The swan song is bitter and beautiful. There is also a legend of a bird that sings one last time more beautifully than it ever did. It embarks on a search of a tree of thorns and “Then singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest sharpest spine. And dying, it rises above its own out carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen and God in His Heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…”
Ever since Erich Seghal’s ‘Love Story’ made big noise at the box office, filmmakers have churned out stories from people dying of cancer or any other fatal disease basically through the eyes of the surviving partner. We have also at Bollywood moved from ‘Aah’ to ‘Aakhiyon Ke Jharokon Se’ to ‘Anand’ to more recently ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’. What is new? Frankly, nothing much. Yes, the treatment is a tad more grey. The music is still haunting (thanks largely to a brilliant soul-churning attempt from AR Rahman).
Two patients of cancer: Manny (Sushant) and Kizzie Basu (Sanjana) meet up and they fall in love. The story is narrated by Kizzie who is first seen at the crematorium of the former. Her worried parents (Swasta Chaterjee and Swastika Mukherjee) are very supportive of their daughter and her whims. She moves around effortlessly with an oxygen cylinder always. Manny has another friend in JP (Sahil Vaid) who suffers from eye cancer, has lost one eye to it and is preparing to lose the other.
Kizzie loves the music of the singer Abhimanyu Veer (Saif in a cameo). She constantly wants to know the story of his disappearance from public gaze. Predictably, Manny woos Kizzie and most dramatically, and most part of the narrative sadly is spent is building their relationship. The contrasting styles of how they are dealing with the looming tragedy are what add dramatic value to the tale. While Kizzie is seen suffering more, Manny is dancing around and shooting a short-film with his friend JP. When the final moments come, Manny loses hope.
There is nothing to hold back or specially reveal about the film. It is straight. Where filmmaker Mukesh Chhabra wins is in keeping the narrative under control. There are moments that choke you emotionally and yet do not go overboard. The magic is in keeping it simple and leaving it to the artistes to deliver the punch. Sanjana Sanghi as the girl from Jamshedpur is a class act. If she fails to get roles after this film, then I guess the theory making the rounds is authentic. There is no other logic for not giving this talent opportunities. Sahil Vaid as JP is mention-worthy. The rest, including Sunit Tandon as Dr Jha, are not called upon to do anything much and carry the balance well.
What a swan song from Sushant Singh Rajput! Law notwithstanding the viewers who lap in the stardom factor of our cinema, the perpetuating mechanisms of the same, the ruling physics and economics are all partly, and perhaps distantly, abettors of that tragedy. Like the legend in ‘The Thorn Birds’ (ref: Colleen McCullough), this is arguably his sweetest song that reflects pain and suffering. Did the role do him in? Hopefully no, since he was too good a professional to mix real and reel. The one haunting feel is how a character that lived and fought a killer disease succumbed to a toxic atmosphere. What else can one say but: Dil Bechara.
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