October movie is a perfect paragon that reveals how every movie is a director’s easel and that its actors only constitute a part of his/her storytelling. While Varun Dhawan has been known to make brainless movies in the past, I don’t know if it simply implies the kind of image he wishes to be associated with, but doing a Shoojit Sircar flick turns out to be a fair makeover.
It’s a pleasant change even though the role Shoojit had in mind for him was apt for a guy like Varun. It requires him to be innocent and naive which he already is. The fact that he aces it all is a wonder given his past record.
Shoojit paints him crude as Varun ends up becoming quite natural at his expressions. They seem very involved and oblivious to what’s going on. It’s good to see him in a super-realistic avatar that quite frankly suits him the most.
The Theme of October Movie
October movie is poignant. That being said, I would say it is not for everyone. If you are expecting a budding romantic love story to entertain you, then this movie is not for you. Do not go if you consider yourself a part of that audience.
The flick cashes in on crushing selfless love that depicts a one-sided love story mocking somewhere at its pointlessness, the very futility of adhering yourself to a regime, to a lost cause. What is the very definition of love? It forces you to think hard as you try to place it inside a connotation. The perspective you have grown so fond of that you don’t realize that it has become something else altogether.
Above it all, October movie places itself precariously on the edge of doubt. It builds itself on a big maybe, but isn’t that what most love stories today have been reduced to? A one-sided affair that keeps doing something for someone selflessly whilst the other one fails to acknowledge.
The Plot and Cherishable Moments (Spoilers)
Serving as the nub of October movie, in a contemporary backdrop, is a story of a 21-year-old Hotel Management trainee Danish ‘Dan’ Walia (Varun Dhawan), who isn’t good at whatever he does. Placed in a contrasting image is Shiuli Iyer (Banita Sandhu), who is the ideal student of his batch.
Everybody knows Dan, for the rebel he is, trying to mess things up, screw things up, talkative, yet with dreams to make it big. While he is just one of those friends who might come to help you when you need something, but you still can never take him seriously for the reckless image he has built in your mind, he still remains very relatable. Like that guy who is quite absent at everything for whom you never care to care about.
Shoojit cares for that guy as we see him holding the perspective of a hero. Shiuli meets an accident falling from a slippery roof that puts her in a coma. As the world begins to forget her, that same guy whom we thought was not worth much, simply can’t. He is by far the most sentient of them all. In just about two visits Dan begins to realize how badly she was affected. It kind of grows on him quickly as he begins to feel for her.
Dan slips in hope for those who begin to despair. He chooses to give a dwindling life precedence over a pointless job. Dan is one of those rare breeds who we are missing in this world. A world has come shattering down for Shiuli’s mother and the rest of her family, yet the rest of the world keeps moving on. How is that fair? Why don’t they stop? Dan stops with them and literally becomes one of them.
The optimism in a 21-year-old Dan is brutal when you see him hurt when Shiuli fails to recognize him. But the fact that he coherently makes it a secretive reward is just commendable. He turns it around and makes it into something good.
It is something that’s so rare. We get hurt by little things. Even when we know what to expect, and when we get it, it still crushes us, so much that we often just leave. But Dan just chooses to stay. He is always there eyeing a stranger or maybe just an acquaintance with hope.
How much world is he yet to discover? How much of it is he yet to see? Yet he chooses to be, playing his age like it ain’t a number but something very important.
Dan tries to remember what Shiuli was psyched about – night jasmines that only grew in the month of October. He brings them to her and suddenly she is resuscitated. She begins to respond even in a coma. Although it fills you with hope, October movie isn’t akin to some old Bollywood flick where the actress would spring to life owing to something the hero would do.
Instead, it is forever bolstered on all the lines that the doctor produces. It simmers in pandiculation around reality, saying this is what happens. It’s no miracle. The way the flick looks into your eyes, it is simply bold.
Painting the Reality
I loved the reality of it all, that places us directly into the world of a young trainee.
Shoojit depicts a regular 1 RK flat and how things are sieved in it. How bachelors compromise with everything while they are trying to earn a living. Why the system is deliberately made hard and how no one has the power to change it. How people can only complain about things! The occasional smoke breaks to abate the pain of a punishing livelihood. The colossal import of a small tea stall which is commonly known as tapri. Despite the revolt and the hatred, that brotherly care which seeps into your heart for the people you see regularly. It is all in there. You just have to notice.
Unable to cope up with the life he had chosen to ignore, Dan gets fired for spending too much time at the hospital, for being absent too many times from the Hotel. You can feel how much he has invested himself in something which is not his. He is fighting all those who are not doing their parts in the life of Shiuli. He points that out in his frustration when he realizes that the friend who used to accompany Shiuli all the time doesn’t even bother to visit her. Even though that friend might have been right in choosing to lead her own life, it is killing for him to see people move on so easily and forget. To leave something important from their life on a bed – still and unmoving.
