What was meant to be a toast to life and its many gifts suddenly became Sushant Singh Rajput's last hurrah, a this-is-it, a tearful goodbye, feels Sukanya Verma.
Dil Bechara ceased to be a film when Sushant Singh Rajput died.
What was meant to be a toast to life and its many gifts suddenly became a last hurrah, a this-is-it, a tearful goodbye.
Once in a while, lines between reel and real are blurred. I cannot view the film in isolation and not acknowledge the distress his passing has caused.
What are opinions if not emotion? And it is possible to feel emotional about a film even if it is middling.
When I watched Jab Tak Hai Jaan a month after Yash Chopra's death, I wasn't in raptures about his swan song, but the sight of a beloved film-maker in the end credits choked me up.
Dil Bechara is infinitely more difficult to watch.
Seeing Sushant light up every single one of its frames from start to finish, I still cannot believe he is truly gone.
The untimely loss of a delightful talent with promises to keep hits hard in a film where young people are dealing with their impending deaths. Hearing Sushant talk about his pinches and how.
Casting director Mukesh Chhabra gets behind the camera to adapt The Fault in Our Stars. I haven't read John Green's young adult novel inspiring it, but the Hollywood movie's charismatic leads (Ansel Elgort, Shailene Woodley) and caustic wit are the only thing that appealed to me when things got too weepie.
When you are a certain age, the idea of romanticising death and illness is oddly attractive.
As a 20 year old, I wrote a short story, a formulaic romantic triangle between a dying girl full of self-doubt, her humorous best friend and a handsome charmer who sweeps her off her feet. Glorious adventures, grand heartbreak, the works -- there is something poetic about lessons of life in death.
But as you grow old, you get too busy fulfilling its obligations to dwell on the fragility of life.
Still in college, Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) and Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny (Sushant Singh Rajput) are untouched by the cynicism of grownup experiences. But they know the feeling of suffering only too well.
Connected by cancer whose burden they uncomplainingly carry -- her oxygen cylinder nicknamed Pushpinder, his prosthetic leg -- a gentle bond blossoms between the two in a city known for its steel.
They show quite a bit of it in their spine by rarely evoking pity for their ailing state.
Manny is an enthusiastic Rajnikant fan and wants to cast her as the leading lady of his amateur movie (more Me and Earl and The Dying Girl than The Fault in Our Stars) while Kizie's ardour for a yesteryear singer (Saif Ali Khan) and his unfinished song compels Manny to look him up.
Drop by if ever in Paris, comes the reply. When life is literally too short, trips to Europe are easy to come by.
Chaperoned by Kizie's mum, the duo arrives in no time and promptly wash off the disappointment of meeting a callous idol in person with typical touristy activities in the city of lights.
The said scene makes for chilling hindsight given the things Saif says to Sushant -- so prophetic, so disturbing in how things came to be.
An actor as comfortable in his guile as when he is good, Saif Ali Khan's cameo adds a welcome punch to the proceedings.
Sushant's charm and Sanjana's naivete come in good supply, but Chhabra's ineptitude shows in how he builds their romance.
The coyness of their interactions highlights strange intimacy issues whereas A R Rahman's lilting soundtrack is poorly fitted into a narrative whose sights and sounds aren't in complete harmony.
A cheerful song plays on while Manny and Kizie make a movie, their common cancer buddy (Sahil Vaid) suffers a relapse and the show goes on; the heavy-handed manner is hard to miss.
The same dissonance surfaces every time Kizie's Bengali family decides to engage in ethnic tokenism and chatter away in their mother tongue.
Adapted by Shashank Khaitan and Suprotim Sengupta, the wobbly writing throws up awkward lines '(Tumhari virginity toh safe hai?') and humour that doesn't always land (Rajni Aavat Hai Sapney Jagavat Hai). None of the thinly sketched characters of its supporting cast, be it the lovely Saswata Chatterjee or nimble Swastika Mukherjee, are allowed to become more than representational figures.
But that sweet, unfeigned air about Sanjana Sanghi and Sushant's willingness to submit himself to Manny's idealism and bravado helps Dil Bechara to hold the fort.
If his moment of breakdown is heartbreaking to look at, his suggestion for closure is deeply appreciated.
'Can we just pretend I'm not dying? Main kahin nahin ja raha,' he says.
I think so too.
Dil Bechara streams on Disney + Hotstar.