There is no word in the English language, or any other, that I know of, that describes the state of being of a parent who has lost a child. There is a word for every other loss of relationship, a word that describes the gut-wrenching permanent transformation that has occurred. A child loses his parents, he is an orphan. A person loses their spouse, they are a widow or widower. A couple loses a marriage, they are divorcees. Childless describes somebody who has never had one, not somebody who had one and lost them. It’s as if, even after thousands of years of human existence, mankind has yet to come to grips with the aberration, the abomination, of a child preceding its parents in the circle of life. It’s a fracture in the natural order of things, a tsunami in the space-time continuum that seems beyond the realm of human comprehension and language. A lifetime of not feeling the joy of her presence, her aura, any more, a lifetime of not feeling the pride of her achievements as she went thru life – high school graduation, college, first job - of not feeling the anxiety of the first driving lesson, the first date, of not being able to comfort her anxieties, not feeling the mixed emotions when giving her hand away in marriage, not feeling the serenity and calm that washed over you by just looking into her big beautiful eyes, a lifetime of not feeling the unconditional love that she gave.
Dil Bechara, based on the 2012 John Green novel, The Fault in Our Stars, released today on Hotstar. Kizie Basu (a confidently natural debut by Sanjana Sanghi - it says "Introducing" in the credits but she has acted as a kid in Rockstar (2011) and Hindi Medium (2017)), a young girl battling thyroid cancer, living in Jamshedpur with her parents, one day meets Immanuel Rajkumar Junior aka Manny (Sushant Singh Rajput) who has osteosarcoma and his friend JP who has eye cancer (Sahil Vaid, who was a friend to Varun Dhawan in both Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania (2014) and Badrinath ki Dulhania (2017)). All of them are dealing with it in their own separate ways before, but now begin to support each other and live their dreams. Kizie is obsessed with a particular song of a singer named Abhimanyu Veer, who left it incomplete and then disappeared off the grid. Manny is a fan of thailava Superstar Rajnikanth (I am obligated to refer to him only in this way, lest I incur the undying wrath of my South Indian friends), and JP loves making movies. Kizie and Manny grow closer (Kizie compares falling in love to falling asleep - it starts out slowly, then accelerates quickly and before you know it you are there), much to the consternation of her fretting mother (Swastika Mukherjee once again essaying her natural Bengali self as she did in Paatal Lok), not so much the tolerant, doting father (Saswata Chatterjee, who was terrific in the Vidya Balan starrer Kahaani (2012)). Then comes an opportunity to realize one of their dreams.
At a running time of just 1 hr 41 mins, Dil Bechara does not overstay its welcome as many Hindi movies are prone to doing (last year's The Sky is Pink, starring Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Zaira Wasim, which tackled a similar subject of a sick young girl was 2 hr 23 mins long). It tackles the subject of cancer head-on and is neither maudlin nor melodramatic. In fact quite the opposite, as it tries to show all the characters trying to live life to the fullest. The danger in that though is that can portray to the viewer a sunnier picture than is the reality of day-to-day life for cancer patients and their families. Yes humor is therapeutic and dark humor even more so (Finding Nemo can become Finding Chemo), but here none of the side effects of chemotherapy are shown - the persistent nausea, the loss of hair, the compromised immune system that flares into a sudden life threatening high fever in the middle of the the night and the panicked run to the ER.
In this year when cancer claimed the lives of two of Hindi cinema's great actors (my tribute to them is here), and then just last month the hero of this movie, Sushant Singh Rajput, to suicide, it's an acute case of life imitating art. Sushant had a winsome smile and great screen presence coupled with a charming vulnerability that he put to good use ever since his debut in Kai Po Che! (2013) and does so winningly in this his last movie as well. From Shuddh Desi Romance (2013) to PK (2014) to Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015) to his career-defining role with every mannerism and playing style down pat as the Indian captain in M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016). In a supreme irony, in his last movie released theatrically while he was alive, Chhichhore (2019), he played a father whose son tries to commit suicide, and he teaches him the value of life and the futility of throwing it away. The social media circus and cable news feeding frenzy of conspiracy theories, unfounded rampant speculations and rank opportunism that has followed his untimely demise is a sad reflection on modern society and all one can say is Sushant bechara. RIP.
July 24, 2020