There are few movies where I immediately want to go back to the world it portrayed and my first thought after watching Shoojit Sircar’s October was just that – I have to watch it again. This is not a movie review but a discussion. Spoilers ahead.
For some reason October reminded me of The Big Sick (another movie I wanted to see again as soon it finished) even though the leads Dan and Shiuli aren’t romantically inclined like the real life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon in the former. Perhaps because like The Big Sick, October dealt with something catastrophic happening out of the blue with humour.
I am foolish. I am naive. I am easily irritated. I am moody. I get affected by things which most people shrug off without a care. I am frequently annoying and have been known to speak out of turn when I should have kept my head down and stare at my feet. I hold on and be direct in the wrong-est of situations, and do things because I want to without thinking of returns in the hope of things working out even when there’s no chance of it. In short your typical Aries. (No better time than Aries season to embrace who I am.) So I could relate to Dan’s character in the film October more than I’d like to admit.
I don’t believe October is about a romantic relationship of any kind. Affection, connection and love are different things. But people have always seen what they wish to see. Although Dan and Shiuli work in the same hotel they had barely interacted with each other outside of work when she was conscious. Most of their interactions are after the accident. Shiuli cannot reciprocate Dan’s affection or repay what he has done for her but he continues tirelessly without hoping for much, a little (flash of) recognition maybe, and, of course, her recovery.
Dan finds a cause which changes the direction of his life. He insinuates himself into something which actually isn’t any of his business. And through this obstinacy and refusal to even admit a negative outcome or become jaded he actually gives hope to a family in a trying time, in a situation devoid of much hope.
Why did he fight for her? The world asks him why does he care so much. Can’t he get a grip on himself? Why is he so affected? To which he says how can you be so unaffected! They see him throwing his life away for a girl he barely knew because of something she said before the accident. They were colleagues not friends. It is perhaps feeling for someone who met a grisly end for no fault of her own and caring because they got the rough end of the deal which could have easily happened to him. Though I am the last person on the planet to admit this, I have seen enough of life to acquiesce that some occurrences in life cannot be explained in rational terms.
Setting the movie in a hospital is bound to connect with people. There is no one in the world untouched by sickness or hasn’t been a patient or a caregiver and dealt with such things in a family member or a relative. And though they are not happy places for me, I have made my peace with them. Knowing about medicines, chit chatting with the staff while waiting for the doctors felt like familiar territory.
Gitanjali Rao is outstanding as the mother of Shiuli trying to hold it together when faced with mounting hospital bills and imminent death of her eldest child. Her children, Shiuli’s siblings, go to tuitions and study in the hospital and she continues to take classes at IIT Delhi, sticking to their routines for the sake of sanity. I have loved her stunning short films as an animator and now adore her as an actor.
Banita Sandhu as Shiuli is especially amazing in the slow recovery and progress scenes.
The cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay is amazing; the quiet moments never drag but allow you to appreciate what is unfolding with an intensity that is immersive. The changing of seasons while circumstances in life’s barely keep pace with it is captured well. It took me back to a time in my life when I couldn’t do much except note the passage of seasons. This is what good cinema does, you experience the film and connect it with the story of your life.
The writing by Juhi Chaturvedi is sharp and nuanced. She continues to mine humour from unexpected places like was evident in the spectacular Piku. The original score by Shantanu Moitra is sublime and reminded me of Dhobi Ghat’s theme by Gustavo Santaolalla (I have been his fan since Brokeback Mountain).
How do you turn off the machines which are keeping a human being you have loved for so long alive? I used to say to my family members to turn off the machines if I am ever in that position but it’s a difficult decision to make when it involves your loved ones, especially in the absence of a will and in someone so young. Shiuli isn’t in a position to decide anything because in our country young people don’t have wills.
The pragmatist in the family, Shiuli’s uncle, and the voice of reason brings dejection to the whole family with his pessimistic outlook when they are vulnerable and need hope to pull through. Dan shows that hope is not what you wait for, hope is what you bring to the table, if survival is your goal. The audacity of hope when one is young is immense and Dan’s fierce optimism is proof that you can turn a potentially devastating situation around by changing your perspective. There is no way you come out of it unchanged or unscathed, and life is made of experiences like that.
After seeing October I won’t beat myself up about the unexplainable connections I share with some people or look for exact reasons. Either you care about people either you don’t. It’s not that cut and dried, especially when you don’t know why you care. And sometimes you cannot let go and that’s okay too.
Dan, played superbly by Varun Dhawan, is a believer. And after all life has thrown at me I still remain one though I am loathe to admit it even to myself. I am glad some things never change; some certainties make life livable.
The film is brave, experimental, real and funny, and deserves your time and hard earned money. October is sad but hopeful and sometimes hope is all you need. I don’t know what to say about the film except what I felt personally. I am far from an objective observer though I try very hard to be one.
Just a day after I saw the film I came across these lines in A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde .
Nothing should be out of the reach of hope. Life is a hope.
Even days later I don’t want to shake off the feeling October left me with, and as I write this I am thinking how soon can I go watch it again without appearing like an obssessed idiot. Have you seen Shoojit Sircar’s October? If not, what are you waiting for? Go watch it and then we will talk.