Excerpt: Cancer can be painful, in every which way. Death, for those around the severely pained, in contrast, can often be a case of pain alleviation. Because the loss, for them, makes way for the restoration of ‘the good in entirety’, which was being disfigured bit by bit, right in front of their fatigued eyes. Director Mukesh Chhabra’s Dil Bechara, an average film that is replete with cinematic licences, is precisely that restoration — the ‘reclaiming of the real memory’ of a bright young actor from amid the macabre talks around him at the moment.
Review: Based on novelist John Green’s 2012 bestseller The Fault In Our Stars (also a 2014 Hollywood hit of the same name), Dil Bechara is a story of Kizie Basu (debutant Sanjana Sanghi) and Immanuel Rajkumar Junior a.k.a. “Manny” (Sushant Singh Rajput), two young people leading life amid extraordinary circumstances. Kizie is fighting cancer while Manny has fought and beaten cancer a few years ago.
Mounted on technical finesse in the form of fabulous cinematography (Satyajit Pande), unforgivingly razor-sharp editing (Aarif Sheikh) and embellishing background score (A R Rahman), the contrived nature of the storytelling is best exemplified by a mesmerising single-take title song/dance number pictured on the breathtakingly-rhythmic late actor. Most admirers of the talented late star would want to, and definitely, play it over and over again. But there is absolutely no reason for the film to have that song!
And that stands true for many things about the film. Forced and less than believable.
The original story is good — poignant and enduring. But this film fails at times in adapting it to the Indian milieu (as in the ‘smashing windows with eggs’ after a breakup of Manny’s friend Jagdish Pandey (Sahil Vaid) sequence or the almost ‘pop culture’ cancer support group meetings), and at other times in providing the requisite gravitas to an aspect of immense/principal pertinence to the movie (as in the film’s integral track of Kizie being overwhelmed by a song, leading right up to the three-minute cameo by an established Hindi film star, or the struggles of Kizie and Manny in trying to live ‘normal lives’ amid the challenges).
However, when it does not try to change too much from the original, it breaks magic on screen — especially in the ‘obituary speech before death’ sequence. One silent place, three good friends, two of whom read the obituary of the third one.
The only other scene — apart from the naturally dramatic scenes of illness and physical pain (well-created, nonetheless) — that helps lift the film to its potential is the late-night interaction between Manny and Kizie’s father, played by legendary Bangla cinema actor Saswata Chatterjee, where the former opens up about his successful but very costly fight against cancer.
Everything else, for some reason, is either rushed or imposed. Fortunately, with it being just 1 hour 40 minutes long, you can blame it for anything but being a drag.
Sanjana Sanghi is adequate. In a movie in which she is present from the first to the last one, in which even the narration is by her, and in which the character of the lead star is also defined by his interaction with her, she doesn’t emphatically grab the opportunity by the throat. She is good; but, perhaps, just about that.
With the country still not completely out of the shock of Sushant’s death, dissociating cinema from real life in many scenes of the film becomes nearly impossible.
There’s even a dialogue in the film (NOT by Sushant): “Khud ko maarna saala illegal hai, toh jeena padta hai [It’s illegal to kill yourself, so you’ve to live].”
The late star is enchanting when playing the hyperactive loverboy and exhilarating when being a silent sufferer. He would be remembered for this film for a long, long time. Albeit, it might also be because of irrational reactions (too) from all the viewers to his performance in the light of his passing. For that precise reason, this review too would not be writing more about his, what felt like, a stellar performance.
Verdict: Quite like the biggest opening for a movie streaming on Disney-Hotstar platform and a ridiculously high 9.8/10 rating on IMDB, the memory of Sushant Singh Rajput lords over everything in the film. And for that reason alone, you might want to watch his swansong. It helps that he is his usual good.