‘Dil Bechara’ Review: Sushant Singh Rajput’s Final Act Is a Bittersweet Tearjerker
The loss of Sushant Singh Rajput has left a throbbing ache in the hearts of his family, friends, fans and sparked nothing short of national mourning. So when Dil Bechara, his final film was scheduled to release digitally amidst the pandemic, the response was somewhat cathartic. The film’s release is overwhelming by itself and the fact that it’s an adaptation of John Green’s ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ leaves some room for uneasiness. We knew we were about to witness Sushant Singh Rajput in a movie about friendship, pain, love and loss and it’s bound to carry over residual grief as we come in terms with the actor’s loss. And I do think the film has an unfairly heavy weight to carry. To some, it’s a farewell, the last chance to watch the actor master yet another character portrayal onscreen and to others, the closest thing to closure and a celebration of his life. But it’s still a lot to process, so for this review, I’m going to try and analyse the film as a separate entity the way any film deserves to be watched. And difficult as it is, let’s steer clear of any complicated or unpleasant discourse we’ve seen in the news or on social media in the past few weeks. Let’s focus instead on the performance, plot and music-driven film starring Sushant Singh Rajput, Sanjana Sanghi, Saif Ali Khan, Sahil Vaid, Saswata Chatterjee and Swastika Mukherjee.
Sidenote: We aren’t giving Dil Bechara a Mash-o-Meter rating because of the near-impossibility of forming a wholly unbiased opinion.
Dil Bechara revolves around Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) a young college-going girl who has thyroid cancer. She goes about the mundanity of daily life with some cynicism she picked up after learning how fragile life can be, hers is after all attached to an oxygen tank with tubes leading up to her nose in order to help her breathe. Kizie, however, retains her sense of humour and is introduced as a funeral gate-crasher trying to share some of her emptiness with the world around her. Kizie’s fate intertwines with Immanuel Rajkummar aka Manny who seemingly runs on high levels of optimism and tonnes of energy. Manny is young, athletic and he has big dreams thwarted by osteosarcoma a type of bone cancer which left him with a prosthetic leg. You’ll first see him crashing a college event, taking over the stage to perform ‘Dil Bechara Friendzone Ka Maara’ and then in a very Bollywoodesque style approach Kizie. As they develop a bond of friendship which is something new to the otherwise aloof Kizie, the two come close in an endeavour to hold on to the simple joys of life with cruel fate looming large.
If you have watched The Fault In Our Stars, the 2014 film starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, you know how the story goes. Entering the film knowing full well how it begins and ends is an exercise in conviction. So does Dil Bechara, the Bollywood version of the Y/A bestseller hit the mark? Well, yes and no. Mukesh Chhabra in his debut directorial takes on an adaptation full of possibilities. The source text is a teen drama with an emotional range to experiment with. And to some extent, the film does experiment by localising the content. By that I mean, giving it a Bollywood spin. Augustus’ ambitions are turned into Manny’s filmy dreams fueled by a dose of Rajinikanth worship. He’s bent on his dream of making an amateur movie with his best friend JP. Hazel’s obsession with her favourite book’s author is replaced with Kizie’s obsession with a song titled ‘Main Tumhara’ by musician Abhimanyu Veer. She is vying to find him and get closure on why he left his music incomplete. JP has intraocular cancer and a girlfriend who dotes on him but soon dumps him the same way Isaac’s does in the story.
The similarities give Dil Bechara a Bollywood twist placing it on a fast track of an easy adaptation. They even have a Tamil word to replace the iconic “Okay? Okay!” phrase. But it doesn’t necessarily work. The film shares the same structure of its predecessor and the recalls get increasingly repetitive as the plot progresses. You’ll find yourself drawing comparisons not because you’re holding the film responsible as an adaptation but because the scenes really are simplified versions of what you might have already seen. At least that’s how it was for me and that’s saying something since I watched the movie years ago. So far, I’m unhappy to report that the film misses the mark as an Indian adaptation of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’.
Getting down to the heavy stuff, Dil Bechara is full of tearjerker potential. The movie is based on one of the most heartbreaking teen stories and it guarantees a feel-fest. So in case, you haven’t laid out the tissues already, which is highly unlikely, I suggest you get some. Dil Bechara is too timely and not in a good way. It gets too close to home and a little too real. Watching Sushant Singh struggle with his emotions, his disease and his relationship is difficult. I’ll admit I had to look away for a bit during a scene. The film perhaps gets its emotional effectiveness from the context of an unfortunate reality. For fans, an emotional rollercoaster awaits. The second half is especially gruelling (considering it has a majority of the intense action) if you’re sensitive.
Sushant Sigh Rajput’s performance is heart-touching, moving yet difficult to watch. The actor takes on a guy-next-door role in fragments. We have seen SSR deliver some of the most endearing performances of Hindi Cinema. He won the hearts of his massive fanbase with films like Detective Byomkesh Bakshi, Kai Po Che, Sonchiriya, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kedarnath and Chhichhore. His filmography has no dearth of performance-driven hits, his portal of Manny in Dil Bechara is unfortunately dry in comparison. And the writing and direction must take a chunk of the blame here. Sanjana Sanghi’s Kizie too has an earnest voice narration for the initial sequence of the film teasing a promising start. Her performance is moving and holds up delightfully well for a majority of the film. But the casts’ performance seems to be stacked up against the the other elements of the movie. The other elements being the film’s weak subplots, random edits and music that doesn’t always fit the sequence.
Over the course of the past week, we’ve had the release of several songs from A.R. Rahman’s much-anticipated music album for the film right from ‘Taare Ginn’ to ‘Khulke Gine Ka’. By themselves, these songs might be great but their placement in the film didn’t necessarily have the best effect. What I’m really trying to get at, is that despite my mixed emotions (that are very strong) and factors that should technically work, Dil Bechara has its moments but none of them stick around to make an impact. Will the film be etched in my memory?
Well, that goes without saying since it features the late Sushant Singh Rajput in the role of a sweet love-lorn boy struggling against fate. But I’d much rather have Chhichhore be the last film I watch him in. The role fit him so well, created ample opportunity for him to shine in all his glory and leave a lasting impression. That is who Sushant Singh Rajput the actor was. And it is true when they say he deserved better, a sentiment that is oft-repeated. He really did as an artist and as a human being.
Cover artwork: Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India