A young star gone too soon, starring in a story about the ephemeral nature of life — it’s almost poetic. With its moving performances, Dil Bechara, Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film, will hopefully provide the sort of closure that the country, still reeling from his death, is looking for.
Based on John Green’s book, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, Dil Bechara is the story of a young couple looking for the silver lining around the dark cloud that is cancer. Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi in her debut) is a college student, an introvert and loner, who also happens to have thyroid cancer, which forces her to rely on an oxygen tank to breathe. Her quiet life is disrupted one day when she comes face to face with Immanuel Rajkumar Junior or Manny (Rajput), who graduated from her college a few years ago and is a cancer survivor. His over-the-top antics and love for everything Bollywood annoys Kizie in the beginning, but as a fascinated Manny pursues her, she softens towards him. The two fall in love, only to be rudely reminded of the inevitability of a terminal disease.
The story, largely, stays true to its origins and the Hollywood adaptation of it — with some Bollywood touches, of course. But the Indianised version actually works well in telling a short, sad story. What disappoints is the writing, which is just not substantial. The characters, while likeable, are not fleshed out with sufficient backstories or character arcs. Many scenarios and secondary characters appear without introduction or explanation. For instance, the opening scenes show Kizie attending a stranger’s funeral — something, it is hinted, she does often. But the habit is not referred to again, nor is it explained. This is tragic as it would have actually provided some much-needed depth to the character and story.
On the plus side, the film is short and crisp, and does not linger too much anywhere. The dramatic scenes are perfectly timed, just long enough to tug at your heartstrings, but not long enough to become boring or cringeworthy. The fresh young romance between Kizie and Manny is also shown well. A young couple in love, grinning over silly things and not being able to stay away from each other makes you smile and feel all the same butterflies in your stomach. This, of course, is largely due to Rajput and Sanghi’s performances, too.
Despite a lack of character motivation, the leading pair deliver a convincing performance. Rajput clearly sank his teeth into Immanuel’s character and his earnest efforts show through — he is the ever-laughing, jovial and bright Manny through and through. Sanghi, too, gives a good performance as the hesitant, shy but fun Kizie. Saswata Chatterjee and Swastika Mukherjee, as Kizie’s protective, loving parents, give us a realistic and refreshing portrayal of Indian parents without going over the top.
While we all know the story, the film still manages to touch your heart with its frank and lovely tone. It doesn’t overdo anything, and with that, acts like a much-needed balm to the grief we all experienced last month. Watch it.
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