October and “Where’s Dan?”

(Analysis of October movie, With Spoilers Ahead)

Dan (Varun Dhawan) – A Hotel Management trainee, working in a 5-star hotel has a long standing affair with reprimands. His child like demeanor and discipline issues keep earning him rebukes from the management. While his co-trainee Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) continues to earn admiration from the management, Dan is made to hop from one department to another viz. housekeeping, laundry, pest control and every other department except for the one which he loves the most – Kitchen.!

The year end arrives and along with it comes the long extended weekend, which would mean only one thing to the hotel staff – tight, hectic, tiring shifts. Dan slips away from the demanding schedule, as he goes home to attend his parents’ anniversary.

After a tiring day at work, the trainees gather on the terrace floor for some merry making. Shiuli makes a causal enquiry about Dan’s absence. “Where’s Dan? Haven’t seen him since yesterday” she asks – a casual enquiry indeed! A moment later, she tries sitting on the parapet, but only to slip down with a deadly fall. The accident pushes her into coma.

Dan returns from vacation and visits Shiuli at ICU, where she looks more equipment than human. The machines that are supporting Shiuli in her battle for life and their intrinsic details piques Dan’s fancy than her sorry state.

A dinner conversation with his roommate makes him learn about the events that preceded the accident. His friend makes a casual mention of Shiuli’s final words – “Where’s Dan?”

In spite of the attempts by others to write off her question as a casual one, Dan believes that it holds significance. He wants to know the reason behind her enquiry. He is in need of the answer, but the one who could answer his curiosity is living on ventilator, lost her conscious and showing no signs of recovery.

As rightly described in the trailer- “It’s not a love story, but a story about love”.! Dan doesn’t cry, neither does he laugh. He doesn’t say the magical words ‘I Love you’! Never once Dan tells us that he is in love with her. We see the love that a mother has towards her kid, siblings towards her sister and we see a Young adult whose pursuit for an answer evolves into an unconditional love.

Written beautifully by Juhi Chaturvedi, the script has transitioned into its absorbing visual form thanks to Shoojit Sircar and an exemplary cast.

In October, Shoojit doesn’t rely on heavy doses of background score and movement of Camera as much as he does on the performance of Actors. Rarely does the camera ‘dolly in’ to enhance the emotions and rarely does the Background score play to amplify the emotions. Isn’t that how it works in real life..? That’s one of the reasons why ‘October’ seems more real.

It also seems real, because the frames look extremely beautiful only when it has to and we don’t see actors mouthing deep philosophical dialogs garnished with metaphors. If any metaphor exists, then it exists in visual form – The flower Shiuli(Night Jasmine) being one.

The faith that Juhi and Shoojit have bestowed on ‘Keeping-it-simple’ coupled with his unorthodox methods, seems to have paid off, as the movie begins to appear more and more real, draws you into its world and puts you into perspective.

We have seen Varun Dhawan in his innocent avatars even before ‘October’. However, no other movie premise has been benefited by it, as much as this movie. The actor in Varun Dhawan ‘expresses it all, without really expressing anything’ and his restrained performance has only accentuated it.

Before the release of the movie, in one of his interviews he had said “I have never been so vulnerable on a film set. After a while, it stopped feeling like shooting. When you know that this is acting, it’s a film, there’s a block, that it’s okay. But when it stops feeling like acting and feels like real life, then the floodgates open”. After watching this movie, you shall know the significance that it holds for him.

Banita Sandhu speaks it all through her eyes and Gitanjali Rao has emotions written all over her face.

Casting of the movie is spot on! Shuttling between Hotel and Hospital, the movie has a plethora of characters that set up the perfect emotional ecosystem – roommate and his girlfriend who looks after Dan’s expenses, seemingly rude but silently caring boss, hostile colleagues, strangers, worried parents, friendly nurse and the list goes on. The cast appear to have slipped into their roles with an effortless ease.

The album has four plus songs, but the movie has none. However, the background score which plays only when needed stays with you!

I often compare movies with food. Probably ‘October’ is like the red wine. Few might love it at the very first go. For few others it’s an acquired taste. The fact that the movie is earning extreme reactions is disheartening for sure, but is quite understandable.

