October Review: A measured, deeply sensitive romantic drama
Shoojit Sircar's latest offering is worth savoring for many reasons; the writing, the acting, the realism, the humour, the pathos, and the wonderful imagery
After the memorable Vicky Donor and the thoroughly endearing Piku, Shoojit Sircar impresses us again in his latest feature. With October, he continues to make a strong case for realistic Hindi cinema as a creatively and commercially viable option. Assisted by some brilliant writing by Juhi Chaturvedi and a sensitive and measured performance from Varun Dhawan and the supporting cast, Sircar has come up with a romantic drama that will not be easily forgotten (especially by those who loathe the unnecessary gloss and stylisation of mainstream Bollywood).
Dhawan, who has a penchant for choosing dreadful films for the most part, has clearly shown that underneath that ‘hero’ persona lies a serious talent. His Dan in October is as strong as his Raghu in Badlapur, and one hopes that as time wears on, the man realises his full potential and chooses such films over his typecast image of chocolate boy in the regular commercial fare.
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu, Gitanjali Rao
Though a serious and heart-wrenching film for the long and short of it, October does a good job with its humour. This humour is so natural that it fits into the daily exchanges and actions of the primary and secondary characters. While these clearly aren’t jokes being forced onto an unsuspecting audience, they succeed in showing us that there is much laughter to be had in the mundane.
The film introduces Danish “Dan” Walia as he navigates the tough life of a hotel management trainee at one of Delhi’s posh five-stars. The smart alec in Dan is never far away, with him having an answer to just about every order thrown at him by his superiors. Even his fellow classmates and colleagues get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to the man’s unwarranted gyaan. Dan is relegated to vacuuming or laundry as punishment for either running his mouth off or taking the least line of resistance. Still, one feels for the guy. He’s nothing but a smartass with decent intentions.
At a New Year’s Eve celebration of the trainees, Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) slips off the parapet and falls three floors. Just before her accident, she asks about Dan’s whereabouts. Shiuli’s classmates are in complete shock as she is strapped to a stretcher and taken to the hospital in critical condition. Dan finds out about the unfortunate incident the following day, as they all visit the ICU to check up on their friend. Weeks pass, and the others (including Shiuli’s best friend) start going about their lives as before. Dan is changed by the accident, visiting his classmate daily – sometimes at the cost of his shifts at the hotel. Meanwhile, Shiuli’s mother, her siblings, and her uncle, are kept up to date about her current condition.
Many of October’s hospital scenes – the waiting room, Shiuli lying comatose in the ICU, her mother and her siblings hanging on to the last vestige of hope, Dan sticking around with the family adding his two-penny bit, the return to normal life, doctors telling the family to be patient – reminded me so much of another fine film, The Big Sick. As he tries to come to terms with her last words before the fall, Dan’s rising affection for Shiuli is undoubtedly one of October’s highlights.
Banita Sandhu’s Shiuli is as realistic as one can be while giving life to someone who is attempting to come back from a near-fatal fall. The film’s realism does not just impress within the confines of the hospital ward, but it also shines through as Shiuli’s mother (a professor at IIT Delhi), sister, and brother deal with her unfortunate predicament. Their sorrow is so measured and earnest that it tugs at your heart for moments together.
October is worth savoring for many reasons; the writing, the acting, the realism, the humour, the pathos, the wonderful imagery. But it must be remembered foremost for the unique and innocent brand of love it brings to the fore. Shoojit Sircar sure knows how to delve deeply into the complex workings of the human heart. In October, his full range of subtleties and sensitivities are on show for everybody to marvel at.