October, starring Varun Dhawan and Banita Sandhu, revolves primarily in three locations – the hotel, the hospital, and Shiuli’s house. It is in these three locations that the movie explores the emotion of grief in a way most mainstream Hindi films shy away from. October is slow and sombre. This excruciating slowness makes sure that the viewer feels the sadness of seeing a loved one’s life ebb.
Shiuli’s family and Dan practically start living in the hospital as the army of pipes and machines try to keep Shiuli alive after her 30 feet fall. A major part of October, written by Juhi Chaturvedi, is based out of the hospital and that helps set the tone of the movie. The shock and the uncertainty of Shiuli will be able to live after seeing her in the hospital bed dawns upon everyone, including the viewers.
Most Hindi movies take the hospital and create an overwhelming and dramatic scene. Family members would cry and tissue boxes would be wasted. Someone prays to the Almighty and He works some miracle and the patient survives. October does not follow this page from the Bollywood playbook.
Shiuli’s uncle is adamant about pulling the plug seeing the financial strain the surgeries have put on her mother – the only earning member of the family. A week’s bill amounts to lakhs and Shiuli was on the bed for months now. Shiuli’s mother and Dan are adamant about giving her time to come back to life, after all, she was just 21 years old. This dilemma is not portrayed in a melodramatic way. It acknowledges the uncertainty that comes in conditions like these, while also making them cling to a sliver of hope.
Hope does find its way when Shiuli makes a little progress and opens her eyes. The way her mother feeds her soup on the hospital bed is a poignant scene between the mother and her daughter. Hope comes when Shiuli responds and recognizes the names of her family members. Through her family, you can see their unconditional affection.
As the shiuli flower falls from the tree, Dan falls and falters. Dan and Shiuli are stark opposites. They aren’t into each other. But this unexpected turn of events binds them together into something akin to love. Dan clings on to the hope that Shiuli would be able to live one day, and he refuses to let that go. Grief strikes when Shiuli dies.
The film is beautifully layered and also complex in the way it portrays the stages of grief. Her uncle is realistic in his explanation of why he wants to pull the plug on Shiuli. Her family and Dan cling on to that minuscule percentage of hope. In situations like these, the helplessness and the uncertainty looming in the air are too heavy to be measured in absolute terms. This slowly paves way for grief and sadness when the loved one slowly passes away.
October is not your melodramatic sad film. The movie demands to be felt. Through her mother and her siblings, you can see the unwavering belief they have that Shiuli will fight back and live her life someday. Through Dan, you can see unconditional affection. Through all of them, you can see the various stages of grief. It starts with shock and denial at seeing Shiuli in her bed, and finally, it climaxes with her death and their acceptance that Shiuli is no more.