Sushant Singh Rajput And Sanjana Sanghi’s ‘Dil Bechara’ Made Me Sad, But For A Very Different Reason
I vividly remember reading John Green’s tearjerker of a bestseller, The Fault In Our Stars (TFIOS) and watching the movie starring Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley, within 24 hours. I’d avoided the book and the movie for so long, because I knew it would make me bawl like a baby. And it did, more than I’d like to admit. After losing Sushant Singh Rajput the way we did, I knew that watching him in a Bollywood remake of TFIOS would be ten times more emotional and tearful. Unfortunately, Mukesh Chhabra’s film, which also stars Sanjana Sanghi in her debut performance, didn’t make me cry. At all. Instead, it made me sad for very different reasons.
Before we talk about those reasons, here’s what Dil Bechara is all about. And this is for those who, like me, avoided watching the movie because the thought of losing SSR on reel again would’ve been devastating to our mental health. No, I’d like to remember him as Chhichhore’s Anni always, a loser with a fighting spirit, who not only raised himself out of the pits but his son too. Nevertheless, here goes….
What’s Dil Bechara about?
Dil Bechara is the story of two 20-something cancer patients in Jamshedpur. Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) has a mundane life, but not a normal one. She has thyroid cancer, and her life is an endless cycle of being overprotected by her mom, popping pills and attending strangers’ funerals because their pain is a constant reminder of what she’ll be putting her parents through when she dies. Her only respite are the songs of a faceless singer called Abhimanyu Veer, who left his last song incomplete. ‘Main Tumhara’ is Kizie’s obsession, because she thinks it resembles her incomplete life.
Enter Immanuel Rajkumar Jr., aka Manny (Sushant Singh Rajput)—a Rajinikanth fan, an attention seeker, and knows just how to work a room. When he dances or jumps around, you barely notice the slight limp from his mechanical leg, a parting gift from a tryst with osteosarcoma, which is now in remission. Manny is helping his BFF, and fellow cancer patient (glaucoma), JP (Sahil Vaid), make a Bhojpuri film. With his oozing charm, filmy dialogues and joie de vivre, he convinces Kizie to become their heroine.
Manny is the storm that upends Kizie’s life, but in a way that puts back the pieces of her youth that her illness had scattered away. He takes her to prom, jokes with her to make her laugh, turns the movie into a passion project they can have fun doing, and gives her a taste of first love. Kizie, in turn, introduces Manny to her favourite Abhimanyu Veer song. An initially reluctant Manny eventually becomes obsessed with it, and is as eager to get the song finished. With slightly better financial resources and a determination, Manny manages to find Veer and get himself and Kizie invited to Paris.
Battling a lot of odds due to their illness and their doctor’s and parental disapproval, the two (chaperoned by Kizie’s Mom) make it to Paris. And here, a cynical Veer (Saif Ali Khan) is practically cruel to their face, telling them that their story has no hope and will remain incomplete because one of them is going to die, leaving the other in eternal agony.
Manny promises Kizie that not Veer, but instead he will finish the song for her. Unfortunately, Veer’s prediction comes true too soon when, after an intimate evening, Manny reveals to Kizie that his PET scan report indicates his cancer is back in full force. The final moments of the film capture Manny’s last days, Kizie’s helplessness, and both of them keeping the promises they made to each other, that they’ll always be Seri (Tamil for okay).
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Why didn’t Dil Bechara make me cry?
I watched Dil Bechara with my mother. And the first words she said after the film got over were, “It was a nice movie, no?” I didn’t know what to tell her. Yes, I agree, it was nice, sweet, made me smile and laugh. But why didn’t it make me cry? Why wasn’t I sobbing silently, or at least having wet eye corners after watching Sushant Singh Rajput’s curtain call? Why was I, unlike other people on my timeline, posting tributes on my social media to let the world know I watched the movie and I ‘loved’ it? After considering all options, I realised the only plausible explanation that made sense to me was that while the film was okay, The Fault In Our Stars was better with its storytelling and emotional impact.
Naturally, I didn’t feel safe voicing my opinion about it. I mean, I could do it by creating a fake account which didn’t reveal my gender, and therefore wouldn’t make me susceptible to abuse and rape threats for my dissent. After all, I am a ‘critic’ here, and they’re not having a good moment right now, are they? They’d think I was an ‘ass-licker’ of the nepotism gang, or that I had an agenda for saying the movie wasn’t exactly remarkable. Forget all that, how could I do that to the memory of Sushant? Would I be frowned upon, considered a cold-hearted b***h for saying that the film didn’t move me? Or a snob for saying the Hollywood version was better?
But then I thought, screw that. I’d take a leaf out of Manny’s book and speak my heart candidly. Life’s too short for regrets, right?
Dil Bechara was a nice movie. Sushant Singh Rajput lit up every scene he was in. Barring a few serious films like Sonchiriya, Dhoni and Detective Byomkesh Bakshi, SSR has almost always played characters have are best described as cheerleaders—charming, adorable, brimming with life and ready to take on challenges, romantic or otherwise, head on. Manny was pretty much a custom SSR role, TBH. I loved his performance, without the least bit of doubt that I would.
