Movie Review: Dil Bechara (The Helpless Heart)

Kizie Basu (Sanjana Sanghi) is a quiet and reserved university student in the Indian city of Jamshedpur. The young woman is a thyroid cancer survivor but the disease has irreparably damaged her lungs, requiring her to be tethered to an oxygen tank that she must take with her wherever she goes. Because she fears that her cancer may come back at any time, she’s unwilling to develop relationships with anyone outside of her immediate family. That all changes when she meets Immanuel “Manny” Rajkumar Junior (Sushant Singh Rajput), a cocky and exuberant young man who takes an immediate shining to her. Manny is a cancer survivor too, having lost one of his legs to osteosarcoma a few years earlier. He’s making a movie with his best friend JP (Sahil Vaid), who is blind in one eye due to glaucoma, and he invites Kizie to be the film’s female lead. The pair bonds over an unfinished song by retired songwriter Abhimanyu Veer (Saif Ali Khan) and Kizie learns that, as Tennyson said, ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because DIL BECHARA is the Indian remake of the 2014 film, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Not surprisingly, a few things besides the location have been changed. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Indian film if it didn’t have a few song and dance numbers and DIL BECHARA has four of them because, when you’re dealing with cancer, you can never have enough OTT moments. In this film though, Manny is more than a few years older than Kizie, which doesn’t seem to be a problem to anyone, least of all Kizie’s father, and the fellow has a stalkerish habit of entering Kizie’s bedroom at night. Also, while the American couple (Hazel and Augustus) bond over their favourite books, Kizie and Manny find their connection in a song. What does that say… that young people’s attention is so fleeting these days that they can’t even focus it long enough to read a book? There is also the difference of money. While Hazel had to forgo a trip to Amsterdam with Augustus due to financial constraints in the family, Kizie and Manny both have plenty of cash to throw around to afford a trip to Paris… with Kizie’s mother in tow because, after all, two single, upstanding Indian people couldn’t travel together without a chaperone. Thankfully, in DIL BECHARA, the couple don’t have their first kiss is a place as inappropriate as the Anne Frank House.

Localisation and a definite lack of teariness aside, DIL BECHARA is still an enjoyable film with good performances all around and confident direction from first-timer Mukesh Chhabra, who is better known in the Indian film industry as a casting director and actor. The film’s score and soundtrack album are composed by Oscar® winner A. R. Rahman (“Jai Ho”). If there will be tears shed, it will be over 34-year-old Rajput who took his own life in June, barely one month the film before was released. That tragedy may be the reason why the film’s trailer racked up 5 million likes on YouTube in less than 24 hours of its release. (At the time of writing, the number is up to 11 million.)

DIL BECHARA is only streaming now in markets that carry Disney+ Hotstar but its popularity will surely see the film making its way to a streaming service or cinema near you very soon.

I can only find a trailer without English subtitles but you should be able to figure out what’s going on regardless:

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, August 28th, 8:30 am HK time!

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