to a Tamil man Vishu (Dhanush) but they plan to part ways once they reach Delhi where she hopes to meet her lover called Sajjad (Kumar).

In an interview with PTI, the 50-year-old director said the sole purpose of the movie was to explore a mad world of “love”. “It is actually only love. When we talk about Rinku, there was a big section of people who were talking about mental illness. It was never that for me. That was not the only thing I was trying to come up with. What I was trying to come up with was that only love can bring you out of a lot of complications…  We have become very smart and intelligent. We want to analyse everything. These are tough times and we want to give logic to falling in love. It is so unfortunate. The only thing that can defy logic is love,” said the filmmaker.

Rai, who has been applauded for churning out interesting characters from hinterland India in films like Tanu Weds Manu series and Raanjhanaa, said like his previous work love is the driving force for both lead characters Rinku and Vishu. There is a reason why Rinku belongs to Siwan, a city in Bihar, the director pointed out.

“We wanted to create that world, we wanted to have those things which were or are there. We dealt with the problems that the region is going through or was going through,” he said.

The director said he wanted to celebrate the “magic of love”.  “We have been so calculative about our emotions. Let’s keep other things on the calculator and not love,” he added.

All in all, Rai is happy with the response to Atrangi Re as he believes it has managed to touch the hearts of the viewers. “I am happy with the reaction of the audience, their likes, and dislikes. I am liking every bit of it and I am making a note of it. It is overwhelming,” he said in conclusion.

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