But it was the other actors’ performances that surprised me—Sanjana Sanghi’s debut act was pretty decent, I thought. Someone remarked on the bizarre coincidence that all the core actors in the film had names starting with S. Sahil Vaid’s JP was on point as the BFF providing comic relief and a well delivered gut punch in the climax. Swastika Mukherjee as Kizie’s overprotective mother was just adorable, especially after she began warming up to Manny. And you remember Bob Biswas, the assassin from Kahani, don’t you? Watching him play a loving (and concerned) Bengali father to Kizie, and a friend to Manny, was heartwarming in so many ways.
A.R. Rahman’s music added a mellow, bittersweet touch to the story. But it didn’t touch my heart like Rahman music has previously. I didn’t have much complaints about any other aspect of the film, except perhaps the direction and dialogues. I felt the scenes were rushed somehow, not letting the emotions properly sink in for the viewer. I know that the Hollywood version had the advantage of being in the same language as the book, which made it easy to lift quotes from the book and insert directly into the movie, with no impact lost in translation. But I still felt that Dil Bechara’s dialogues didn’t hit me like they should’ve. Kizie and Manny, like Hazel Grace and Augustus, were both profound people; and yet, even in the funeral scene, their words felt didn’t touch me. My eyes were dry and the emotion wasn’t boiling up.
If you want further proof, as I did, go ahead and watch the scene where Kizie and Manny meet Saif Ali Khan’s Abhimanyu Veer, who cruelly disappoints them. And then go watch The Fault In Our Stars’ corresponding scene, with Willem Dafoe. And the following scene where Gus and Hazel visit the Anne Frank House and share a moment. The latter gave me goosebumps even in this second viewing; the former felt incomplete and a little badly written.
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Seri? Not Seri.
When I considered watching Dil Bechara, I was worried that maybe my judgement would be clouded by all the emotional hype that the movie was being put through. As an artist and creator myself, I know that while praise and appreciation matters, if it sounds even 1% fake, an artist can immediately drown in self-doubt. What bothered me, angered me even, was how we were treating Dil Bechara as this crucial piece of Sushant Singh Rajput’s legacy. Like if this film didn’t get loved by all, we’d be dishonouring his memory somehow. Even before the movie was released, I watched as his peers and fans alike began asking critics to not review the movie because they thought a lower rating would be insulting to SSR.
I would request to all the respected film critics to kindly give an exception to #DilBechara & please consider this film as a tribute to #SushantSinghRajput and let’s celebrate this together
— Nawazuddin Siddiqui (@Nawazuddin_S) July 25, 2020
I recall when Angrezi Medium came out, and we were all drowned with emotion because of Irrfan Khan’s health. And yet, critics (some) were able to objectively review his movie, without any fear of being persecuted on social media. He passed a little more than a month after, and it didn’t change anything about the movie. In fact, if anything, he’s remembered more by his other, more illustrious works like Lunchbox, The Namesake, and Paan Singh Tomar. Why, then, can’t we do the same for Sushant Singh Rajput? Why do we have to pretend that it took him giving his life up for us to appreciate his work? Let’s not forget that the same audience that worships him now did not buy tickets to Sonchiriya and Byomkesh Bakshi. The critics, on the other hand, upheld both those films as above average works of cinema and ‘must watch’.
Are we also not doling out a fair bit of injustice by not talking about Sanjana Sanghi’s debut? Good or bad, her performance is now overshadowed by people’s love for SSR. Mind you, this is another new entrant in Bollywood who is going to need audience’s honest feedback if she wants to make it big in the industry.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Honesty is so vehemently discouraged! We’re dishonest in our politics, and look where that’s got us, a bunch of people surrounded by ‘yes men’ are governing us, and being told everything they do is right. The same is rampant in Bollywood, where no one can tell the Khans, Kapoors and Johars and Chopras that they’ve lost their purpose and are churning out bad content. By catering to these ideas, are we then trying to become these ‘yes men’? Isn’t awards and praise for the heck of it what we were trying to discourage? When next year, Dil Bechara wins awards for simply its emotional hype over movies that actually had good writing, acting and music, will that be justified? Or will that be hypocrisy, considering Sushant is being portrayed as a victim of this very system?
Here I am, saying that Dil Bechara was an okay movie, which might not have gotten so many eyeballs had it not been for the unfortunate incident that preceded its release. I still think Sushant Singh Rajput is a pretty good actor and I regret his loss to depression. Throughout Dil Bechara, I felt this dull ache every time I saw him smile on screen, and the final scenes were a not-so-gentle reminder that I’d never see him do this ever again. The eerie coincidence of his and his character’s fates is that elephant in the room that’ll never not be difficult to address. But I won’t do Sushant a bigger dishonour by sugarcoating or being vague about his film. They’ve said he was a man of science, and something tells me he’d appreciate hard truths more than fake emotions. I loved Chhichhore, and it made me cry even when nobody was dying, in reel or real.
Good art comes from greater discourse about it. So let’s give art what it is owed. Otherwise, we’ll be left with a certain bhai’s films, which are terrible filmmaking, get trashed by critics, but still join the 100 crore club because of his fans’ emotions.
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- Saif Ali Khan
- Sushant Singh Rajput
- Dil Bechara
- Sanjana Sanghi
- Mukesh Chhabra
- Swastika Mukherjee
- Saswata Chatterjee
- Sahil Vaid
Sharp-tongued feminist. Proud nerd. Opinions with on-point pop-culture references about films, books, your toxic BF, the patriarchy, and the Oxford comma.