The writer-director duo of Juhi Chaturvedi and Shoojit Sircar are quaintly fascinated with the Human Anatomy. With their third collaboration, they venture into the human brain and its occasional, unreasonable acts of selflessness.  In comparison to the other two films, “October” is a toned down, meditative exploration of love, grief, and sadness that slowly seeps into each frame but never numbs you. Which is why you feel it completely, tenderly and with all your heart. 

Calling the film an offbeat love story will only be disarming it of any value. This is most definitely a story about love but it’s one for the ages. With Dan (Varun Dhawan), Juhi has written a character whose actions don’t govern rationalities and reasons. He is just one of those people who feel too much. Which tells us the reason why he is constantly agitated and irritated with the life he is living. As an understudy at a 5-star hotel, he is always wishing to do things that are not assigned to him. As a 20-something, he is clumsy, confused and easily offended. He is looking for a change which, for the time being, remains the dream of starting a restaurant and slowly makes-shift when a colleague Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) falls from the third floor and goes into a coma.

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His days are now spent between two human embodiments of care – The Hotel & The Hospital. Both of which prod an unreasonable, though a very real change in Dan. His drifting, bumbling existence finds a new purpose when he gets to know that Shiuli’s last words before her accidental fall were “Where Is Dan?” As colleagues, they rarely talked to each other. Except for a few glances and a shared space of flowery metaphors, there is nothing that tells us why Dan is drawn towards Shiuli and her motionless, hopeless existence. This is where Juhi’s exceptional writing & Sircar’s cinematic vision come into play. They quietly portray both the innocence of Dan and the purpose that he has self-imposed on himself.

October [2018]: Love In The Time Of Malady

The transitions that we see in Dan are deeply steeped in melancholic despair. In spite of knowing the fact that the chances of Shiuli’s recovery are minimal, he stands like a pillar by the side of her mother (Gitanjali Rao), even when the pessimistic Uncle suggests to pull the plug on her. His care turns into affection and then something that feels like love. There are times when it seems that the film will slip into over-dramatic territory but Sircar keeps us intact,  motioning slowly through the changing seasons in a very subtle, nuanced and real exchange of dialogues and emotions.

Everything is left unsaid in this film of quiet beauty. The truly poetic sincerity, however, lies in the unsaid things. The film questions whether Love requires a reason. We, as an audience, see that Dan is drawn towards Shuili out of sympathy. And then for the fascination of knowing why she asked for him before she fell off the Hotel floor and went into a coma. His affection and care grows from that and then submerges into an endless cycle of changing seasons until October comes and flowers fall again. It’s a divisive story if you look deeply into the frames that fade out to fade in again and I’m sure not everyone will look into its true nature of immortalizing love into a new, fresh narrative.

Leaving back his previous collaborations with Juhi, Sircar’s new film has no outburst, no extreme commiseration and no shoddy incorporations of Bollywood cash-grab. Varun Dhawan, in his most laid-back, understated role till date is exceptional. He feels out of skin when you first see him and then slowly becomes Dan with his simplicity and child-like innocence. We have seen Dhawan change his twitter handle into the character he plays and I think it’s high time he sticks to this middle name. Banita Sandhu expresses so much through her eyes that words are not necessary. With an exceptional assembly of small characters, Gitanjali Rao as the mother shines the most. The IIT-Delhi professor – from asking her other child to not bunk his classes for his sister’s hospital visits to the confession of her selfish behavior in front of Dan, she is always believable and extraordinary. Shantanu Moitra’s beautiful music never overpowers the screen with fake emotions. Also special mentions to Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography which is never showy and is always endowed with cinematic brilliance.

In Shoojit Sircar’s “October,” none of the characters express their love for one another. And yet, like the changing season that comes and goes – you feel it’s presence. On the shimmering, tired, yet always hopeful face of the selfless protagonist, Love blooms like a fallen flower that still retains some of its fragrance. Even when it is no more a part of the place that gave it light, it flickers with sadness that grows tenderly into something that the four letter word is too small to encapsulate.


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