Dil Bechara is a fairly faithful remake of the 2014 Hollywood drama that was based on John Green’s young adult novel The Fault In Our Stars. Sanjana Sanghi and Sushant Singh Rajput step into the parts played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in the Hindi adaptation scripted by Shashank Khaitan and Suprotim Sengupta.
The film is narrated in a voiceover by Kizie Basu (Sanghi), a college student in Jamshedpur who discovers that it is next to impossible to resist the infectious energy, spirit and persistence of Immanuel Rajkumar Junior (Sushant Singh Rajput). Manny, as he is known, is equally taken by the college student whose constant companion is “Pushpinder”, her oxygen tank.
The courtship soon turns to romance as they bond at the cancer support group to which they belong, share movies and music, and embark on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure. (However, a contemporary young couple’s caution over kissing does seem improbable.)
First-time director Mukesh Chhabra sidesteps histrionics and schmaltz. What makes the characters truly likable is that while these young people may be living with terminal illnesses, the last thing they want is sympathy and pity.
AR Rahman’s soundtrack maps the courtship, the highs and lows, and the journey from Jamshedpur to Paris and back. The title track is not just hummable but also wonderfully choreographed by Farah Khan and executed by Rajput. Sahil Vaid plays Manny’s bestie JP, who is fervently filming a movie days before he possibly loses vision in his remaining good eye.
Sanjana Sanghi is impressive as the teenager realistic about the fragility of life and yet willing to be swept away by Manny’s spontaneity. Manny wants to make the most of every moment he has left, and Rajput’s performance bursts with that fullness. He’s enigmatic as he turns on the boyish charm and vulnerable during the inevitable health crises.
Swastika Mukherjee and Saswata Chatterjee, playing Kizie’s parents, solidly straddle the extremes of characters on their own emotional rollercoaster ride.
The 100-minute film, which has been delicately lensed by Setu, is tinged with the inevitability of grief and death. Saif Ali Khan’s special appearance sharply reiterates the impact of a void left by sudden loss. The themes resonate even more, given Rajput’s tragic death by suicide.
As the end credits roll, it is hard not to feel deeply moved by Manny’s voiceover: “We don’t get to decide when we’re born or when we die. But we do get to decide how we live our lives.”