Saturday, July 28, 2018

Lust Stories—Heart Matters

In 2013, four filmmakers—Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, and Anurag Kashyap–came together to make Bombay Talkies which comprised four short films, one directed by each of them. The four films had a theme related to cinema and were titled Sheela Ki Jawaani, Ajeeb Dastaan Hai YehStar, and Murabba. Five years later, the same four filmmakers come together again with a similar format in Lust Stories. There are no titles of the individual films in Lust Stories but they are based on the role of lust in contemporary India.
Dibakar Banerjee's film tells the story of Reena (Manisha Koirala) who is having an extra-marital affair with Sudhir (Jaideep Ahlawat). The complication arises from the fact that Sudhir is the best friend of Reena's husband Salman (Sanjay Kapoor). It is a film that deals with the complexities of different human relationships, such as friendship and marriage. I found this story to be the most layered out of the four. There is a point where Salman says that he does not like open endings in films. He prefers things to be in black and white. Maybe that is why he is also wearing a black-and-white suit. Some moments later, he asks Reena if she hates him. She says she does not. Then, he tells her that means she loves him. Reena does not reply in the affirmative and tells him it is not easy. This again displays his thinking in binary terms—black and white, or love and hate. Not hating someone does not mean loving someone. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. 
The story is set in a beach house. When Salman comes to the house, Sudhir remarks that there were many colors in the house, but he got it painted white. The house is almost empty. Salman comments that it is good that it is empty as one needs space. He wants a similar house that is just his own. Reena chimes in by saying that the house belonged to a couple as well. Sudhir purchased the house in a distress sale from a couple who were going through a divorce. The house is a symbol of the marriage of Reena and Salman. The things said about the house—the loss of color, the emptiness, and the distress—apply to their marriage as well.
It is quite telling to observe the behavior of the men and the woman in the story. The men cannot take a decision. They are afraid to face the truth while the woman is ready to face any situation. Reena is the one who tells Salman that she is having an affair. Sudhir is more concerned than Reena is about her divorce. He is more afraid than Reena when Salman calls and tells him he is coming to his beach house. Reena tells Sudhir that if her marriage ends, woh aur main tootenge. Sudhir, then, asks about her daughters and then she asks him as to why does he always bring up her daughters when she talks about herself. When Salman learns about their affair, he tells Reena to not let Sudhir know that he knows. I kept thinking that any other man would have broken his friendship with someone who has an affair with his wife and would have even got into a physical altercation. But he does not do anything like that. At a later instance, Salman even starts crying in bed. Reena had told him that he does not need a wife. He needs a mother. The men are shown as people who cannot bear the consequences of their actions. Earlier, Reena and Sudhir were joking about the differences between the hearts of men and women. Whatever be the biological differences, a woman's heart was shown to be stronger than a man's heart.
Zoya Akhtar's story is about Sudha (Bhumi Pednekar) who works as a domestic help in an apartment. She is in a sexual relationship with her employer Ajit (Neil Bhoopalam) who is a bachelor working in the information technology sector. His parents are visiting him and are looking for a suitable girl as his wife. When his marriage is fixed, Sudha silently accepts that she could never be a match for him. The story incorporates themes related to the class divide in the society. This film is the most beautifully shot compared to the others and it lays a special emphasis on Sudha. She has been shot with a lot of care. We see her tying the drawstrings of her salwar, putting nimboo over poha prepared by her, wearing her slippers when she leaves the house, lying on the bed and lost in her dream world, and contemplating about her life near the window. The last time I remember that a domestic servant was treated with such delicacy was in Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding where Alice was shown trying to imagine a life in her wonderland. Sudha speaks only a few words in the entire story, but she manages to convey to us a lot. As they say, silence is its own form of communication.
Like Zoya Akhtar's last film Dil Dhadakne Do, this film is also a comment on the role of women in a society. Sudha does all the work at Ajit's house. She cleans the house, cooks the food, and irons his clothes. She even washes his underwear. In addition to all of this, she has sex with him. For all purposes, she does not seem to be any different from a wife. When Ajit's parents come, they address her as bete and she even touches their feet. In our society, wives are treated as domestic servants. They are 'expected' to do everything. Ajit's parent's joke with the guests that Ajit does not do anything at his house. He comes home to only sleep. He needs a woman to take care of him. In one beautifully shot scene, Sudha goes inside the room, and in the next shot, Ajit's mother comes out as if subtly making the same point. 
After Ajit's marriage is fixed, his mother asks Sudha to take some sweets home. In the last scene of the film, the maid working in the house next door shows Sudha a suit given to her by her employer. It is a little torn but she says she will get it stitched. At that point, Sudha takes out a piece of sweet from the box and puts it in her mouth. Like the suit given to another maid, the sweet is the leftover given to Sudha. In an earlier scene, the girl who is getting married to Ajit picks up a cookie and asks him, "You want to share half?" In a way, Sudha has shared the same man as her. 
