Apr 21, 2018

Notes on October

Let me state at the onset that I liked Piku, Soojit Sircar (director) & Juhi Chuturvedi's (writer) last collaboration, much more than October, their latest. While the former flowed seamlessly, unencumbered by false notes or an at-times-sluggish pace, October is sometimes bogged down by the weight of what it wants to say. Having said this, it is an important and memorable film. How many films have you seen in the last 2 years about which you can say this?

The problem with October is its protagonist Dan (Varun Dhawan); it is too easy to dismiss him as petulant, selfish, arrogant, inconsiderate and annoying. He is all that and perhaps something more. That something more, no I'm not talking abt his capacity for unconditional love, is neither hinted nor painted with broad strokes. It is simply there if you care to see. Dan reminded me of those children that used to be classified as 'problem child' during my childhood. Today it is said that they 'lie on the spectrum'. Whether it is Autism or Asperger's or something less defined, these folks find it difficult to fit in and say or see most things the way others do. I have known many such kids who sorely lacked social skills and always stood out unfavourably. Not only do such kids come across but they often are indeed self centred and self contained in ways that can seem offensive. Once Dan has decided to take care of Shiuli, he shows no consideration for his parents or his close friends, or even his own welfare. While we applaud and cheer for him, it is obvious that his decision is neither grounded in reason nor practical.

Much more than the 2 young protagonists, i felt invested in the peripheral characters like Shilu's mom, Dan's two best friends, and his weary manager. In fact the scene with both Dan and Shiuli's mothers in it, wrenched a lot more out of me than anything else in the film. The former's appears only briefly but her weary hopelessness breaks your heart. She knows Dan better more than anyone and is aware that the boy has lost something precious forever and there is no going back. Shiuli's mother on the other hand is played by Gitanjali Rao with such calm and understated poignancy that you are pinned by the weight of her grief and loss. A person of science, her faith is answered in strange ways. In what is perhaps one of the film's most beautiful scenes, she sits besides Dan with a steaming mug of tea at dawn and says something that expresses why he is so precious to her. Dan is not the child every mother would have wished, but Dan is definitely the best friend every mother will wish for their child.

The parts that work wonderfully and elevate the film are Shantanu Moitra's stunning background score and Avik Mukhopadhay's cinematography. The soaring shots of Kullu seem almost like oxygen after the sterile indoor shots of the hospital.

In a time where gruesome rapes are being defended or being leveraged for ideological and personal gains, Sircar is one of the few directors who is brave enough to tackle the subject of difficult love. Whether it is for a cantankerous and selfish parent (Piku), or for a young girl whose vegetative state  makes unimaginable demands on others, or even a mother's boundless love for a problem child who is not like the others and keeps her awake at night. There is a beautifully wise line in Piku where referring to her father, Deepika Padukone tells Irfan Khan, "Ek umar ke baad, khud se zinda rehni ki icha khatam ho jaati hai. Unhey zinda rakhna padta hai." 

Both Piku and October explores why and how those who love unconditionally, dare to tread along paths that are not only arduous, but also hopeless. 

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