October is like that rare, precious and real moment which arrives in our prescribed lives completely unannounced. Like a soft petal, or a floating cloud, or a silent wave. Filled with calm and spontaneity. Making us wonder what to do with it. Savour it? Live it? Run from it? Fast forward it? Solid, ready, and patient, it waits until we surrender to its truth and embrace it.
Writer Juhi Chaturvedi scores a hat trick with her third screenplay about a man’s journey of unconditional love. Director Shoojit Sircar’s brief to her was that he wanted love captured in its sincerest, purest form. And it is. Moving beyond words, the feeling lingers after . The duo notch up another triumph together.
Despite being a movie about love, October is not about love. It is about being completely present in the moment of truth and letting your feeling clarify the situation rather than the other way around. As disinterested hotel management graduate Dan (Varun Dhawan) discovers one fine morning when his life takes an unexpected turn.
He has been flipping and flopping from one chore to another while training in a five-star hotel even as his classmates and co-workers climb the expectation ladder quite easily. Until one of them Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) has an unfortunate accident and is rendered immobile. His initial nonchalance for her, and life in a way, changes into concern and leads him into a profound journey which ultimately gives him focus and purpose.
For a journey which travels inwards, October also deals with pragmatism and external factors – work, relationships, family, and friends – which mould our decisions and ultimately direct the choices we make for ourselves. Shiuli’s mother Prof. Vidya Iyer (Gitanjali Rao) struggles with medical and practical decisions around her daughter. Dan neglects his career to stay at the hospital while his family and friends worry about his future. The characters do make clear choices in that sense, leaving us with a fresh, alternate point of view in today’s fast-paced life often defined by external worlds rather than internal.
The relationship or rather the hint of it, unfolds languidly, but surely. One could argue that it takes the suspension of disbelief too far, after all Dan and Shiuli hardly know each other for him to follow this path. And yet, it doesn’t seem jarring at all. As the whole idea of the movie rests on what we don’t know in life, rather than what we do. So in that sense, it totally flows. We choose from the limited knowledge we have in that moment. Using facts to make a decision or predicting the future is clearly not what this story is about.
The hospital scenes are captured with a humane, funny touch despite the seriousness of the situation. Dan’s moments with the nurse and attendants, his attention towards Shiuli, and care for the family as they struggle, all make for wonderful, poignant moments.
What I liked most about October was its interpretation of love in its unrefined, muted form. It remains an internal feeling, never turns into a passionate, overt expression. In fact, solo interactions between Dan and Shiuli are far, and few. And yet, there is no doubt that it transforms Dan.
Avik Mukhopadhayay’s moody photography binds the visuals and the cast together making it a spellbinding experience. A movie like this requires and expects a certain sensibility from its performers. It needs submission over force and precision over limelight. The cast delivers on that without a doubt.
The supporting crew is excellent, including Dan’s boss, his friends, Shiuli’s siblings, her uncle, the hospital, and hotel staff. Gitanjali Rao is finely tuned in as Shiuli’s single, conscientious mother.
Banita makes a sterling debut with a delicately layered performance, letting her eyes and expressions do all the work. It is not easy to be effective in a static situation. She is pitted against Varun who provides the external foil to her motionless body and she pulls it off with supreme grace. Dare I say, she reminded me of Smita Patil.
Varun plays the lowest key note possible to reduce his starry, energetic tone and the result is an assured, superlative performance. He has an abundance of talent despite some of those mindless movies he has been part of. Dan is him, and he is Dan. The actor captures the character’s vulnerability with honesty and sensitivity.
Shantanu Moitra stirs up the soul with his instrumental October Theme, its impeccable piano and violin notes stay with you after. The movie is songless, which is perfect. For those into songs, pay special attention to Moitra’s songs in the album. Sunidhi Chauhan hums the semi-classical Manwaa like a finely woven dream, giving life to Swanand Kirkire’s melancholic lyrics. The upbeat Chal with Tanveer Ghazi’s buoyant lyrics has Monali Thakur singing it with her trademark jubilance.
There is a reason why the movie is called October and it is revealed towards the end. It leaves you with the fragrance of an experience lived, and a melancholic memory to preserve for all seasons.