Cast: Varun Dhawan, Bandita Sandhu, Gitanjali Rao, Sahil Vedoliyaa, Prashant Singh, Rachica Oswal
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Rating: * * * ½
An unconventional love story that underlines existential issues and genetic fault-lines without getting into the labelling of it, this Shoojit Sircar-directed valentine is heart-breaking in it exposes of the very human desire to love and be loved in return.
Danish “Dan” Walia (Varun Dhawan), a hotel Management trainee doesn’t appear to be a career oriented person given the many missteps he makes along the route. One night while partying privately after the successful completion of a trying season at work, with her fellow trainees, Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) one amongst his group of friends, slips from the third floor, falling 30 feet to the ground below. It’s a careless accident that puts Shiuli in intensive care as a comatose patient who might never again see the light of day-euphemistically speaking. Dan wasn’t around at that time but when he gets to hear about the accident he is unperturbed. It’s only when he hears a casual reference about Shiuli’s last words “Where’s Dan?” that he comes alive.
Thereafter he is a changed man. He does everything he possibly can to lighten the load on Shiuli’s single-earner, widowed, lecturer mother (Gitanjali Rao) and her two young siblings. His unstinting devotion to the comatose patient raises questions. His friends question his senility, his mother (Rachica Oswal) makes him aware of his other duties and Shiuli’s mother also reminds him of his own life which he has allowed to deteriorate into a limbo.
Is this selfless one-sided love or is there more to it? Juhi Chaturvedi’s story and the screenplay is minimalistic in it’s approach to dialogues and narrative expressiveness. She doesn’t bother to fill in the silences with meaningless words. She, in fact, attempts to raise pertinent questions regarding our unique needs as individuals by allowing the silences to tell its own story. Sircar embellishes the beautifully intonate writing with deft directorial touches that are tellingly intimate even when it’s regimented in routine. ‘The Big Sick’ started off in a similar fashion but ‘October’ veers off into a different trajectory altogether. Dan and Shiuli were never in love with each other when she was whole. Other than some audacious comments Dan never ever paid her any undue attention. Then how is it that Dan feels so strongly about Shiuli now that she is ‘almost dead?’ (that’s how he describes her comatose state in his own words). Juhi Chaturvedi’s unembellished writing points us to the faulty work-in-progress beings that we all are. Dan shows us he has needs that don’t quite fit in the conventional romance set-up. He is happy enough to be needed – it gives him a sense of worth that his family life, job and friendships don’t.
It may be a bit jarring to see Dan suddenly play the role of a devoted carer but it’s not entirely unlikely either. Gitanjali Rao as the stoic, breadwinner who has to make decisions that go much beyond what any mother can be expected to make, is so beautifully poised that you can’t help but feel her intense anguish and confusion. When Dan’s mother (Rachica Oswal in a terrific walk-on part) comes to the hospital to understand what preoccupies her son, the two mothers share a brief intimate conversation that highlights the transience of human emotions and culpabilities. Banita Sandhu makes a telling presence in this her very first starring role.The rest of the cast are also very impressive- living their moments with an integrity that is almost rare.
And Varun Dhawan nails it with his intricate subsuming of his successful star persona. In ‘October’ he lives and breathes Dan in every frame- with an intimate involvement that is rarely displayed by a successful mainstream actor. Shantanu Moitra’s music is wonderfully sublime, Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography vividly brings out the tenderness in human relationships and Chandrashekhar Prajapati’s editing allows for a sensitised yet un-melodramatic appraisal of a love that is heartfelt. This film is definitely not a romance- yet it is about love in an altogether unique dimension!