October movie cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu, Gitanjali Rao
October movie director: Shoojit Sircar
October movie rating: Two and a half stars
There are several things about October that demand appreciation, the chief of which is that this film has been written, not constructed. The real winner here, by miles, is the writer Juhi Chaturvedi.
Two hotel management trainees, Dan (Dhawan) and Shiuli (Sandhu) forge an unlikely bond in the most trying of circumstances. The film is a gentle unfolding of love and loss and longing, and takes its time getting to where it’s headed. Calling it slow would be to entirely miss the point, because the rhythms of life cannot be fast-forwarded.
In a Bollywood still all at sea when it comes to credible relationship dramas, it’s good to see attention being paid to life’s wholly unexpected stutters and halts, where background music is not used as a crutch, and whose young people interact with each pretty much the way the young do: the film is set in Delhi, a city director Shoojit Sircar is familiar with, and that adds to the feeling of welcome realism.
Equally crucial, the film tells us that romance doesn’t necessarily have to play out in the metric of song-and-dance-and-high-pitched-melodrama; that it can be low-key, and unusual, can be conducted through speaking glances, rather than words.
October reminds you strongly of last year’s The Big Sick whose two lead protagonists find themselves spending large chunks of their time in a hospital, she beset by a serious illness, and he trying to figure out stuff.
October has a young man trying to figure out stuff, too: this is Dhawan’s most life-like character till now (his last outing was Judwaa 2 in which he plays a version of himself, aping Salman Khan via Govinda). Dan is a fairly trying fellow, always reluctant to buckle down and do the back-breaking scutwork that comes with his territory, always trying to cut corners.
His realization that he may have meant something more than just an irritating colleague to the limpid eyed Shiuli is a bit sudden, but we let it go, because we get drawn into the world of hospitals and artificial lights and life support systems, where the two are ably supported by solid performers. There are strong moments here, almost making us forget that we never quite know why Dan behaves in such a surly, entitled fashion, but that’s a crucial hole.
As Shiuli’s suffering yet stoic mother, Gitanjali Rao shows us the pain of a woman who doesn’t know what’s right, but also knows the power of love. She shares the film’s most moving scene with Dan’s mother (Rachica Oswal, in a terrific walk-on part) where the two women speak of children, growing up, and responsibility, and how it can mean different things to different people. There’s such a strong connection between these two women who’ve met for the first time, and may never meet again. Ironically, the thing between Dan and Shiuli, built up through the film, never has this much feeling.
Sandhu is lovely and tender. It is a wonderful debut. And yet, despite all these astutely done bits and bobs, October doesn’t come as together as have the two earlier ventures of Sircar and Chaturvedi, Vicky Donor and Piku. That’s squarely down to Dhawan, whose stardom is clearly a double-edged sword: it is both an advantage and a weak link. From Badlapur on, it’s clear that Dhawan wants to stretch himself and do all kinds of roles. Which is great, because films like October will go out widely because of Dhawan, but it also leads to a kind of dilution.
Through October, you see glimpses of Dan, but you can also see the effort showing: Dhawan’s ability to fully disappear into a part is still a work-in-progress. I liked much of October, but didn’t fall in love with it.
Watch the trailer here