I took a pledge to separate the art from the artist before I started watching Mukesh Chhabra’s ‘Dil Bechara’. Thankfully, I didn’t have to make any efforts to accomplish that objective because Sushant Singh Rajput’s charm and vulnerability as Manny enchanted one to escape into the world where lovers never live happily ever after. However, by the end of the film, real-life scars creep into the reel-life scenes making you sob inconsolably.
Based on ‘The Fault in our Stars’, a best-selling 2012 Novel written by John Green. Dil Bechara is its Hindi film adaptation which stars Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput and Sanjana Sanghi. Although the movie is set in Jamshedpur, many of the events, shots or even the dialogues are literally the same as the book. The movie follows the journey of Kizzie Basu (played by Sanjana) who is struggling in a losing battle with cancer. She wishes to live a normal life where she can do all the normal things that a young person does within her transient life. At one point she says, “Hero banne ke liye popular nahi hona padta, Woh real life mein bhi hote hai”. She also has an urge to meet her favourite song-writer Abhimanyu Veer to ask about the last unfinished song he wrote. Manny, who is a die-hard Rajnikant fan, on the other hand, wants to live an extraordinary life, a life of a ‘hero’ to be remembered. On their quest to fulfill their aims together, they go through a heart-wrenching journey of love and sorrow which can weld tears in one’s eyes while also leaving a broad grin which is as eternal as the protagonists’ spirit to live.
Despite the film dealing with the subject of death, it doesn’t cater to melodrama just for the sake of the audience to empathize. It is truly narrated with the perspective of its leading actors who know that they will die soon. Take the moment when Manny and Kizzie are in Church where prayers for one of the dead cancer patients from their mutual cancer patient support group were being offered. We don’t hear sad background music but instead, the scenes jump to a comedic moment to make viewers understand the dichotomy of life. Manny’s friend JP (played brilliantly by Sahil Vaid) who is also a cancer patient is at the brink of losing eyesight but is the most cheerful character in the film as he has internalized his situation and embraced his disability. Hence, you shall not find him making sad statements about being blind. To adapt the story into an Indian background, some changes have also been constructed like Kizzie’s mother (Swastika Mukherjee) being highly conservative, Manny’s obsession for Rajnikant films or JP’s obsession to make a film before he completely turns blind.
What comes across as flaws are some of the dialogues. There is once an absurd exchange of thoughts between Manny and Kizzie’s father on “Silliness or being silly”. The anaphora comes across as completely bizarre. Also, there has been no emphasis on the character development of Manny. We actually get no idea about his family including background (only once we see his parents) we get in the book. His ambition to do something extraordinary like a ‘hero’ is only mentioned twice throughout the course of the film but there is no closure to that. The character of JP that is very essential to the story often comes across as a sidekick. Another problem that appeared in the first few scenes was when Manny met Kizzie for the first time in the same old Hindi film manoeuvre of hero chasing down the girl. In those scenes, Manny comes across as crass and there seems to be no redeeming quality about him.
Director Mukesh Chhabra had some really great material at his hands but he couldn’t delve completely into the nuances of the novel. A lot of the subplots aren’t given any conclusion and apart from Kizzie’s character, no other character is given enough space to breathe. The length of the film is around 1 hr 40 mins which is a relief but quite less for a film that plays with such layers of storytelling. It was often felt that some of the scenes were deliberately removed. But, the reason this Hindi adaptation works is that it only focuses on two leading characters and does justice to their story.
Sushant Singh Rajput is at his best and adds up so much to his character in a way that the screenplay couldn’t. This is one of his best performances in a film, he leaves a legacy with Dil Bechara which will prod people to regret the loss of a talented individual. Sanjana Sanghi is the life of the film as she delivers her breakthrough award-winning performance in which she makes each of her expressions count. Sahil Vaid as JP is highly impressive and shines in most of his scenes especially in his final scene delivering eulogy. Swastika Mukherjee as Kizzie’s mother also leaves a profound impact and will grab your attention through her impeccable acting chops. Saswata Chatterjee as Kizzie’s father shows a range of emotions in a way the veterans do but unlike the original, his character doesn’t get any closure or moments to steal.
Music by A. R. Rehman goes with the tonality of the scenes. The background score never seems to interfere or stand out in a scene which is the biggest victory as often in Hindi films, the music becomes jarring which distracts the audience. Songs drive the narrative forward and don’t stall the storyline. The camerawork is brilliant and there are a lot of long single takes which adds realism into this reel-world. The editing is really sharp, keeping you hooked to the story and some of the scenes which are not in the original film due to cultural specificity create heartwarming moments. As the movie culminates to its end, the movie becomes an emotional ride where every second hammers an impact. Debutante director Mukesh Chhabra doesn’t make a perfect film but he proves to be an effective storyteller.
People witnessing this story for the first time will be highly impressed but the ones who have already seen or read ‘The Fault in our Stars’ will remain sceptical about the film. The movie opens with a quote by Sushant which reads, “Perhaps, the difference between what is miserable, and that, which is spectacular, lies in the leap of faith”. Dil Bechara is that leap of faith taken by the makers and despite its flaws, what makes it spectacular is Sushant himself. Not because of the sentiment attached but because of the possibility of him being alive to deliver many such performances in future. However, the universe conspired a different plan to immortalise him. Embellish him in our memories like the last frame of the movie which has Sushant, his captivating smile and those effervescent eyes.