On any other Saturday morning I would have sat down to write about a film I just watched with an analytical gaze, creating a list of pros and cons in my head, clinically evaluating every aspect of the film and thinking about how to structure my post. If I was writing about Dil Bechara under usual circumstances, I might have went on to weigh it against John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (and its Hollywood adaptation) and drawn comparisons. But now it is impossible to look at Dil Bechara as just another film, right? With the tragic and untimely demise of Sushant Singh Rajput looming large above our heads, this film (which is also about death and dying) feels like it is so much more.
As most of us already know, Dil Bechara is the tale of Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) and Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny (Sushant Singh Rajput), two young individuals who fall in love with each other, even as cancer in its different forms try to play the villain in their lives. With a dreary subject such as this one, there was a potential to make the audience cry buckets, but Dil Bechara stays away from that for the most part – which works both for and against the film.
Dil Bechara has a couple of good things going for it as a film in its own right, with the biggest takeaway being Sanjana Sanghi, who makes a confident foray into cinema in a lead role. She never hits a single false note, and is so earnest that she becomes the one thing that keeps us with the film even when we get overwhelmed with emotions surrounding Sushant’s loss. Not just Sanjana, almost all the actors play their roles with utmost conviction.
The second thing of course, is AR Rahman. This is the first AR Rahman album outside of his associations with Mani Ratnam that I have really enjoyed recently. The film does rely overly on his music to make us feel everything it wants us to feel, but ARR more than delivers. I also liked how an unfinished book from the original becomes an unfinished song here, and the very filmy approach the film takes, because how many things have the power to emotionally manipulate us Indians like music and cinema?
However, almost everything else about the film (the pluses and the minuses both) takes a backseat the moment the lines between reel-life and real-life begin to blur. And that is exactly why Dil Bechara becomes a tough watch. There is so much of the Sushant we know in Manny that it becomes impossible to get immersed in the latter without being reminded of the former. The too-wide goofy grin that melted our hearts, his filmy nature and love for Thalaivar being reminiscent of his real-life SRK-craze, the dancing, the earnestness, that throwaway line about how he is a scientist in NASA, the bit where he says,”I had big dreams, but was not driven enough to fulfill them’ – all these are so Sushant that it made me smile and wince in pain at the same time.
And then of course, it becomes all the more real when the ultimate tragedy begins to play out in the film. Having read the original book, seen the Hollywood film and cried buckets for the latter, I expected to cry much much more this time around with both the reel-life and real-life tragedies merging into one. But I was surprised to find out that I didn’t do more than choke up. Part of it could have been because the film didn’t really give us time to wallow in the reel-life tragedy (which again works both for and against it), but I think a lot of it had to do with something Baradwaj Rangan sir says in his piece about the film. He talks about how the film helped him gain a semblance of closure, because ‘in real life, we never got the opportunity to prepare for his passing. In reel life, Manny knows he’s dying, and the entire arc plays out like it should.’
And I realized that’s what happened with me too. In reality, Sushant’s death hit me quite hard. Whatever crying I needed to do for him, I did it then. But its only now that I realized that the sting of his sudden death was still buried somewhere inside me all this while. It was Dil Bechara which finally helped me let go of that. In a way, it almost felt like the film was Sushant’s gift to us from wherever he is. It was like through this film, he was giving us a chance to relive his death one more time, minus all the suddenness and the shock, so that we can prepare ourselves adequately for it. It helps that Manny was a character who was in love with life, who believed that life is all about how you live it, and not how long you live. It gives some sort of comfort to imagine that it is indeed Sushant saying this through Manny and Dil Bechara; it helps mitigate the tragedy of the fact that in real-life, he did indeed decide when he died. There were certain moments, like the scene where he insists on a preview of his funeral (or perhaps it is me romanticizing everything like I always do) when the entire world around faded until it was just Sushant and us – his fans – as he gave us one more chance to say goodbye, this time properly.
And that is exactly what I did while watching the film and then writing this post. I have now made peace with the fact than an actor whose work I had really enjoyed will no longer entertain me again, but he will always be alive in the work he has left behind in his legacy.
Seri, Sushant Singh Rajput. Hope you are watching us from among the stars you seem to have loved so much, the stars which twinkle as bright as your eyes used to. Thank you for giving us so many memorable films and characters to remember you by. We love you, and we’ll miss you. Hamesha.