‘October’ Is a Fresh Coming-Of-Age Film With Powerful Performances

‘October’ Is a Fresh Coming-Of-Age Film With Powerful Performances

Movie Reviews

Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Producer: Abhishek Ranjan

October takes us to places where Bollywood rarely treads.

While moving about in gated hotel lobbies, gliding on shiny floors and lounging under humongous chandeliers, Shoojit Sircar’s October shows us what most of us would otherwise ignore — the everyday rigmarole of working in the hospitality industry: the cleaning, ever-increasing laundry piles, double shifts, demanding guests and hard to please duty managers.

Through the course of the narrative, we also enter dreary hospital corridors. We see attendants and their weary expressions, familiarise ourselves with the nurses’ routine and watch out for the cleaner! There is the stillness of the ICU with the hollow eyes of the patient looking on, as family members try to come to terms with their condition.

These are two contrasting places – one bustling with life and the other where the soft humming of machines and faint breathing keeps hope alive. October straddles these two spaces beautifully, telling us a fragile tale of love and loss.

Dan (Varun Dhawan) is a young hotel management trainee always getting into trouble with his seniors. He cribs, complains, and finds it hard to keep himself motivated while doing the laundry, when a sudden tragedy involving his batchmate shiuli (Banita Sandhu) shakes him up completely.

Writer Juhi Chaturvedi beautifully captures the shiuli flower (night-flowering jasmine) metaphor about fickle fragrant love, and marries it with a coming-of-age story of a young 20-something. Shiuli flowers are said to have a short life but their lilting fragrance has an ethereal quality, much like fragile love. Dan’s friends ask him to be practical, to “move on”, but he resolutely stands his ground, unable to give up on the person who needs life support to even breathe.

There isn’t much that “happens” in the film but it’s to Chaturvedi’s credit that every “little” scene is evocatively written to make us invest in the story wholeheartedly. The odd conversation with a nurse, or Dan’s mother visiting the hospital trying to grapple with what it is that has affected her son so deeply.

Long days laden with hope, anxiety, hollowness — all beaded together to sensitively   tell a story that will feel real and familiar even to those who haven’t experienced something like this.

Varun Dhawan is clearly out of his comfort zone, guided by Shoojit Sarkar’s vision, and it’s a delight seeing him give a heart-achingly sincere performance as Dan, his boyish innocence further highlighting his authentic sense of loss and pain.

Banita Sandhu makes a brave debut in an unusual and difficult role, but she rarely flounders — bringing forth the fragility and tenderness with studied ease. Geetanjali Rao as Shiuli’s mother is remarkable, moist-eyed and worried about her daughter’s condition, and yet gracefully stoic.

Shoojit Sircar exercises tremendous restraint in telling this delicate story and offers no easy answers, but delivers authentic heartfelt emotions explored through finely-crafted performances.

Yes, October might not be for everyone, especially those bred on regular Bollywood staple of melodrama and high voltage action, but if you are looking for something truly different that tugs at your heartstrings then this could be it.

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