October follows an innocuous connection between Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) and Dan (Varun Dhawan), interns at a luxury hotel who become the centre of a gentle love story after an accident at their workplace lands Shiuli at the hospital.
In the film’s opening scenes, Dan – portrayed as a young man without any aims or ambitions – is rotated across odd jobs at the hotel, from tucking in bed sheets, swatting flies and polishing silverware.
Occasionally criticised by his boss for his carelessness, it isn’t until Shiuli winds up in hospital in a coma with a family forced to weigh the options of keeping her in a coma or not, that Dan finds a purpose.
He becomes a regular fixture at Shiuli’s bedside, sleeping in the waiting room and arguing with Shiuli’s relatives who have lost hope in her recovery, but his fixation on his colleague results in professional and personal consequences for Dan.
Although she spends most of the film comatose in an intensive care unit at a Delhi hospital, Sandhu’s performance as Shiuli is striking in her scenes at the start of the film.
Meanwhile Shiuli’s mother, the stoic but suffering Gitanjali Rao, left audiences wiping away tears with her performance as grieving mother; particularly in a moving scene with Dhawan.
She is brittle and incandescent as a mother unwilling to let her emotions show, even with Dan, with whom she develops a special bond.
Dhawan’s Dan is a transformational role for the actor, both in terms of his acting career but also his future course of selection. His performance as Dan is deeply rooted, and every frame brings out his talent as an actor rather than a filmstar.
Dhawan, the son of famous Bollywood director David Dhawan, began his career with Karan Johar’s Student of the Year, but even with 10 blockbusters to his credit, Dhawan’s performance in October has outclassed his past work to date.
Writer Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar, who have previously worked together in Vicky Donor and Piku, have done justice to the story.
In October, Chaturvedi successfully highlights the message that life should be valued, and every individual deserves to live as he or she so desires. She beautifully weaves these messages into the lyrical screenplay of the film, without falling into the trap of heavy doses of dialogues or through love songs.
Even the film’s most overwhelming scenes are laced with lightweight dialogue and silences, allowing it to speak to the audience without saying too much.
October is a humane story that can be appreciated and enjoyed in spite of the silences deeply rooted in the treatment of various scenes, and its narrative comes through loud and clear without sacrificing on humour and lighter moments.
However, a few details and up-close graphic visuals in the hospital’s emergency ward could have done with a warning, which was missing.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2018