It is said there’s nothing crueller, than a life snatched away in its prime. But what would one say about the fate of a soul, a consciousness, trapped in that grey zone between the structure of life, and the release of death. One may never know what it goes through, but for those that surround it, its loved ones, it is never easy to just stand by and watch, not knowing, but only relying upon words emanating from the realm of speculation.
October, from its promos, promised to be a low key drama about life, loss and acceptance, but does it manage to weave a credible story around it?
Dan Walia (Varun Dhawan) is an angry young hotel trainee, unable to wrap his head around the concept that defines the hospitality industry, of the customer always being right. He acts out his frustrations often and publicly to the exasperation of his tough yet fair boss (Prateek Kapoor) and loyal best friend Manjeet (Sahil Vedoliya).
But when a quiet, yet overachieving colleague, Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) meets with an unfortunate accident leading to her ending up in a coma, and it’s revealed that she was asking about Dan, it takes him on a journey involving selflessness, patience, wide-eyed optimism and hope in the face of adversity and scepticism, but the question still remains, will Dan find himself at the end of it?
One must admit about the creative team of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi, they have an eye for the little details, and it really shows in the movie. October is not an easy watch, and for a change, it is for the right reasons.
While Piku was a more light-hearted look at death, and involved a character who’d lived a full life and awaited the sweet embrace of mortality, October is a darker, yet much more intimate glimpse into the lives of ordinary people who are unexpectedly forced to face the mortality of a loved one with the utmost helplessness, captured most brilliantly in Chaturvedi’s screenplay.
What really helps here is that the writing at no point aims to be pretentious, or indulges in philosophical navel-gazing, except for a throwaway line in the end about the life of the night jasmine or Parijat, a flower that blooms only in the autumn, and dies almost immediately after. There is a lot of heart in this story, and it especially shows in how the characters have been treated, their personalities developing in a manner so excruciatingly slow, it mirrors reality.
Besides the characters, it’s the cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhayay that really accentuates the narrative, his camera capturing perfectly the sanitized environs of the ICU, the chaos of downtown Delhi, the serenity of Kullu, and the claustrophobia of what goes on behind the scenes at a luxury hotel. The background score by Shantanu Moitra enhances the experience, present, but not intrusive, much like Dan in the life of Shiuli’s family.
Varun Dhawan takes a break from pelvic thrusts and ab displays, to put in a fine effort as the mercurial Dan, forced to leave boyhood behind and enter the adult world, but still maintain his inner spirit. Banita Sandhu makes a fine debut in a performance where all she plays is a presence, looming over the story, in spite of her character’s inability to express herself convincingly.
But, the real star of this movie is Gitanjali Rao, who makes a fine fine debut as Shiuli’s hapless mother, a woman who wishes to grieve, but also must stay strong for the sake of her family. Prateek Kapoor, Sahil Vedoliyaa and Nimmy Raphael who plays the nurse who’s seen many such comas play out, put in absolutely flawless performances, and end up making even the most inconspicuous characters seem memorable.
To sum it up then, October is a deeply personal take on death, grief and coping, one that rises above its minor imperfections, to make sure it stays with the viewer long after they’ve left the theatre.