‘This is not a love story, but a story about love,’ is the line that takes over the screen as the trailer for Varun Dhawan and Banita Sandhu starrer October begins. I remember watching the video for the first time and thinking why the talented Shoojit Sircar was choosing to resort to such cliches in his new movie. Of course, I judged it at the time for its choice of words, but I judged it too soon and a little too harshly.
After watching the film at a theater a few days later, I realised what the filmmaker wanted to convey with that one line — October is not your typical love story where the boy meets girl and together they encounter a set of obstacles. Here, the boy hardly gets to know the girl before a fatal accident stops them dead in their tracks. Before the unfortunate incident, Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) thought Varun’s Dan to be a bit of an eccentric recluse. Dan, on his part, had barely made conversation with the female lead character, until of course, she went into a coma. It is after her coma that Dan begins to wonder what could have happened between the two of them had they engaged in a thorough dialogue. And it is this sense of wonderment which makes him go the extra mile to take care of Shiuli. However, things were not meant to be and Shiuli passes away. And it is here where one of my favourite scenes from the film takes place.
Post the funeral prayer, Dan and Shiuli’s mother (Gitanjali Rao) are seen sitting down on the steps of Shiuli’s home. They are facing the garden which seems green, fresh. An October in full bloom. A direct contrast to what the characters in question are feeling at the moment, or what the mood of the suddenly empty house seems to convey. Dan turns to Shiuli’s mother and asks her, “Aap jaa rahe ho?” (Are you leaving?) She takes a pause and says, “Wo Shiuli ka ped main yaha akele nai chorna chahti.” (I don’t want to leave the Shiuli tree behind). Shiuli is the flower that Shiuli the character was partial to and had kept the plant in her garden. At this moment, the camera cuts to Dan’s face who seems moved and in the next shot, we see the fallen, almost uncared for Shiuli flowers lying on a bed of green grass. “Main le jaunga, don’t worry (I will take it, don’t worry),” Dan responds. The scene ends with Dan riding away with the plant: one protective, sure hand on the plant’s pot. Dan’s small but significant gesture shows how deeply he felt for Shiuli. Dan shows us that to take care of someone unselfishly might be rare, but not unheard of. That it is possible to feel much without saying much. Dan doesn’t need any grand gesture to make the audience feel what kind of relationship he shares with Shiuli. And that ultimately even death cannot stop him from doing what he believes is right, that is to carry out his unspoken promise to her.
Sequence of note | Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone | Masaan | Love Actually | Taxi Driver | Tamasha | La La Land | Swades | 96: Trisha tells a story | Rang De Basanti’s ‘Koi Future Nai’ | Inglourious Basterds’ strudel scene | Delhi 6’s Dil Gira Dafatan | The eerie conversation from Get Out
The sequence is a short one. It is hardly a minute long but it successfully manages to represent the basic tenet of the Shoojit Sircar directorial — you don’t have to know someone to be unconditionally kind to them.