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Director Shoojit Sircar doubtless spent many hours in plush four-star hotels promoting 2015’s intriguingly low-key Piku, and the experience has inspired a film that initially threatens to be a Rossellinian departure for the Indian mainstream. For once, the focus isn’t on jetsetters swanking around rooftop pools, but the youngsters cleaning up after them for minimal wages and scant health benefits. That last detail proves significant, given that October interrupts its careful survey of a hotel’s intern programme when the dedicated Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) tumbles from a balcony and sustains severe brain damage.
What follows, however, is a shaky, perilously one-sided romance, pitched somewhere between The Big Sick and a full-on weepie. As the moody, irresponsible Danish (Varun Dhawan) steps up, scattering night jasmine blossoms around intensive care in a bid to rouse his colleague from her vegetative state, there’s a whiff of Nicholas Sparks – which can read either as recommendation or warning. Either way, Sircar’s regular screenwriter, Juhi Chaturvedi, has to work overtime to explain why the erratic Dan should have started playing Doogie Howser, beyond the general sentiment that it might be a nice thing to do for a girl.
Matters are steadied, just, by Sircar’s quiet sensitivity towards tiny signs of life. Welsh-born Sandhu is the obvious beneficiary – not least when the film provides a welcome explanation of how the comatose Shiuli’s brows remain so on-point – though the attentiveness may also enshrine Dhawan as Hindi cinema’s most Goslingesque pin-up. The course change Sircar proposes for that cinema remains honourable, and if October feels more tentative than Piku, which had rock-solid star turns to ground it, its emotion is at the last earned honestly: any structural wobbles will be nothing compared with the audience’s lower lips come the finale.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: October review – low-key hotel drama earns its emotion honestly | Romance films