There are films about uncompromising affection, chilling pain, or life as it happens in its complete glory or drudgery; and there is October which is all of this stitched together as an unforgettable personal experience of melancholy! Pain so unspoken, pain that stays away from any form of melodrama by miles, and yet pain so choking and affecting that it leaves you totally numb! And its how this pain sucks you in to become a part of the very personal journey of everyone around a delicately fragrant October flower is what sets October apart. Apart in tone and texture from anything that has been seen on the hindi cinema screen before!
That’s where the genius of the magical pair of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi lies, and they deliver results like never before! The biggest victory of the film possibly lies in the fact that it dares to explore the completely uncharted territories of storytelling or film-making! Its a way of cinema where nothing needs to be dramatized and everything needs to be experienced; where no actions or attachments need to explained and everything needs to be interpreted or felt; where even the boundaries or syntax of a relationship don’t need to be qualified by a mushy backstory or garnished with a name for the bond, and yet the sheer honesty and the innocence of that bond engulfs you completely with its overwhelming emotions leaving a constant lump in the throat! And it does all this without pretending for a minute that it has to feed in to the needs of the typical comfort zone of the Indian cine-goer or manipulatively stir any emotions out of them!
This is minimalistic cinema at its best where a harrowing life changing event comes and hits you out of nowhere without any build up, and doesn’t resort to any sort of emotional outbursts post that from anyone around! The sense of shock is unnerving and becomes further unsettling with bold, disturbing images of a patient’s journey without trying to pretty up anything! Even when the screenplay beautifully contrasts between a home for luxury and a home for ultimate depression, it only adds heavy subtext to the lives of people engaged in both the places, their human behaviors and their tales of compassion, monotony and daily survival making the viewer one of them in their live’s journeys! There hasn’t been such a fine use of dissimilar spaces to create such strikingly similar emotions in a long long time!
And the credit goes to the entire technical team of Sircar to deliver this experience. The Production Design is spot on and although Mansi Dhruv Mehta had very little to play with, she excels! As does the makeup department with a patient’s journey towards hope! Terrific work by cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay, not just with amazing capture of close-ups and emotions in closed, dark hospital spaces or the opulence of five star hotels; but also with the magical capture of nature in its full glory all through the film. Under his camera, nature becomes a very special character in itself standing by and seeing the ups and downs of a few lives as time passes by! Shantanu Moitra creates magic with his minimal but profound background score, and I am so thankful that the film actually uses none of the album songs which would otherwise have created some real jerks to the surreal screenplay! Its so unfortunate that the pace of the film is being critiqued from some quarters, but the immersive experience that October becomes is solely because of its pace! Anything faster than this would be jarring and spoil the complete experience – Thank you Chandrasekhar Prajapati for not giving in to any lure of speeding up things through your editing! And that brings me to Jogi Mallang, who as the casting director is spot on with every single character we see on the screen – but that is what it is with Shoojit films, he never goes wrong with casting!
Banita Sandhu makes an outstanding debut – her eyes speak a million words and she expresses a world of emotions just using them along with some terrific underplayed expressions! Wise decision there of not giving her too many speaking lines. It will be hard to beat what Geetanjali Rao does with her mother’s character in a long long time to come, she is so flawless in her sense of trauma, helplessness and loss throughout, and maintaining a very stoic and practical approach to life at the same time. And her eyes are as beautiful and expressive as Banita – kudos again to the perfect casting! All others in the ensemble deliver a very honest performance and the friends at work, Shuili’s sister, Dan’s mother, his boss and hospital nurse especially stand out! And then there is Varun Dhawan in an absolutely spectacular form, and unlike all apprehensions, makes Dan as real and vulnerable as no one else could have! I will be honest – I always thought after the trailer that this was a role written for Ranbir Kapoor all over, but after watching the film, I cannot imagine anyone else having played it! There is not an iota of stardom anywhere in Dan and Varun infuses it with all the innocence, confusion, vulnerability, pathos, underplayed humor and a sense of belonging that no one else could have! This indeed has to be a brand new debut for Varun never seen before, and he surpasses Badlapur by miles with what he leaves us with here in a totally underplayed act!
At the end though, like all Shoojit Sircar movies, October is a precious neckline of pearls that are moments of poise, loss, hope, emptiness, humor, warmth and surreal beauty all stringed together! Whether it is the heartfelt conversation between two mothers who have never met each other before but exactly relate to what the other is going through, or whether it’s that lovely bond of dependency and understanding that develops between a mother and her daughter’s friend who are never introduced by the later, or whether it is the series of those absolutely stunning moments between Dan and Shuili who don’t even know what defines their relationship or if any relationship exists at all – it all moves you to the core and soaks you in completely in its melancholic beauty leaving you speechless! All this, while the brilliance of Juhi finds uncanny places to extract everyday humor, and stories of hope & humanity sprinkled across the gloomiest of situations! Sheer brilliance!
October is then cinema at its dramatic least and emotional best that has not been seen in the hindi screen for years now – definitely not since the magical Lootera! It may also have come way too ahead of the acceptance patterns of the movie goer who make up the box office numbers! And yet cinema like October needs to be made and experienced in its full glory! Its such a beautifully immersive experience that it may leave you completely numb for a very long time even after it ends, and the impact will possibly only get stronger if you let it settle down for some more time! And yet, I can’t resist the craving for an encore sometime very very soon, possibly I won’t!
#Masterpiece #PainCanBeBeautiful #LoveHasNoDefinition