“Life is short, art eternal” - this translation of a Latin aphorism completely encapsulates the life of Sushant Singh Rajput. From ‘Pavitra Rishta' to ‘Dil Bechara', the art of this wonderfully talented and gifted actor is forever with us and it gives us no right to mention his art in the past tense. His passing has certainly left a huge void not only in the film industry, but also in the hearts of his countless admirers. However, it goes without saying that he will eternally be with us with his gamut of incredible films and performances.
As I try to be objective about Dil Bechara - Rajput's swansong - I find it extremely difficult to put down coherent sentences after watching the actor charm me with his goofiness for nearly an hour and thirty minutes, one last time. Nevertheless, let me leave it up to the readers as to whether I've managed to write an impartial review.
Based on John Green's popular 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars, Shashank Khaitan and Suprotim Sengupta have tailored it for the taste of the Indian audiences. Here, Hazel Grace is Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) and Augustus Waters is Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny (Rajput).
Basu is fighting thyroid cancer and Manny has previously suffered from osteosarcoma. The two, poles apart from each other, meet at a college fest in Jamshedpur. He enters her life dancing and mimicking Rajnikanth's suave moves. Her melancholic life finds the much needed sunshine. But if you've read the book, you know an inevitable tragedy is about to strike the lovebirds.
In the book, Hazel is obsessed with a novel called An Imperial Affliction and wants to meet the author Peter Van Houten who has abruptly ended it mid-sentence. In Dil Bechara, Kizze is madly in love with a singer Abhimanyu Veer (Saif Ali Khan) who has disappeared after his incomplete album became a hit. Manny fulfils her dream of meeting the singer on their once-in-a-lifetime trip to the mesmerising Paris. Despite finding Veer uncharacteristically loud and arrogant, Manny manages to bring a smile on to her face and the two fall head over heels in love with each another. The two also act in a cute little film together for Manny's close friend whose dream is to direct a film before losing his eyesight to cancer. Along the course of the movie, Manny (or Rajput in a way) not only teaches her to seize every moment of the day but gives us the same message too.
Two scenes stand out in the film. On a rainy night, Kizie's father (Saswata Chatterjee) and Manny sit on a swing discussing the uncertainties of life over bottles of beer. It hasn't been a bed of roses for either of them, but both put on a brave face and carry on with their lives each day. In another scene, Manny organises a preview funeral for himself at a church. The only attendees are his ladylove Kizzie and best friend Jagdish. Be sure to keep a handkerchief around when the scene comes on the screen.
On the acting front, Sushant Singh Rajput plays the vulnerable and effervescent Manny with depth and sensitivity. Sanjana Sanghi holds her ground amid stellar actors like Rajput, Saswata Chatterjee and Swastika Mukherjee. Equally at ease in the emotional scenes, no other actor in recent times has shown such spark and confidence in his/her debut outing.
If one has to point out the follies of the film, AR Rahman's music certainly didn't touch my soul. The music maestro rarely gets it wrong, and this was that once in a blue moon occasion. A couple of songs Taare Ginn and Khulke Jeena Ka are decent, but I yearn for a better album from the Oscar winner ever since 2011's magical ‘Rockstar'. Also, debut director Mukesh Chhabra falls short of a perfect home run. Particular scenes, beautifully written in the book, did not translate well on screen (e.g.: the scene in which Manny explains why he carries a cigarette with him even though he never smokes). The film looks like a patchwork of some beautifully shot scenes. It lacks a ‘binding factor' which I certainly believe Rahman's music could have been that and propelled the film to be more impactful.
However, these minor slips won't deter you from letting go your emotions for Sushant Singh Rajput. As he amazingly puts it, "Perhaps the difference between what is miserable, and that which is spectacular, lies is a leap of faith."
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Sanjana Sanghi, Saswata Chatterjee, Swastika Mukherjee
Director: Mukesh Chhabra
Streaming Platform: Disney Hotstar
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)