(Reuters) - What can you do for someone who is in a coma? Someone who is lying in a bed for months and unable to move? If you are Dan, the protagonist in Shoojit Sircar’s “October”, you get the patient’s eyebrows threaded. Bushy eyebrows do no one any good, even if you are unconscious.
“October” is full of such moments - it teases out unexpected humour in serious situations. Sircar and long-time collaborator Juhi Chaturvedi lovingly piece together a story about life, death and the space between.
An intern at a five-star hotel, Dan is petulant, combative and often childish. His mulishness gets him into trouble with his superiors, and he is a misfit in an industry that requires smiling faces and submissiveness. His colleague Shiuli (which in Hindi means "jasmine," which blooms in October) is the opposite; her wide eyes and soft-spoken behaviour make her an ideal employee. She and Dan are acquaintances at best, but that changes when Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) has a freak fall.
One of the illusions of youth is that it is eternal, and Dan acts like he has all the time in the world to grow up. But when he sees Shiuli lying in a hospital bed, strapped to a machine and struggling to stay alive, something changes. As their other friends get over the shock and return to everyday life, Dan doesn’t. He frequents the hospital, watching over her, berating a hospital worker who he thought stared too long at her, inquiring whether the doctor who is treating her is really good, and getting a beautician to come in and do Shiuli’s eyebrows.
He lends support to Shiuli’s mother (Gitanjali Rao) as she struggles to cope with her daughter’s condition, brings Shiuli her favorite jasmine flowers and resists stubbornly when a relative of the girl suggests “pulling the plug”.
Sircar captures the hospital life wonderfully – the endless waiting, the friendships you form with others, the whirring and beeping of machines that never seem to end. Background music is used sparingly in these scenes, and Sircar juxtaposes hospital life with life in the hotel where Dan works.
Avik Mukhopadhyay’s camera work focuses on the clockwork precision and efficiency that is on display in both places. A nurse working on her shift is remarkably similar to a waiter working his. The clean, sanitised atmosphere is the same, but services these two places provide are very different. Several times, the film segues from one hospital scene to a hotel scene, and it works very well as a contrast between the two worlds.
The stubbornness that gets Dan into trouble at work stands him in good stead when he’s taking care of Shiuli. As Dan, Varun Dhawan is stellar, channeling an inner strength. Rao is equally good, and her scene with Dhawan at the end of the film is one of the highlights. Debutante Banita Sandhu doesn’t have much to do, but even the smaller characters in this film, like Nimmy Raphael, who plays a nurse, leave a mark.
“October” doesn’t hurry from one plot point to the other. In fact there aren’t any plot points. This might prompt some to call it slow, but it is not. Sircar and Chaturvedi bring a meditative quality to the story, and it is this quality that makes “October” stand out.
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