Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi took Vicky Donor from being smartly mischievous to calmed solemnity and then took Piku the other way around. Their third film together is evocative of the former two, yet much more multi-layered as they take on the largely courageous yet ignored sensuality of grief and a certain something I like to identify as ‘hope’. The two protagonists slowly draw a line between the two and in the duration develop a relationship I fail to classify. If my vocabulary prowess goes astray or if I don’t need to is more a question – an answer of which should be left to each as its own.
21-year-old Dan (Varun Dhawan) is an irritable, soft-hearted hotel management intern at a five-star hotel in Delhi. His life revolves around his job and his continuous non-directional effort to break free. Working in the same hotel is Shiuli Iyer (Banita Sandhu) – a young, polite girl who looks deservedly set to do her best at her job. A blessing of screenwriting later, the two embark on a journey they were not prepared for.
Being the good-hearted guy who couldn’t direct his anger in the time of adversity, Varun Dhawan’s Dan was reminiscent of Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea. They barely look directly at you as they go face to face with grief. While Lee’s coming to life story dealt with flashbacks of a horrible past, Dan’s dealt with a potentially adverse future as he struggled to keep up with the hopelessness of the world around him.
Not since Lootera has the concept of love been brought to life in a manner quite opposite the conventional, October walks in a similar track where the season is your favourite character and the characters mere chapters.
One important aspect at which October moves away from being a The Big Sick-esque film is the multiple character developments it takes too seriously. The most important of them and one of the most noticeable in recent cinema is that of Shiuili’s mother – portrayed flawlessly by Geetanjali Rao. A strong, independent single mother in the latter part of her career as a professor at IIT Delhi, Vidya Iyer was both a challenging role to subsist and be enacted. The way she is carefully crafted away from being just the female protagonist’s family to being involved in some of the most important parts of the spectacle is beyond resplendent. Her imperfect vulnerabilities look like the make or break in the channel that connects the storytelling to the characters – the fruition of which is the very essence as to why October does immensely well in making the characters more intellectually aware.
“Where is Dan?” – a question pivotal to the story is also the underlying theme of the movie itself. Dan’s journey to find its answer crosses paths with his quest to anywise be satisfied. Juhi Chaturvedi does that more beautifully than most things. The movie defining statement with a question mark is reminiscent of Citizen Kane’s ‘Rosebud’ and it’s continuous struggle to not spot the obvious. Subtle moments of curiosity and instinct serve as reminders that even though Dan is in the midst of conditions he doesn’t have control over, he maintains those mannerisms that stood him apart earlier.
Shoojit Sircar reminds us he can continue to expand his horizons without changing the underlying vivid impact he has always had on the audience. Varun Dhawan gives what is arguably the best performance of his now six-year-old feature film career – if not better then at par with Badlapur. As for Banita Sandhu – thank you. Her portrayal of Dan’s female counterpart might not be the most engaging in terms of screen presence but her convincing representation makes us think about the Shuili we have had all had in our lives. Gitanjali Rao carries her art in her eyes and watching more of her on screen is the best thing we could hope on from October.
October lies on that wide line between memories of a forgotten past and hope for good things to come, between mindless introspection and ignorant classification of perspective and most importantly the September of anxiety and the November of memoirs. While we dig up our archives to find the best of movies and the best of times, both the Octobers will sit aside smiling as the story about love we deciphered in multiple ways. For like love itself – multiple answers abide, none fit.
- Mayank Malik