October Review

Shoojit Sircar has managed to turn a singing, dancing, goofball called Varun Dhawan and shown us that the lad can get the audience to cry and laugh and be on his side. October is an unlikely film for Bollywood so used to boy meets girl and falls in love narrative, that a story about human empathy is rare. The film falters because it takes it own time and feels like it is stuck in a loop, but if you are patient, the reward is wonderful. (3) (Manisha Lakhe)



This film is all about Varun Dhawan. Yes, the same lad who danced his way in Judwa 2, Student Of The Year and Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Not to forget he showed us that he could play grown up in Badlapur (though most people were not convinced of his long planned revenge story and appreciated the bad guy Nawazuddin Siddiqui instead).


So Varun Dhawan plays Dan, a socially awkward lad who is a hotel management student interning at a five star hotel, hating the menial tasks assigned to him when all he wants to do is be learning in the kitchen. He's shown constantly challenging authority by breaking rules and 'talking back'. The other interns are also harassed, but remind him that he will be out of the program and his parents will have to pay three lakhs if he continues to show his bad attitude. He needs to put his nose to the grindstone and put up with the tasks assigned them. The girls and the boys have been studying together and are a close knit group, not snitching on this socially awkward lad.


At the new year party when the interns have sneaked out on to the terrace and are partying without the knowledge of the horrible boss (wonderfully played!) there is a tragedy. Banita Sandhu who plays an intern (named 'Shiuli' after the night flowering jasmine) is injured. Everyone is caught out but the boss and the interns all get to the hospital to visit the girl. Dan has of course, escaped duties. When he comes to the little tea shop near the hospital, he is almost reluctant to go see Shiuli in Intensive care.


But his empathetic, curious mind is stuck on 'why did she ask for me before she fell?'


He begins to visit her at the hospital and becomes a part of her recovery process. He may be led by that question but we see that he is not just a disruptive 21 year old. There is more to him than just his wildness. You fall in love with this lad who cares for a girl who is just someone he was studying with, and not even good friends. As the nurse and all his intern mates ask him, 'If she's not your girlfriend, why do you care?'


But he does. And we begin to care for him and smile at all his odd, rough ways of being in the hospital. The girl's mother Geetanjali Rao is a marvelous foil to Dan, never asking him why he shows up night and day at the hospital, at the cost of his internship and career.


And dammit! Shoojit Sircar needs to know better than to allow a big hole in the screenplay with a lame explanation of why the heroine's name is Shiuli - a Bengali name for a South Indian girl. The gorgeous mother explains that little Shiuli would collect the night jasmine flowers with her grandfather (the fragrant flowers fall off the tree in the morning) and that's why she was named after that flower. Erm...Don't you name babies even before they are old enough to pick flowers from the garden?


The screenplay takes its own sweet time to establish Dan's dogged determination and yet keep him sympathetic. But it's a risk the director takes and will lose a whole bunch of people who want 'something to happen' in the movie. The film simply crawls at some points. But if you fall in love with the good, bad boy then you will be willing to watch. It is not a boy falls in love with a girl story. It could be, but it's more about empathy and how the rough lad becomes awesome because of his capacity to empathy. The lump in your throat will not let you eat popcorn in the film, and many scenes will dilute your coffee with tears.



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