Warning: Spoilers ahead
Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film Dil Bechara released on Disney+Hotstar on July 24, and has left fans quite emotional. Also starring Sanjana Sanghi as Kizie, the film has Sushant playing an osteosarcoma (bone cancer) survivor by the name of Immanuel Rajkumar Junior, aka, Manny, a goofy, charming and happy-go-lucky guy who starts dating Kizie.
Interestingly Manny’s character has a deep connection with the south – his love for Rajinikanth. Manny's grandmother speaks to him briefly in Tamil but there isn't much else to suggest that Manny is a Tamilian. However, his love for Rajinikanth is quite clearly on display.
In fact, Manny’s introduction in Dil Bechara is him grooving to the iconic music that comes with the Superstar title card in Rajinikanth films. Fans know the visuals and music as cue to break into a frenzy as the blue dots form ’Super Star’ on the screen, followed by RAJNI in gold, with the funky drums and “Hey! Hey!” in the background score.
In the film, Sushant's introduction scene has him dancing to this score on the street, between parked vehicles. When his friend asks him if people in Jamshedpur – where Dil Bechara is set – will understand Rajinikanth’s 'song', Sushant, donning dark shades and lots of sass, says that they are just taking the Thalaiva’s blessings (the actual title is 'Thalaivar') with this and will give the ‘prasad’ in Hindi only.
This friend of Sushant’s, JP played by Sahil Vaid, is from Bihar, and wants to make a film before he loses his second eye to surgery for cancer. The film, which will be Bhojpuri, has Manny as the hero, and is called, ‘Rajni Aawat Hai, Sapne Jagawat Hai’ – translating to ‘Rajni comes and enlivens dreams’.
Manny then introduces himself and says that he loves Rajinikanth, and wants to be like him. “I want to become just like Rajini sir. I want to beat up the villain, save the heroine, die for her,” he says passionately.
Real life fans would know that this plotline is not at all typical of a Rajinikanth film, but then Bollywood has for long had a very simplistic understanding of the superstar.
As the film unfolds, we see a comical mix of JP directing this Bhojpuri film with a mustached Manny as the hero and Kizie as the helpless heroine. Manny does do all of the above things – like fighting off the bad guys in the shoot, saving the heroine and so on. In another scene, Manny jokingly says, “The problem with today’s artists is that they start things but don’t finish them. Look at Rajini sir, he starts one thing, and finishes two!”
We also see Kizie watching Rajinikanth films in order to get closer to Manny, much to the latter’s delight.
One of the most memorable things about The Fault in Our Stars, the John Green book on which Dil Bechara is based, was the “Okay?” “Okay.” dialogue between the protagonists. Kizie and Manny adapt it to the Tamil word for OK – Seri. As they say “seri” to each other, Kizie declares that “seri” is the couple’s word from now on.
Rajinikanth makes yet another appearance in a sad scene, wherein Manny is in a theatre watching Kabali and calls Kizie to come pick him up because he is in pain. As the ‘Ulagam Oruvanukka’ song plays in celebration of Kabali being released from prison and Rajinikanth introduced, we see that for Manny, the end is near.
Ultimately, Manny does complete the shoot for the film ‘Rajni Aawat Hai, Sapne Jagawat Hai’, but towards the end, he is more himself than trying to emulate the Superstar.
Dil Bechara is directed by Mukech Chhabra, has music by AR Rahman and lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya.