It is difficult to watch Dil Bechara without the tragic death of the lead Sushant Singh Rajput always at the back of the mind. More so, since it has turned out to be more a tribute to the talented actor than a movie like any other to watch, review, rate.
Mukesh Chhabra’s official remake of The Fault In Our Stars, which was based on John Green’s best-selling YA novel, had a winning template to go by, and he made changes that do not add to the story in any way; rather add a touch of hamminess the romance between two terminally ill youngsters.
In Hindi cinema practically everything that could have been said about living life to the fullest was achieved by Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s masterpiece, Anand. There have been other films like Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se, Mili, Yaad Rakhegi Duniya, about cancer-afflicted leads—Erich Segal’s mushy Love Story and its movie version, being the main inspirations.
To Chhabra’s credit, Dil Bechara is not an overdone tearjerker. Of course, there is a sense of gloom underpinning the love story, but also that breezy joie de vivre that Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny (Rajput) brings to the screen. The way Rajput played Manny, he made guy look sweet and funny even in the stalker-ish bits, even when a line has to be added to explain why a 24-year-old is still in college or when he is asked why he doesn’t have a job.
The audience is not given any background about Manny—nothing about the odd name, the wealth that allows him to skip working, the troubled relationship with his father just vaguely hinted at. He is the male version of the manic pixie that is usually the domain of young girls in romantic movies. The leg amputated due to cancer does not slow him down in the least—he is introduced with a quite unnecessary college dance number, and saddled with a Rajinikant obsession.
Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi—charmingly fresh-faced) suffers from thyroid cancer that necessitates lugging around an oxygen cylinder she has named Pushpinder. Her parents (Swastika Mukherjee-Saswata Chatterjee) are written as generic strict mom-indulgent dad, whose anguish at their daughter’s condition is glossed over.
The film is set in Jamshedpur, where Kizie has moved with her parents from Zambia; she would have been depressed and lonely but for Manny deciding to teach her that life is worth living. In the original, the girl is obsessed by an author who left a book incomplete; Kizie is crazy about a musician who left a song unfinished. She wants to go to Paris to meet him (Amsterdam in the original), though here there are no money issues here (in the book and Hollywood film, they had to struggle to raise money for the trip.
The Paris sequences are lovely even though the meeting with the musician is a disaster (Saif Ali Khan in a thankless cameo), and the feeling of melancholy gets stronger as Manny suffers a relapse. (AR Rahman’s music captures the mood).
Manny and his best buddy JP (Sahil Vaid) have been shooting a film before ocular cancer takes away his sight. The film they shoot with Manny and Kizie is ridiculously cheesy, but turns out to be a lump-in-the-throat moment, because of Rajput’s heartbreaking death. The import of the message Manny leaves behind: “Janam kab lena hai aur marna kab hai yeh hum decide nahi kar sakte, lekin kaise jeena hai woh toh hum decide kar sakte hai” is not lost on the star’s fans, or the millions of moviegoers who never knew him, but sincerely mourned a bright talent gone too soon.