“Where’s Dan?” isn’t the central question of the movie. For Dan the central question is ‘Why did she ask about me?’ and hence the central question of the movie is – Whether Dan will be able to get an answer to it and whether his innocent attempts to revive her pays off or not?

And once you watch the movie you shall know that the movie is indeed about ‘Where’s Dan?’ – The answer to which lies in his self-discovery.

October is Juhi chaturvedi’s ‘Last leaf’, Shoojit’s best one yet and probably Varun’s ‘Where’s Dan?’ – As the actor in him appears to have made a self-discovery in this movie. Watch it if you want those emotional strings of yours to be pulled.

-Chan

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‘A Taxi Driver’ and why the world needs more such movies?

 

History is a mutating entity. It mutates, because every day there occurs thousands of events of historical significance – few of them is open for world to know and the rest are secluded and stay under wraps. History is a mutating entity, because it’s based on perspectives and there occurs shift in perspectives every now and then.

And History is a mutating entity, for it keeps getting rewritten whenever ‘what-has-stayed-under-wraps’ emerges out for world to know and see.

Every such emergence brings out stories of unsung heroes and Movies play a significant role in bringing these stories into bright light. ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ etc. stand as perfect examples for this.

A Taxi Driver’ – a South Korean Movie released in 2017, is an addition to the not-so-long-list of shining examples. A beautifully crafted movie based on the Gwangju uprising that took place in South Korea in early 80s and how a Taxi Driver became an accidental hero. (Something that I didn’t know until I watched this movie and read about it later. His real name may not be that).

I am writing this piece, because of the relevance it holds to the times that we live in.

The movie speaks of a pro-democratic uprising that took birth in Gwangju against the martial law imposed by South Korean Government. The demonstration against the government by the student group was later supported by local citizens but only to be oppressed by the military. The 9 day rebellion-and-oppression exercise witnessed an estimated death toll of 600.

However, Gwangju was quarantined during this period. Government had ensured that there is no outflow of information – in writing, in pictures or any other form. The entire uprising episode was being projected to the rest other parts of South Korea and world as “rebellion instigated by Communist sympathizers and rioters”. Death tolls were misreported and falsely projected, so as to make the world believe that it’s the army men who are getting killed by the civilians. This had helped the Government earn sympathizers across the nation.

It was not until a German Journalist by name ‘Jürgen Hinzpeter’ smuggled himself into Gwangju, videotaped the real events and broadcasted it to the rest of the world, that the perceptions changed.

And He couldn’t have done so without the help of a Taxi driver who agrees to drive him into the town, for the hefty bill that the reported had promised to pay. The government sympathizer that he is, the driver’s perception about the uprising sees a seismic shift after he reaches the town and witnesses the holocaust. He then decides to stand by the reporter and ensures his safe return to Seoul along with the videotaped evidence of the military violence. He becomes the accidental hero.!

The beauty about ‘A Taxi Driver’ is the light hearted narrative set against a violent backdrop. In spite of being based on historical account, it hasn’t dressed itself into a ‘history movie’. The movie progresses through the evolving chemistry between the German reporter who doesn’t speak Korean and the taxi driver who’s English is ‘a-little-better-than-worse’. This has helped the movie in being both entertaining and engaging. Hence, it’s no wonder that ‘A Taxi Driver’ is amongst the highest grossing movies in South Korean Industry.

Song Kang‑Ho’ (I have watched most of his movies, yet find it difficult to type in his name without seeking help from Google) is as impressive as ever. Playing the role of the taxi driver, he effortlessly slips into the role and made me empathize with his character. His list of ‘impressive’ movies has continued to grow.

We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’ because it deals with ‘collective perception’ on a very lighter note. In a subtle manner, it tells us how entire/ most parts of the nation/world could have a collective perception about truth only to be proven otherwise. It tells us how, it’s not so right to have an opinion on a provincial issue based on our telescopic views. Telescopic views are influenced on others perceptions. A first-hand account ‘might’ make you realize that your long held opinion was not a right one.

The movie does all this without being preachy.

We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’ because it tells a beautiful tale. We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’, because it might help us build a beautiful and better place to live in 🙂