In a conversation with Cinestaan.com, the filmmaker spoke about the origins of October and how making the poetic film has changed him as filmmaker and a person.
October is inspired from a personal incident, says director Shoojit Sircar
Mumbai - 31 Mar 2018 9:00 IST
There is much curiosity about October (2018), directed by Shoojit Sircar, starring Varun Dhawan and newcomer Banita Sandhu. From the recent promos to the songs released so far, October seems to be off the beaten path. The film is set to hit the screens on 13 April.
Sircar, in a telephonic conversation with Cinestaan.com, spoke about the origins of October, conceived while his National Award-winning film Piku (2015) was under production and how making the poetic film has changed him as filmmaker and a person. Excerpts.
Screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi and you have collaborated on the story of October and you’ve indicated that it’s an unusual coming-of-age love story. How did you decide bring it to the big screen?
We have collaborated on other films too and this film was also in the pipeline for quite some time. This was associated with a personal incident which happened with me in 2004. It stayed with me. While we were scripting Piku (2015), we thought of collaborating again to work on this particular subject.
As you said it’s a love story, no, it’s not a love story, it’s an unusual, real slice-of-life story, but with touches upon few preconceived or conceived notions on love which we experience and try to dissect. That’s what we have tried to explore.
Our directive is very simple, not too complicated, similar to Piku. This film also has a simple narrative of two characters and how they cope up and how they go along. I picked up one insight from life and then drilled upon it. [Chaturverdi] has brought a beautiful poetry to her writing and that’s what I tried to bring onscreen too.
This is borrowed from your personal experiences in life?
Yes, one part of it. Once you see the film, only then can I talk about it. [But] yes, a little personal experience which I’ve gone through, which I’ll talk about once the movie is released. Actually, Piku is also from a personal life experience. Characters from Piku and Pink (2016), I have taken from real-life, [from what] I have experienced and seen.
Your films are about simple emotions that expand to tell a larger story about how we connect to one another. Does October follow the same pattern?
Oh, yes, absolutely the same pattern. It’s a very simple thread that we have pulled, but this film also changed me as a person, [with] a few outlooks on the way we perceive life or the way we perceive love and relationships.
Love does not just mean a boy–girl chick-flick, no, it’s not that. It explores a lot of minute details of it [the relation], which is there in everyday life, similar like Piku. Sometimes we overlook it or we ignore it. I’ve tried to bring them and explore them. I’m not an expert, but whatever I understand.
How did you cast Varun Dhawan and Banita Sandhu in the film? Were you worried casting Varun with a newcomer?
No, actually Varun was not in the picture at all. It was always the other way. I was actually casting fresh for this film. So Banita [Sandhu] was cast first and then all the other characters. Some beautiful casting has been done around them. Varun was the last to be considered, because he was wanting to meet me for quite some time. Obviously, my kind of films don’t match with the kind of films [he does]. Our worlds are apart, so a lot of people asked me, ‘What are you doing with Varun?’
He came to office one day and just wanted to meet me. I saw him and we were hunting for this character [Dan], auditioning all over India and I just saw the character in him. And I just said, ‘Can I click a picture of yours?’ and I clicked a picture and I sent it to [producer] Ronnie [Lahiri] and Juhi and said that this is the character we’re looking at. That’s how his casting happened.
The good thing about Varun is that he completely surrendered himself to the film and to me. For him to understand the kind of film and kind of role he was portraying, with the honesty and integrity that was required, he had to unlearn a lot of things and take a lot of things from our world and from me. That’s how he moulded himself.
Did you have any workshops before the film? The shoot was rather fast, less than 40 days.
Yes, there were lot of workshops, but they weren’t regular workshops. It was not a conventional workshop of reading the script and doing things. I did a lot of unconventional workshops like meditation, some exercises, some dos and don’ts during the shoot. I said, you’ll be off social media. Every film has a different approach.
Did the actors prepare in the hotel where the film was shot?
Yes, exactly. They went to all the departments. Whatever films I do, I try to do it as authentically as possible, so I think that authenticity will finds its value in the film.
A colleague of mine pointed out that each of your film is set in a different city. Is this a conscious or unconscious decision?
(laughs) Absolutely unconscious! I love Delhi, so I try to pitch most of my films in Delhi. If you see Delhi in Pink (2016), it’s a very dark Delhi. If you see it in Piku, it’s a very fresh and humorous Delhi. In [October], you will see a very poetic Delhi which a lot of people don’t know about. I lived there [for] 17-18 years. Delhi can still look beautiful in some months and I’ve tried to portray that.
You’ve stated that you would like to direct a Bengali film at some point in your career. Is that still on the cards?
Yes, I wish to. But at this moment I’m chock-o-block with my Hindi film commitments. I have many other stories to tell. I need time, it goes in scripting, [but] I will surely.
Are there any other actors with whom you've worked with previously that you want to work with again?
Oh, yes, Irrfan [Khan], Deepika [Padukone], Mr [Amitabh] Bachchan, all three of them, Ayushmann [Khurrana], Yami [Gautam] (laughs). With Varun, we might get another chance, Banita, and the other characters, I love them, they are like family. When I do a film with them, they become part of me. I would always love to.