Yet another important part in the story of October movie is located at the juncture where Dan finds his estranged mother in the same tapri he used to visit. She announces her arrival with the relieving letter saying Dan has been terminated, that she is forced to pay the remaining charges to the hotel because of his incompetence.
Once again with that, she unknowingly points that Dan wasn’t good enough. Even though her story isn’t revealed, it is implied, and you understand why Dan hasn’t been going home all this time. She rushes to judgment immediately, probably her usual wont, when he refuses to answer her mother on being asked if Shiuli was her girlfriend. He deliberately lets her believe what she wishes to believe.
There is a rare beauty in not answering, in not explaining something to someone who would fail to understand. He lets her come to a conclusion, the way a majority of people who don’t understand often do. Now, she will never know. He lets himself become that talk that women often have when they are surrounded by their friends. That demeaning and degrading litter that would never sum up to anything. He doesn’t mind being a butt of the criticism and is least bothered about his image in front of his mother’s eyes.
Even better is the part where a mother to mother talk happens. Dan’s mother has always felt distant to her child. Even though she has been one of the major reasons for that, she fails to understand it. When she sees how fond Shiuli’s mother is of Dan, and how well they interact, she chooses to leave. Primarily because it crushes her to know that she would never have that with her own son.
One of the intriguing moments of the flick’s camera work happens when Vidya Iyer (Gitanjali Rao) is shown talking to Dan’s silhouette. The director deliberately chooses to not capture Dan in the same frame. It is her moment, it is her shot, her realization of the fact that Dan has been around for too long. In her selfishness to get Shiuli as much help as she needed, she has completely overlooked Dan’s life. She decides to do the right thing and commands Dan to leave, and lead his own life and amount to something.
Never for a second do we see Dan in the same frame, but we can only imagine from the calmness of the silhouette of what emotions are playing on his face. Of how hard it is for him to let it go, and yet he chooses to do that because he was asked of, ordered too. He obeys like an obedient child listening to ‘Shiuli’s’ mother.
October movie takes a shot at hope, plays along with it, but eventually slips into despair again. If it makes you sad, and you are thinking it’s not fair, let me just quickly dab the reality throttle once again. That’s life. Life is unfair. One moment you are thinking you have got it, the other moment it surprises you and shoots you down.
There is a scene right before the end that makes you ponder. When Shiuli is looking at Dan as he is putting her to bed, you are thinking all that hard work has finally paid off, since she has accepted Dan’s unrequited love. That she has begin to see him in the same light as Dan’s.
But then the unthinkable happens when he begins to leave and you realize that Shiuli is already feeling that void even though nothing shows on her face. The next moment is a precarious dream where Shiuli is in the front-yard staring at Dan as he wakes up. It feels like a final goodbye, and so it is.
The Fallen Flower
Dan crashes as he was supposed to, or maybe how things were destined to. In an epilogue of sorts in the conversation between Vidya and Dan, the import of flowers in the life of Shiuli gets discussed, and the real comparison between her life and the flower is made. Maybe Shiuli was like the same flower that comes and goes spreading momentary love.
This makes me want to take you to the name of the movie all over again. The night jasmine flower is also called Shiuli. It is a rare breed that blooms for just a month (October, you guessed right) before withering away. It is a flower that you see only when it has fallen. You barely stop to notice it, if it’s not in your path. They take away the barrenness of the earth and turns it into something beautiful. That’s what compels you to notice – the beauty and the smell.
Shiuli Iyer, the fallen girl, is just like that flower that Dan failed to notice when she was around. He only began to pay attention when she fell, to observe her when she played dead.
Basing a Justification on a Lie
Probably the most infuriating feeling in the flick is that of Dan’s concept of love. But if you think of it, that’s how and what love is to a kid that age. He bases his life and what comes after on a lie, that Shiuli was in love with Dan, which was so not true.
But was it just it? Even if Shiuli would have woken up and explained that she was just asking about him casually, Dan would have still found optimism in her statement, would have still done everything that he did, primarily because he was more people than people. More humane than everything that calls itself that.
Where is Dan?
The aforementioned line is just a trigger that gets him to look at her in a way he had never looked at her. He had overlooked Shiuli all along, and then with that one-liner and her fallen fate, just like a fallen jasmine flower in one’s way, he begins to look at her. When he watches her closely and imagines her life, more love ensues.
It was intentional and subtly crafted, and I revere Juhi Chaturvedi even more for thinking that through.
The Final Verdict
October movie oscillates with hope and despair. Even though it evokes a sense of pathos, you realize that you can’t feel anything for Shiuli since you don’t know her for that long. So, the tides somehow feel unjustified. It is one of those aspects that stops the movie from becoming heart-rending.
Yes, if you think about how intelligently and how poetically it has been fabricated, October movie hits a home run. Absolutely loved it, but then again it is not for everyone. Definitely not for mainstreamers.
Check out other movie reviews from the Indian Film Industry.