Sometimes you walk into a movie, least expecting it to be a horror film….so just sending a well-intentioned warning if you are planning to see Atrangi Re. As the horror unfolded scene after scene, while there was no gore, bloodshed or bhoot, my inner psychologist begged for a pillow to shield my eyes. And to think I almost dozed off in the first 30 minutes as the clueless hero heroine took the mindless plot down a predictable road. But waitaminute. Said heroine is having a conversation with some invisible guy, and said hero’s good-hearted, but equally clueless, doctor friend is suggesting she is mentally ill. Okay, plot twist. 

It seemed slightly odd though that this “illness” doesn’t seem to have any decipherable name (at that point I was expecting sense from the film, so forgive me). Neither good-friend doc, nor the hero and definitely not the makers seem really interested in diagnostic terms. 

Side note: Media terms this “Schizophrenia”….because, you know, she’s seeing an invisible guy, and hearing his voice and conversing with him. However, any first year Psych student will snigger at the hotchpotch of “symptoms”, stemming most likely from delusions of the script writer’s mind, rather than clinical reality. 

Whatever this ailment is, said heroine is given medication in the name of “immunity booster drugs” which will prepare her body for COVID ka bhai “David” (???). I know, I know. Pillow please, or a shotgun preferably. 

The Medication is prescribed by clueless-doctor- friend who claims to “understand women” because he is a psychiatrist. Wish he’d instead spent some time understanding the DSM, and maybe the Mental Healthcare Act, whose several sections got mercilessly assaulted here. Never mind, moving on….

As soon as said heroine takes medication, the “hallucination” begins sneezing, or falls from a tree, or develops fever. As per our expert psychiatrist such happenings indicate a “weakening” of the delusion. Bhai, where is this wonder drug that begins working within 3 minutes, and can someone pls bonk that doctor and put us out of this misery.

But no, there are more nightmares in store. The treatment course for said heroine runs along crazy tracks. To make sure she doesn’t have a breakdown, the good doc fills an auditorium with his OCD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia patients because “they, if no one else, are sure to see the imaginary magician”  Why? Everyone with mental illness hallucinates?? And they also hallucinate collectively??? And also share the exact same hallucination????

Someone pls guide me to the OTT showing “Nightmare on Elm Street”, cos that one’s going to seem like a romcom after this.  

Choosing sanity, I fast forwarded most of the film, to the climax where the “mystery” origins of the hallucination are revealed which…surprise, surprise turn out to be Bollywood’s favourite tragedy package…bachpan ke ghaav mixed with a large dose of honor killing. Pray, someone tell me why a child witnessing the gruesome death of both parents would create a romantic delusion of her father? In what world does this happen, where trauma gets twisted into a dystopian mockery of human emotions. 

Finally: WHY? Why make a circus out of mental illness, and disseminate such absolutely inaccurate, nonsense information to unsuspecting vulnerable minds. Why do filmmakers not do the least responsible thing, and engage a mental health expert’s suggestions during script writing, and filmmaking. 

I guess the fault lies in our expectations. We believe that by the year 2021 Indian cinema has “matured” enough to show realistic depictions of mental illness that move beyond the “paagalpan” of 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, for us professionals, and the public at large, that is a bigger delusion than the heroine’s invisible magician. 

Disclaimer: Views in this post are strictly mine.