October-A poetry in disguise
October.. is a meditation!
In the times of war and crime and chaos and unbelievable loudness raising day to day.. how often you see a film that unfolds mostly in silence? How often you see love blooming between consciousness and subconsciousness? How often you listen to not just words but thoughts?
Directed by Shoojit Sircar and Written by Juhi Chaturvedi.. the film has a huge healing quality to it all throughout!
The film opens with flashes of Dan's day to day life. His mundane routines. Him being the bored, careless, aggressive youngster he is. From what they glimpsed with the trailer.. I thought it would be more of a Tamasha zone. But here, the corporate pressure, the metropolitan arc is subtly dealt. We see Dan finding him as a misfit in his world. His pals take care of his absence in the shifts. He can hardly stand mediocrity. Throughout the film, there is a threat of him loosing his career. After Badlapur, Varun Dhawan is here in another role that completely wipes of the heartthrob image he can't resist. He brings a man-child angle to Dan with an ease. The moments he break down.. one where he stands near the window and let thoughts take over translate for themselves.
And then.. There is Shuili, the professional.. the dedicated worker.. who doesn't exhibit the simplest of clue for being the female lead or love interest. She is feminine.. the calm.. and contrasting to Dan's nature. And for like 10 minutes or so.. it is the normalcy of their lives we see. The backdrop they are put into. Dan and Shuili hardly exchange a conversation. As we keep wondering what this story is heading into, it all bottoms down to an unfortunate fatal accident. Shuili slips away from the third floor and gets hospitalized with hardly any positives to recover. What follows is her medications and treatment and we wait for her to come back! It quietly captures a tragedy between hope and despair.
Dan.. who visits her in the hospital like any other colleague in the beginning finds a strange connection with her in the course of time. He comes to know that 'Where is Dan?' was her last question before she slipped. The question becomes the rosebud of the film. He is haunted with his inability to crack what made her to ask for him given they hardly know and talked to each other. And in the end.. we kind of know why she asked so! Not deliberately.. but we get it with no one telling it.
As the trailer said.. It isn't a love story. It is a story about Love! Like Stockholm Syndrome.. Dan falls for in her most broken form. It is the subtle destruction of life and time that brings them together. We see a poignant relationship growing amidst medicines and odour of disinfectants. He hangs a photograph of him near her bed for him to be constantly under her vision. The film embraces the Ruminess Rockstar dealt with. Like how Heer shrudded like a plant lacking water in Jordan's absence.. When Dan leaves Shuili on her mother's insistance (the scene where she asks him to leave is stunningly staged. We don't see Dan really. We see him standing behind the door with Vidya asking him to leave and Shuili watching all this).. she rebels.. resists to cooperate for treatment. It is the love for him in her vague memory that holds her to the world.
Despite being a film that is set totally in a hospital.. the flow of humour is constant. It doesn't jumps in out of nowhere. But through little moments of life. Like, when questioned, the friend who boasts he has been in ICU twice saying yesterday and today. In another scene, as a part of treatment, doctor checks out her response to the names of her family members. And Dan requests the doctor to ask for his name as well. He gets embarassed about her not responding to his name. Later, in a private moment, she makes a gesture. Dan says he gets it why she didn't responded earlier. The communication between Shuili and Dan is extremely delicate, personal and intimate. Banita Sandhu, (reminds a lot of Anne Hathaway for some reasons) who plays Shuili is brilliant. She barely speaks 10 lines in the film. Yet she constantly talks to us. Her presence is throughout the film. She humanises Gitanjali. It is because of her spell, the entire film has a sad Bengali poetry musicated in monsoon feel to it!
The film blooms gradually. Literally. The flower Shuili is fond of is mentioned later as one that blooms by October, thus becoming her favorite month as well. It is that flower that remains in her memory and retains it as well. And.. it is that flower that Dan beholds at the end for the rest of his life. The entire film blooms in this subtlety.
The characters fit in with an ease and earthiness. There is a nurse who takes care of Shuili's bed. We see her as the typical, strict one who doesn't entertain mischiefs in a hospital. But as time flies, we see there is a subconscious thread of attachment between her and her patient. In a wonderful scene where Dan enquires about her marriage, she responds that she can give up her marriage for the sake of her duty and questions whether he can marry her. It is not treated with a tone to highlight but yet it says so much by telling so less.
My favorite character in the film was Gitanjali Rao's.. who plays Vidya Iyer, Shuili's mother. It is more of a reversal of what Deepika played in Piku. If it is Piku being submissive to Bhaskor's traumatic behaviour and medical complications.. Here is a mother who is not willing to give up on her daughter despite no signs of development. The silence of Shuili disturbs Dan.. saddens her sister.. but it is Vidya's character that torments between hope and urge to deal with reality. When Dan's mother visits Shuili.. they share a wonderful connect of their children being non-responsive to their worries. She is excellent in the moment Shuili half verbally utters "Ma..". She revisits her maternal instinct in nuanced reactions.
There are umpteen moments in the film that are hard to describe with words. Every sequence.. scene and shot carries a mood to it. They are staged effortlessly. There is no pressure from the tellers to make us see things. They want us to be there! To feel! Even something like Shuili's accident.. one that forms the inciting incident of the whole film.. is totally de-stripped of its drama and heightened shock. We see her slipping.. We see people looking out for her crowding slowly.. and only at the end, we see her in the pool of blood. There are several instances where things fall into your eyes rather being shoved. When Dan gets down to take the visitor card he dropped below Shuili's bed.. he finds her being attached to a bag to collect urine. The seriousness of what Shuili is going through doesn't come as a surprise just to Dan but us as well.
The film despite its easy pathway to place a song to tie up the montages just musicates with quiet strings of piano and keyboard then and there. The theme of October is redemptive.
It is the kind of music that blossoms. It holds the entire film in its ambience.
Watching this, I was constantly reminded of another beautiful drama, 'Waiting' played by Kalki and Nazrudeen Shah, that captures the friendship of them as they wait for their spouses (admitted in the same hospital) to recover. There are very few films like this that can come off as poetry on screen. Like Masaan.. Like Lootera.. Like Waiting.. Like October.. But what surprised me about October is not just we remember the verses of poem but also the pauses and silence between the words.