October is arguably the most well-crafted movie to have come out of Hindi film industry last year. It was a surprising mixture of a lot of things starting from the lead actor who is known to be a commercial superstar. The combination of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi has always delivered movies that were heartening with very less commercial movie gimmicks and more of an unapologetic approach towards the content. What perhaps makes October the finest one from this duo is the fact that they gave a lot of space for the audience to interpret the silences and in almost every interpretation, there was a story about love.
So what makes this movie a brilliant one?
There are no definitions of how a movie should be. It varies from genre to genre. But one thing that filmmakers and audience would definitely agree is the fact that it has to be memorable. October is one movie that lingers in your mind, thinking about all the less vocal character equations in that movie. The nucleolus of the movie is indeed Shiuli, but the exploration of characters done here using that character in this film is really brilliant. Every element in the story is revolving around the central conflict and they are not shifting the backdrop at any point to take us away from the mood.
The Exposition of Dan
I read someone’s take on October and the person’s complaint about the character of Dan was that he was weird and the character was vaguely written. That observation from that individual is the answer to the
If you observe the film’s arc, the only people who sort of understand Dan are the ones who have been with him for a fair amount of time. His close colleagues, chief Asthana, Shiuli’s mother,
The fact that Dan decided to care for Shiuli after knowing that her last sentence before falling from the building was about him makes him look stupid in the eyes of the “be practical” life policy guys. But with that question and the way he persisted in caring for her even after facing a lot of issues, eventually ending up in his expulsion from the hotel, in a way proves how terribly lonely Dan was till that point. In the climax portion, we are seeing a more sorted Dan who admits that the sort of care and attention he got from Shiuli’s family has made him a better man.
The Women of October
Juhi Chaturvedi and Shoojit Sircar have always presented solid female characters with identity in all their films. Even though October is highly saturated with Dan, the role of the female perspective here is quite commendable. The character of Ishani played by Isha Chaturvedi is someone who is always concerned about Dan. There are scenes where you can see this character struggling to express the concerns as the care for Dan and practicality thoughts tangles her. Another character through which Juhi Chaturvedi explores womanhood is the character of the nurse. The societal perspective towards a nurse gets spoken through that character and the movie takes its own time to enter that conversation which gives us a valid reason to think about it.
Shiuli, played by Banita Sandhu, is a soft-spoken character who always had an empathetic approach towards Dan. Even though she wasn’t that verbal, we are shown how she looks at Dan and how she behaves with him. And in the last quarter of the movie, we sort of realize the fact that this seemingly annoying character of Dan has finally found a complementing force in Shiuli.
The strongest of them all is Prof. Vidya Iyer played brilliantly by Gitanjali Rao. In interviews, Shoojit Sircar has said that Gitanjali Rao had her reservations about acting as she was doing a feature film for the first time. But she lived the character and delivered a seamless performance. Juhi makes sure that she stays strong even when we get to see her vulnerabilities. Almost every female character in the movie is a working woman and Vidya Iyer is a professor who manages to balance her work life and personal life even after facing such a big tragedy. We can see the single mother going through an emotional turmoil. The film manages to capture the professor’s inner fight so precisely that when we finally see her in that scene where Shiuli vaguely says “Amma”, it is not just Prof. Iyer who is trying to hold back the tears. She makes little movement or dialogues in that scene with Dan’s mother, but so much of what was inside both those mothers get revealed subtly.
It is a 115 minutes long movie in which almost the first 20-30 minutes is used to show us the backdrop of Dan and his problems in the work atmosphere. The time factor is pretty much not bothering the screenplay in that phase. It is after the unfortunate accident, the pace of the movie increases. What we are seeing after that is the development of Shiuli’s health, but it is not on a day to day basis. For me what fascinated about the making of this film is that fact that how they increased the pace without never really affecting the calmness in the narrative. Editor Chandrasekhar Prajapathi cuts into the misty weather of Delhi, the Diwali celebrations,
At a time when the barrier between commercial and indie films are getting blurred, the humor in October needs to be mentioned. There is a conversation between Dan and Manjeet after seeing Shiuli in the hospital and that despair filled conversation slips into a funny one in a very blended way. The plug scene and some of the hospital bits are funny and at the same time, they are making the character of Dan a little more endearing.
Is This a Love Story?
Well, Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi have kept a lot of things for our guess. And one of the major things is the love angle. The makers say that it is not a love story, but a story about love. When we see this duo of Dan and Shiuli becoming complementary to each other in a quest for a reason to exist, the love dimension definitely has a scope. But the script’s emphasis on emotions like empathy and care is what makes it a tale about love. When I finally got to know the real Dan who initially was an arrogant and annoying character, October almost made me think about all those people whom I might have avoided in life at school, college or workplace due to a similar attitude. By exploring the emotional layers of Dan, Juhi Chaturvedi has created a brilliant character and Shoojit Sircar presented him in a manner where the viewer will take an effort to understand that character.
The beauty of the screenplay was that not a single scene was there without relevance. There are a lot of hospital bits like how Dan cares about the effort of those who kept the hospital clean, how he helps a person by correcting the pharmacist etc. which doesn’t really have a big significance but eventually adds to the purpose of making us love him. Dan’s optimism is also presented in a way that keeps him as an odd one. His examples sound a little insensitive in the beginning, but as the movie moves on, his justifications become more credible. I loved the way how he scores over the uncle character every time.
Three-time national award winner Abhik Mukhopadhyay has done the cinematography of October. He understands the calmness of the narrative and gives very less movement in the frames. Most shots are static and minimal panning of the camera happens in scenes. In situations that have an element of darkness, we mostly see characters in the shadow with light in the backdrop. As the film approaches hopeful areas, the light in the frame increases. The music is really minimal and it respects the value of silence.
The Final Word
I have watched the movie thrice now including one theatrical watch. Each time when the film ends, I end up thinking about Dan. The Shiuli episode might have definitely evolved him as a sorted human being. But again the thought that he might be tackling loneliness again, makes me sad. October from Shoojit Sircar is a great example of how a movie with very thin layers of drama can be so beautiful if the writing and presentation are minimal and subtle. I hope Varun Dhawan does more films like this in the future. The actor’s conviction was so good that in the whole article I was only talking about Dan and not him.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended