Synopsis – The emotional journey of two hopelessly in love youngsters, a young girl, Kizie, suffering from cancer, and a boy, Manny, who she meets at a support group.
My Take – When it was announced back in mid-2014, that Fox Star Studios would be producing an Indian remake of the massively successful Josh Boone directed 2014 film, The Fault In Our Stars, which itself was an adaption of author John Green’s 2012 novel, it didn’t exactly seem like a confounded idea.
After all Hindi films have been mainly known for their penchant for melodrama and given that the YA property possessed one of the sappiest story lines to occur on screen, success was no doubt guaranteed.
However, never would have anyone thought that six years down the line that the particular film would soar into something else, something marked by such profound sadness and terrible acrimony, after all it marks the final film for 34 year old actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
An actor I had followed and admired since his stint on the television soap opera Pavitra Rishta, to his feature debut (Kai Po Che!) who within a span of seven years went through his fair share of hits (Shuddh Desi Romance, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kedarnath) and misses (Raabta, Drive) yet derived massive acclaim and fan following for being non apprehensive about riskier projects (Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, Sonchiriya).
An actor, who in my opinion, would always be remembered as a cult figure of Hindi cinema on the lines of someone like James Dean.
Hence as this is his last venture, it has made an already emotional film even more emotional. While The Fault In Our Stars may not have been the most profound or beautifully written treatise on death, but it was certainly poignant in its own way, and had an energy that one would not expect from such a morbid theme, plus the presence of the ever likable Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as its protagonists, made the film very moving and highly entertaining.
Thankfully, Mukesh Chhabra, an ace casting director who is also marking his directorial debut here, and writers Shashank Khaitan and Suprotim Sengupta maintain that element in the remake. Especially with Sushant‘s character who is infused with such infectious energy that he literally wants to take hold of every moment of the day, all the while highlighting its underlying message of celebrating life despite knowing the unavoidable fate they may be heading towards. And given its sensitive premise, the more stoic might last till the final scene before dissolving in tears but most viewers will be sniffling their way through, I know I did.
Set in a small town, the story follows Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi), an introvert college student who chooses to live a quiet life with her parents (Saswata Chatterjee and Swastika Mukherjee), mainly as she is suffering from thyroid cancer and is forced to carry an oxygen tank with her at all times. Kizie doesn’t dream big and just wants to live a normal life, however the tediousness of everyday life continues to weaken her morally, with a single hope that she will get to meet her favorite musician, Abhimanyu Veer (Saif Ali Khan), keeping her going before her time comes.
However, her life is disrupted when she comes face to face with Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny (Sushant Singh Rajput), who graduated from her college a few years ago and is himself a survivor of osteosarcoma. Despite wearing an artificial limb, Manny, a Rajnikanth fan remains jovial at every given hour and leaves no chance to slide in a filmy dialogue or two all in the hopes of pursuing her.
While Kizie is initially annoyed by his antics, she gradually begins to soften towards him, with love even coming into play. But as fate has it, they are soon reminded of the inevitability of a terminal disease.
As I mentioned above, the film is a highly emotionally and the absence of Sushant Singh Rajput in real time makes it a hard watch. It makes you smile, laugh, scream and cry, all in the short run-time of 101 minutes. Even for those who have neither read the book nor watched the Hollywood adaptation, the makings of a tragic love story are all there.
Being a remake it largely, stays true to its Hollywood origins with some Bollywood touches, of course. But the Indianized version actually works well on its own, mainly as the dramatic scenes are perfectly timed, just long enough to tug at your heartstrings, but not long enough to turn cringe worthy. Despite having read the book and seen the 2014 film, I found myself rooting for the young couple. 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 making you smile and feel all the same butterflies in your stomach.
The morbidity of the premise is also leavened somewhat by Manny’s determined silliness as he ropes Kizie in for a zero-budget film he’s making with with his friend, Jagdish “JP” Pandey (Sahil Vaid), which adds on to the humor.
AR Rahman‘s music is also quite a standout here, as delivers one of the finest albums of the year. The chart-buster songs enhances the visuals a notch high and the background score organically strengthens both the happy and emotional sequences.
Yes, like the original, the writing tends to get overwrought at times, especially when it comes to the characters. 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 which she does often. But the habit is not referred to again, nor called out for being abnormal. This is tragic as it would have actually provided some much-needed depth to the character and story.
Nevertheless the performances are exceptional. Sushant Singh Rajput, the stellar performer he always, never lets you take your eyes off him, even for a second. He gets completely into the skin of the character as he plays the fun and outgoing Manny with ease in the first half, and then reverses it with an emotionally drained version in the second. Watching him charm all through the run time is heartbreaking considering in real life he was supposedly suffering from depression. What could have been yet another tremendous performance added to his brief stint in Hindi cinema, ended up being the last time we see him performing on screen.
Making her debut in a full-fledged role, Sanjana Sanghi, too gives a splendid performance. She oozes confidence throughout and aces the romantic scenes and is even better in the emotional ones. Her performance is nuanced and she is the key driver of the story.
In supporting roles, 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 Sahil Vaid is very natural and provides the most emotional moment of the film. Saif Ali Khan too leave a great impact in his cameo. On the whole, ‘Dil Bechara’ is an emotional roller-coaster that will make you laugh, smile, and even shed a few tears. You will be deeply missed Sushant Singh Rajput!
Directed – Mukesh Chhabra
Rated – NR
Run Time – 101 minutes