Mumbai, 13 Apr 2018 10:17 IST
Updated: 14 Apr 2018 15:50 IST
Director Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi make their finest, most sensitive film yet.
'Where is Dan?' A seemingly inconsequential and random question becomes the driving force of an entire narrative, seeping into the very soul of October.
Shoojit Sircar's strength, be it in ...Yahaan (2005), Vicky Donor (2012) or Piku (2015), has been to delve into human relationships and make them evolve through intimate personal interactions. In October, Sircar plays to his strength, picking an unfortunate life-changing incident that could happen to anyone and weaving it into a story about human emotions and love.
Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) and Dan (Varun Dhawan) are hotel management students training at a five-star hotel in Delhi. The sincere Shiuli and precocious Dan, along with some friends, go through their mundane days with long working hours. Dan is dismissive of most things and people, and his relationship with Shiuli is no different.
Shiuli has a freak accident, which leaves a deep impact on Dan, setting him off on an emotional journey of self-disovery and bringing his inherent caring nature to the fore. Perhaps, attempting to answer that seemingly random question — Where is Dan?
Sircar is patient with his pacing, slowly and steadily drawing you into Dan's world. Juhi Chaturvedi's intricate and intimate writing ensures that you become fully involved in various aspects of the story. The emotional, physical and financial turmoil of Shiuli's family and friends is captured realistically, bringing their pain closer home.
Sircar takes care of every intricate detail, using the hotel and hospital as two inanimate characters who have major parts to play in the effect of the storytelling and the overall structure. You see the toilets, kitchen, mops, blood, urine, wounds et al — all the harsh realities of a hospital — juxtaposed with the sensitivity of the plot and the characters.
In one scene, Dan's friends ask him, "Tum itne affected kyun ho? (Why are you affected so much?)" and he snaps: "Tum log itne unaffected kaise ho? (Why are you guys so unaffected?)."
While he lays down the scientific details of the workings of the human body and the brain, Sircar leaves the bond between his protagonists unexplained. And that is October's biggest strength, that it does not define the relationship between Dan and Shiuli.
The detailed and realistic portrayal of interpersonal relationships makes the story relatable. Despite a dramatic incident at its centre, October never gets dramatic.
Dhawan as Dan blends seamlessly into Sircar's world, far removed from his recent outings Judwaa 2 (2017) and Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017). Here, he is real and fallible. Chaturvedi smartly writes in his character's quirks and wry humour, bringing a smile to your face on several occasions. In this case, less is more, and Dhawan underplays his part to great effect.
The raw Banita Sandhu as Shiuli is a case of perfect casting, with her innocence and simplicity. But she does not get the opportunity to show off her range as an actress in this film.
Gitanjali Rao, who plays her mother, is pitch perfect, acing the emotional scenes. All the other members of the supporting cast are in sync with the tone of the film.
In this songless film, the mellow background score is a strong point, with the theme music by Shantanu Moitra tugging at your heart.
Cinematographer Aveek Mukhopadhyay deserves a special mention for capturing Delhi's fog, weather changes and pollution aesthetically. He manages to depict both worlds — the mundaneness of the hotel and the sombreness of the hospital — beautifully.
While Sircar's previous directorial Piku (2015) was a lovely father-daughter story, it still had its glitches. But there is not one false note in this offering — not even the unhurried pace. He sticks to the tone he creates for the film and sees it through, always in control of the narrative.
It would not be wrong to say that this is Sircar and Chaturvedi's finest and most beautiful film so far. In October, the duo create an intense and intimate emotional experience, delving into love in a way that no Hindi film has in the recent past.
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