Dan's is a lost cause
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu, Geetanjali Rao
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
You will like it if you liked: Guzarish and Barfi to some extent, but it's really nothing like anything else
I love Shoojit Sircar and his nuanced storytelling style. He always strikes a balance between the emotional and the practical, the rational and the irrational, something we all try to do on an everyday basis and ceremoniously fail. It's a tricky balance, it's trickery can only be matched by that dress that divided the Internet into two — black and blue or white and gold. It's an optical illusion, it's always an optical illusion.
In October, Shoojit deviates from his linear style of storytelling, and that makes me uncomfortable. Dan is an angry guy, we don't know why, we only get to see his outbursts. Like that kid in school who deliberately puts himself in trouble by being stubborn as a result of an emotional turmoil he is going through. He gets yelled at by his supervisor for innumerable goof ups, he's actually lagging behind in clearing his internship, and he back-answers, that's not always as cute as Sheldon Cooper. In school, he'd need the likes of Aamir Khan or more recently, Rani Mukerji. In October, Dan needs Shiuli. Or rather her absence.
Shiuli is a hotel management trainee working as an intern in the same five star as Dan. They're colleagues who rarely talk. She's the poster girl for perfection your parents wanted you to learn from. He's, for want of a better word, a jerk. A freak accident, in which Shiuli falls from a three-storey height on the hotel premise, lands her in the ICU, followed by a vegetable state of comatose for the months to come. Dan isn't there when the incident ,happens but like a good colleague, he is concerned.
The story from this point on just keeps falling, spiraling downward, ever so gently, through the light breeze like a shiuli flower from the tree, beautiful to look at but you already know where it's headed. And this is where Shoojit wasn't himself anymore. The irrational took over, the emotional had him in its grip, the balance was lost.
Dan's concern turns into an obsession that will eventually make him lose his friends, his job and even the support of his family. Yet, he wins sympathy — he's not hurt, he's not about to lose the love of his life, but he is affected so he gets sympathy. He gets fired but a stellar recommendation gets him a job as a hotel manager even though he didn't complete his internship. His friends throw him out of the house because he couldn't pay rent but never from their hearts. His mother wants to take him home after he is fired, but when she realises just how much of a pillar he's been to Shiuli's mother, she leaves, and leaves him her blessings.
I don't have a problem with Dan, you never know how or when your life turns around. Dan needed a divine intervention, and Shiuli's accident was that. What I do have a problem with is Shoojit creating a world where being a constant cribber is okay and even pays off in the end. Okay, that may happen in real life, too, but can it really be your ticket out? What about Dan's colleagues working their asses off rationalising and prioritising only to have Dan eat his cake and have it too? Dan's romantic grieving even trumps Shiuli's mother (Geetanjali Rao) and siblings, to a point where Geetanjali's tears seem to lack salt in front of Dan's determined and expressionless gaze. Harvey Spectre said, 'You can't have it both ways', but Dan clearly does. And how is that fair?
Shoojit misses in other places too. Banita Sandhu's Hindi is clearly dubbed, but when she talks in English to her guests she has an American accent unlikely of an Iyer born and raised in Delhi, the squeaky clean plastic jug at the chai tapdi outside the hospital that has become Dan's bed and breakfast, the neatly arranged dustfree files at the sarkari daftar Dan goes to collect, let's say, a document.
But what pinches a hole in my brain is Varun Dhawan's cockiness. Shoojit's greatest achievement is turning a Ken doll into Dan, and for that and that alone, I'm willing to forgive the accent, the jug, and the files. Wherever Shoojit fails, it's really Varun's fault. Shoojit needed an actor, not a star. No, wait. That's still Shoojit's fault. Banita, as a vegetable through most of the film, showed potential. Her eyes speak louder than Varun, but judging her beyond that is just early.
October will be hailed, and, perhaps, it even deserves some of the praise that will come its way. And that is what makes me uncomfortable.