OCTOBER (2018)

October is unlike any love story that I have seen in Bollywood in ages. It is heartbreaking, it is risqué, it is subtle and above all it is haunting. Varun Dhawan is Dan, a hotel management trainee at a plush hotel in Delhi who is always jilted at everything including his work schedule, his co-workers, his boss, his job profile and as he says, every time he is in the company of Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) and her best friend. It is evident that his jilt and frustration comes from the fact that he is alone and somewhat vain in whatever it is that he does. He is constantly rebuked by his boss but that doesn’t bring any change in the way that he is.

Shiuli, on the other hand, is an extremely bright trainee who in spite of being Dan’s junior gets better shifts than him, is more efficient and is liked better by the others. She wishes Dan every now and then and when in a party, that everybody else except Dan is present, she is the only one who cares to ask where he is just before she slips to a fatal fall that would turn her vegetative for years. Shiuli’s accident blows a dormant charge in Dan who now spends his day and night in the hospital in her company not knowing why he is doing so. Is he in love? Was she in love with him? Will she make it out of the vegetative state? All these questions are answered over the course of the film’s runtime.

October is a film that is leisurely in its pacing but its performances and the tragedy is so overwhelmingly real that even the visits to the hospitals, the lingering camera on the patient’s reactions and even Dan’s tossing around the hospital and hotel feel interesting and captivating. I watched this film with bated breath almost in fear of something or the other happening to Shiuli at any moment. I was also hopeful of Shiuli coming out of her comatose state and the unusual love story making some serious headway. The film keeps you on the edge essentially with these two hooks. The resolution to these hooks is, by the way, the biggest jolt even though that was the only possible and believable outcome.

This is Varun Dhawan’s best act to date. It will easily overshadow his brooding Raghu- act from Badlapur which I believe was his previous best. The reason why this is a better act is because he had very little in terms of dramatic elements to work with.  He Doesn’t know whether he loves her or not? She is permanently in a coma. She gave him no such signs that she was in love with him before the accident apart from asking about him right before her fall. That too could have been just a routine inquiry. Even his friends think that he is overdoing the whole predicament. Thus he is in a constant state of confusion and restlessness.  All this had to come out through his act and it does. The manner in which he is shown eventually falling in love with Shiuli is refreshingly real and unconventional. Never in the film, is it made clear whether it is love or not neither is it addressed head on.

Banita Sandhu is equally brilliant. Even though she is mostly in a comatose state, the scenes that she gets to act in are warm and believable. There was an air in her wishing Dan that conveyed more than just courtesy. I always felt that she had feelings for him. Even in the party, the manner in which she asks for him, no matter how casual she tries to make it sound, had subtle indications to a kind of melancholic unrequited feeling as probably she believed that Dan would never understand her emotions. Banita brings out these nuances of her character beautifully that elevates the film to a whole new level.

Gitanjali Rao is wonderful as Shiuli’s mother. She doesn’t have much to talk but instead expresses her grief and tragedy through subtle expressions that hammer down her predicament. I loved her discussions with Varun. They are exceptionally warm and let us dwell on the psyche of both the characters. That coupled with the jolt of the unconventional love developing mostly in Dan’s mind provides us with situation after situation of exceptional dept and almost choking tragedy.

October’s climax is just one word from Shiuli’s mouth “Dan” and that kind of sums up every question that we have been asking ourselves about the unusual relation that these two individuals were sharing. A relation that started with the possible end of Shiuli. Love is a wonderful feeling and it can germinate anywhere at any time under any circumstance. There is no reason to it. There is no logic behind it. It just happens and when it does, it makes people capable of exceptional selflessness and uncharacteristically brave feats. If not anything, October is a reminder of that very fact.

It is a typical Shoojit Sircar film in the sense that it deals with a subject that I think has not been approached in recent memories in Bollywood. It is a character-driven drama that is propelled by its content and characters. It is beautifully laid out and leaves no room for any complaints except may be a lack of entertainment quotient. I will give brawny points to the writer Juhi Chaturvedi for coming up with such a novel idea and treating the subject with such care and love. Shoojit Sircar deserves kudos for having the courage to even try to make a film like this that is so offbeat and against every established and lucrative stereotype.  October is a landmark film for Bollywood in terms of cinematic brilliance.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

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