‘Dil Bechara’ review: Sushant Singh Rajput puts on his charming best in last film

Sushant Singh Rajput as Manny is lovable in his role of a charming, flirty, happy-go-lucky guy in ‘Dil Bechara.’
A still from Dil Bechara
A still from Dil Bechara
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Watching Dil Bechara is a bittersweet feeling. Sweet, because Sushant Singh Rajput, holds his own as he did throughout his tragically brief stint in Bollywood and makes you smile with his cutesy and goofy ways in the film. And bitter, because this feeling is followed soon by a reminder of his demise and that he won’t be seen on the big screen again.

Before the Mukesh Chhabra film actually begins, we see a black and white clip of Sushant – who died reportedly by suicide at his apartment in Mumbai on June 14, 2020 – playing the guitar, looking happy and smiling. A quote from Sushant appears below it, reading, “Perhaps, the difference between what is miserable, and that which is spectacular, lies in the leap of faith.” And as the film ends, it is perhaps the way one would remember his character, Immanuel Rajkumar Junior, or Manny.

Based on John Green’s bestselling book The Fault in Our Stars, the Sushant Singh-Sanjana Sanghi starrer features the duo as Manny and Kizie. While Manny is a survivor of osteosarcoma (bone cancer), Kizie lives with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs, needing her to carry an oxygen cylinder wherever she goes.

Even for those who have neither read the book nor watched the Hollywood adaptation, the makings of a tragic love story are all there. Debutant Sanjana Sanghi is convincing as Kizie Basu, who is quite the fatalist, knowing that she is living on borrowed time, and worrying about how her death will affect her loved ones. She unexpectedly happens to meet Manny, who takes a liking to her instantly, and is persistent, silly, also quite charming.

It’s easy to see why Kizie, though wary of and annoyed by Manny initially, can’t help but laugh at his antics and be drawn to him, because as a viewer, you feel the same way. Sushant’s energy is infectious in the film, and his character of a goofy, happy-go-lucky guy who won’t give up his witty persuasion tactics ultimately ends up being endearing. He was an actor who played these youthful roles very well, be it the hot-headed but well-meaning Ishaan in Kai Po Che! or mischievous Anirudh in Chhichhore.

Kizie and Manny’s love story has all the moments that make it delightful to watch – it’s cute, it’s flirty, it has the hesitation and helplessness of first love, and it’s full of moments of giggling and laughter – especially in the first half. Sanjana does a good job of portraying the young woman who is getting a glimpse of what it feels like to be ‘normal’ – to have a romantic relationship, and do fun things with friends, but struggles with the uncertainty of her health and the consequences of what will happen when it fails her.

Despite having read the book and knowing what was coming, I found myself rooting for the young couple.

The somewhat disappointing aspect of the film is the last third of it, which feels a bit rushed and less well written, taking away from the impact of the tragedy that is apparent by this time. There were scenes in the second half that I really wanted to feel more from, but could not. Perhaps it is an unfair comparison, but the Hollywood adaptation did a much better job of capturing what happens after a startling revelation is made. I wish Dil Bechara would have done that too, because Sushant and Sanjana could have done justice to it as actors.

While the film is based on the book, there are several things that the film adapts to the Indian context. For instance, Sushant is a fan of Rajinikanth, and wants to emulate him. And so, the iconic "Okay?-Okay" dialogue in the book has been adapted into Tamil — "Seri?-Seri" the characters say in Dil Bechara. Another striking thing is Kizie’s dynamic with her parents, played by Saswata Chatterjee and Swastika Mukherjee. The Fault in Our Stars is in an American setting, where the parents are typically supportive of dating. Dil Bechara, on the other hand, is set in Jamshedpur. It is initially almost unbelievable, but also heartening, to see the depiction of a family where the parents deal with their young, sick daughter, dating, and also being so supportive of it (with a few fun hitches in between). There was more that could have been explored in this dynamic too.

AR Rahman's music is largely sweet and playful, with some songs like 'Taare Ginn' giving some of the most adorable moments between Kizie and Manny. 'Main Tumhara' meanwhile has all the makings of a memorable ballad, with lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya. 

Dil Bechara should have released earlier, but was delayed after Mukesh Chhabra was suspended from direction in 2018 over a Me Too allegation. However, he was cleared after an enquiry. All said, Dil Bechara makes for a poignant way to remember Sushant Singh Rajput’s last performance. A line of his, which had also made fans quite emotional when the trailer came out, perhaps sums it up best: “We cannot decide when we are born and when we die, but we can decide how to live.”

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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