The hopeful tale night-flowering jasmine – October (Bollywood, 2018)
October is the month of night-flowering jasmine, also called shiuli in Bengali. And that is what the name of the leading character in the film is too, Shiuli. The thing about these flowers is that they are gone before you even know. They are pretty and fragile but have a short life. Yet they have a strong lingering smell that hovers in the air for a considerable time. Shiuli from the Bollywood film October was just like this flower – short-lived but still managed to linger in our souls for a little while.
Varun Dhawan plays Dan, a cocky, irresponsible young hotel management intern who never does a thing properly. He messes up things putting him on the blacklist of his managers. But we still love Dan.
Shiuli played by debutant Banita Sandhu is his colleague and maybe a friend. But they are hardly shown speaking to each other and as far as we know, a few glances are what they share more than spoken words. And yet, Dan is severely affected when Shiuli falls off the terrace of a sixteen-story building.
“Not a Love Story”, advocates the tagline of the film. True, it’s not a love story. Rather it is a story about unconditional love. What is it that Dan found captivating about Shiuli’s motionless, bruised self? Why didn’t he feel this way while she was conscious and healthy? You have to watch the film to unravel the answers.
Dan is adamant to bring Shiuli back to life, or at least try to contain the little life that is left of her. While her colleagues give up and move on with life, Dan simply can’t overcome the trauma. He visits the hospital as much as possible, putting his career at stake. Why did he risk it all for a person he hardly knew? Because for him, it felt right. We see Dan grow and explore himself in the process.
The excitement and emotions Dan feels when Shiuli shows minor progress in her health connects with the audience perfectly. In a scene, Shiuli’s uncle argues that it is best to take away her life support as there’s no scope for her to come back to consciousness. The medical treatment is expensive, and the family is struggling to make the ends meet.
If you have ever had a person affected similarly you can understand what goes through in such circumstances. It’s like balancing on a narrow thread connecting love and practicality. Shiuli’s mother and Dan choose to continue to treat her nevertheless.
Talking of Shiuli’s mother, Gitanjali Rao has done a remarkable job in conveying the helplessness of Dr.Vidya Iyyer (name of her character). Dr.Vidya Iyyer is a professor at IIT Delhi, unlike other Bollywood mothers who are usually housewives.
To see Varun Dhawan perform with such ease and realism, stripped of all the props and frills of a commercial actor is indeed a rare instance.
Shoorjit Sircar’s October says so much by actually saying so little. There aren’t many dialogues or even songs. The sounds made by hospital pieces of equipment and hotel machinery make up most of the background score.
As the film ends, you will need some time to get back to reality; that’s how intense this film is. It pierces right through your heart.
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