Shoojit Sircar’s October and Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, and the mystery of pure romanticism

Posted on April 23, 2018


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When a rapturously received film doesn’t quite incite the same kind of rapture in you, it can make you feel somewhat guilty – especially if you are a critic. I felt this guilt, recently, while watching (and later, reviewing) Shoojit Sircar’s October. It’s such a different film, with a mainstream star (Varun Dhawan) taking on such a different role, and the rhythms of the writing (Juhi Chaturvedi) are so different… I wanted to love it, and I felt guilty about merely liking parts of it: the sum of these beautiful parts did not add up to a satisfying whole. It was a tough film to write about, because putting my finger on why exactly I had these reservations was… difficult. There’s so much left unsaid, that saying something precise about the film turned into a formidable challenge.

So after writing my review, I re-watched Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her (2002), to see if this film I love (I think it’s one of his flat-out masterpieces) could tell me more about the film I merely liked. Talk to Her tells a vaguely similar story, about two men – Benigno and Marco – who strike up a friendship in the hospital where two women – Alicia and Lydia – lie comatose. As in October, we don’t get too much backstory about the women, but we do know what they did before they ended up in this state (Alicia was a dancer, Lydia a bullfighter), and this adds an invisible layer of emotion. This is not a whose-plight-is-sadder comparison with October’s heroine, Shiuli, a hotel-management trainee who ends up in a coma. But to see two women whose identities were defined by movement, now lying so still…

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