April 14, 2018

Movie review: 'October'

Movie Title: October

Genre: Romance/drama

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Story: Juhi Chaturvedi

Producer: Ronnie Lahiri, Sheel Kumar

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu, Ajay Sharma, Gitanjali Rao and others

The film starts on a casual note, showing us a typical day in the life of Dan, a hotel management student interning at a five star hotel, who manages to get everything wrong at work owing to his clumsiness and cocky behavior. However, all is forgiven because this twenty-one year old has a good heart and the emotional maturity of a child, making it impossible for his colleagues, friends, and even his boss to hate him.
On the other hand, Shiuli is a well-balanced, mature and intelligent co-worker, who seems to have her life and priorities sorted, something that irks Dan because it reminds him of his own inadequacies.
Barely friends, these two know very little of each other...until the fateful accident that nearly kills Shiuli, changing the dynamics of their relationship forever.

Even half-way through the film, I knew that this movie would garner mixed reactions from its audience. And the after-comments from the people in the movie hall only proved me right.
However, I am of the opinion that good art should evoke and provoke. If a good piece of art (be it poetry, literature, or film) doesn't trigger you to think hard and change something in you, then it hardly qualifies as impactful. What different would it be than the run of the mill, leave-your-brain-behind potboilers we love to hate?

I am glad 'October' proved to be different. And although it did not manage to break the frozen sea of disappointment and bias that mainstream Bollywood (with its frivolous song-and-dance routine and slapstick comedy) has created within me, I do think it managed to cause a few cracks in it.

The movie leaves you with a heavy heart and a mind full of questions...questions that you may have asked yourself before, questions you may have dodged answering, and topics you may have avoided because, well, they are too damn difficult and painful to think about. But 'October' brings those same questions to the fore, carefully wrapped in a story of young love and compassion that keeps you engaged emotionally until the end, when you leave the hall in sombre silence and it suddenly hits you. The nuances of the film, the underlying message, the tone, the subtlety.
The theme revolves around the eternal dilemma faced by the caretaker or family of someone who has slipped into an almost irrecoverable coma----hang on to the delicate thread of hope or pull the plug and let go?  The former means the possibility of watching the person suffer through perceivable and imperceptible trauma, but also holds a chance (however bleak it may seem) of recovery. The latter means losing the person forever, with the only consolation that you have at least ended the suffering. Personally, I think both options are equally harrowing for the caregiver or family member to choose from. Hell! It isn't even a choice in the first place.

Yet, 'October' portrays how strong optimism can bring about a positive outcome in even the bleakest of conditions. Dan fights against medical reason and logic. When the resolve of even family is shaken, he proves to be the pillar of strength, helping Shiuli, gradually make her way to as much of a recovery as possible, showing us how even a few extra moments with a dying person can help the ones left behind in getting the much needed strength to live on. Perhaps that was the real underlying message behind the movie...cherish every moment, even the fleeting ones.

Thinking about it, I think 'October' was all about searching for closure, until you eventually realize it is within your own self. Dan's entire journey, starting with him being persistently curious about why Shiuli asked about him just before the accident, to him presuming she has feelings for him, to the point wherein looking after her becomes the sole aim of his life, despite knowing that she may never be able enough to return his love, only proves to us that the answers you are seeking are inside you.

'October' brought to mind Aruna Shanbaug who remained in a vegetative state for nearly 42 years before she passed away in 2015.
A senior nurse at the hospital (where Aruna lay admitted) was quoted saying, "We have to tend to her just like a small child at home. She only keeps aging like any of us, does not create any problems for us. We take turns looking after her and we love to care for her. How can anybody think of taking her life?"
This movie helped me see the Aruna Shanbaug case in a different light. I no longer saw it as a pitiful condition of a helpless woman being unable to express her will. Instead I saw it as a victory of the love and care that helped her fight a forty-two year long battle.

There are a few scenes that are so heart touching, that you can't help but marvel at Banita Sandhu, who, despite being a debutante, has managed to win hearts with her acting prowess. The supporting characters have also done full justice to their roles.
Dan with his simplicity and never-say-die (literally) optimism manages to grow on you, and you cannot help but applaud his persistence and sensitivity. Dhawan's terse dialogue delivery and innocent performance manages to evoke just the right amount of empathy towards his character, while Sandhu's lifeless stare and sluggish responses as a comatose patient, proves her prowess as an actor.

To sum up, 'October' is a movie of substance, a slice-of-life story that tells us that connections of the heart do not need reason or logic. Sometimes all it takes is a tiny germ of a thought that urges you to make a difference. Perhaps the real way to love is to love unconditionally.
Perhaps the only way to love is to love unconditionally!

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5

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