By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-25 07:37:18
Sushant Singh Rajput's swansong (death took him away in the prime of life), Dil Bechara (now streaming on Disney+Hotstar), is based on the book The Fault in Our Stars. It is a love story between two youngsters who are placed in challenging circumstances due to health issues. He is Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny who has bone cancer that has resulted in the loss of a leg and placement of an artificial limb. But that has taken nothing away from his zest for life. She is Kizie Basu (played by Sanjana Sanghi) who has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. She has an inhaling pipe set on her nose and lugs around an oxygen cylinder which she has adoringly named Pushpinder. She loves poetry and is smitten with Abhimanyu Veer (Saif Ali Khan in a special appearance), a singer who did not complete his last song. That troubles her as she wants to know the full meaning of that song and wants to contact Veer for it. While she yearns to be a normal girl, she has withdrawn into a cocoon and her digital diary is her best friend.
When the two meet, sparks fly only in the mind and heart of the boy. He pursues her on his scooter (which has a side-car like the one shown in the iconic Yeh Dosti song in Sholay) and mouths inane dialogues that irritate her at first. When she tells her that her name is derived from a Zambian word that means something which does not go away, he instantly calls her chipku. She tells her diary that she has not met a more irritating and so-full-of-himself person ever. But his boyish charm and zest for life, so different from her routine of college, medicines, tests, visits to doctor and cancer survivor group meets, draws her to him and a silent romance blooms. She initially tries to keep him away to prevent heartbreak. He promises her the heroine's part in a Bhojpuri film his friend JP (Sahil Vaid) who is losing his eyesight to cancer. The film-within-the-film sequences are jarring but take their love story forward in a different way.
Manny finds Abhimanyu Veer for Kizie and despite objections from her mother (played brilliantly by Swastika Mukherjee) manages to convince the father (another superb act by Saswata Chatterjee) to let her go to Paris to meet the elusive writer-singer. The drinking scene between Sushant and Saswata on the swing, with rain in the background, where Sushant tells him about how his father got his leg amputated and why Kizie should be allowed to go to Paris, is one of the highlights of the film. Once in Paris, the duo meets a cocky, slightly-mad and irreverent Abhimanyu Veer who does not give them a complete answer as to why he did not complete his last song. But Kizie thinks she got her answer when Veer tells her that when two people are together and if one dies, the other can never be happy. She is devastated. But Manny assures her that he will manage to be happy. Only if they knew what the stars had in store for them!
The best thing going for Dil Bechara is that debutant director Mukesh Chabra does not make it melodramatic while still making it appeal to your emotions. It is really an Un-fairy tale, as the makers term it to be. The theme is set by Manny when he says "janam kab lena hai aur marna kab hai yeh hum decide nehi kar sakte, lekin kaise jeena hai woh toh hum decide kar sakte hain". There are also references to suicide which assume importance in the light of Sushant Singh Rajput's untimely death. But the film resonates with the brilliance of its cast. Sushant is the scene-stealer with his all-round performance. He is good in the love scenes and playful when he demands that first, special kiss from Kizie. But he is absolutely brilliant in the scene where he is in immense pain in the film theatre or when he is sleeping on his granny's lap and his parents come to visit him. Yet, it is not his best performance - he had done better in Chhichhore, Kai Po Che, Sonchiriya and M S Dhoni. Still, if one were to use cricketing terms, Sushant did manage to score a ton in his last appearance with a heart-warming portrayal of a star-crossed lover. Sanjana Sanghi is the perfect foil for his exuberance and manages to hold her own. Swastika Mukherjee and Saswata Chatterjee as Kizie's parents bring out the pain and concern of parents who know their daughter is not going to survive for long brilliantly. Dil Bechara is a poignant and intense film that celebrates love and life in the face of adversity.