In Zoya Akhtar's earlier films as well, characters are seen eating sweets. In Dil Dhadakne Do, there was Neelam who was trapped in a marriage that lost its flavor with time. Her philandering husband Kamal keeps mocking her eating habits. At one point, after her husband insults her, Neelam just stuffs a cupcake in her mouth while standing in her front of the mirror. Only after this scene, we realize that she is compensating the love that she craves from her husband with food. There are no words spoken in that scene; Neelam stuffs her mouth with cake. In Bombay Talkies, there was also a scene related to sweets in Zoya Akhtar's Shiela Ki Jawaani. Vicky wakes up the middle of the night, opens the refrigerator, and eats 'kaju ki barfi' as if he was trying to find that sweetness that will comfort him. It is at that moment when he is eating the 'barfi', he watches a show where Katrina Kaif is talking about her dreams, giving Vicky his 'sweet dreams'. She tells him that it is important to preserve his dreams. In Luck By Chance, too, when Sona thinks her film is starting, she feels extremely happy and content with life. She is seen enjoying eating a muffin during the song Yeh Aaj Kya Ho Gaya.
Karan Johar's story is about Megha (Kiara Advani), a teacher, who gets married to Paras (Vicky Kaushal). The issue is that her husband comes early within seconds during sex which causes Megha to remain sexually unsatisfied. She decides to take the help of a vibrator after she sees her colleague Rekha (Neha Dhupia) using the same. The film tries to make the point that women need to have sex not just to have children, but also to please themselves. Women also have sexual desires—hasrat—and they want those to be fulfilled. The story seemed like a variation of Karan Johar's own short in Bombay Talkies. There are similar themes in his stories from the two films; however, the tone of his story in Lust Stories is light-hearted and comical as compared to the one in Bombay Talkies. In Bombay Talkies, there was Gayatri (Rani Mukerji) whose husband was a closeted gay man. Her sexual desire remains unfulfilled as the husband is not interested in her. In Lust Stories, there is Megha whose sexual desires also remains unfulfilled as the husband reaches his climax within five seconds.
There is also the use of books in Karan Johar's stories in the two films. In Bombay Talkies, Avinash (Saqib Saleem) carries a copy of Freedom by Jonathan, symbolic of the freedom that he desires. His father threw him out of his house because he was gay. He feels terrible and cannot break free from his solitude. At another point, Gayatri reads the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James to compensate for the lack of sexual gratification in her marriage. In Lust Stories, too, there are the erotic books that are used to make a point. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov makes an appearance in the short film's funniest scene where a mother is complaining to a school principal for letting her daughter read the book. Unaware of the book's theme, the principal thinks that the word loin in the iconic phrase, 'fire of my loins' is a spelling mistake. At another point, Megha is reading Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman to her students. There is obviously a double meaning for using this poem, "The Highwayman came riding up to the old inn door." It seems that Karan Johar likes this poem a lot. In My Name Is Khan, a young Rizwan Khan is seen reciting the same poem with his teacher.
In addition to the books and the poem, the film has other funny double entendres. The song Motorcycle is one example. The use of ice cream is another one. The film's climax on the song from Karan Johar's own film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham shows that context can bring a new meaning to something that was not even originally meant. Even the character names in the story seem to have a hidden meaning. The sexy librarian is named Rekha (obviously). Megha is named after the rain but it is also about something else as Rekha tells her, "Baras rahi ho ya taras rahi ho." Paras is named after the elixir that converts a metal into gold on touching. When I had first seen the trailer, I had guessed that Megha and Rekha were hooking up with each other. I was a tad disappointed that this was not the case. Nevertheless, Lust Stories is an addition to the films that explore female desire. It is also worth mentioning that Megha's sister-in-law Sandhya did not say much, but it was clear that she could identify with Megha, too.
Anurag Kashyap's film tells the story of Kalindi (Radhika Apte), a teacher at a college in Mumbai. She is married but her husband is not around. She meets different people and is trying to explore her sexuality. She has a sexual relationship with a student Tejas (Akash Thosar). After their one-night stand, she starts stalking him. It inverts the commonly used trope of stalkers as men and shows a woman as one. The film tries to say that sometimes we end up becoming the same person we tell others to never become and we cannot forcefully ask someone to love us.
As with any other Anurag Kashyap film, the film is full of film and literary references. At one point, Kalindi follows Tejas and takes out a mirror that has noir written on it. The poster child of Hindi film noir is giving some context to understand the motivations behind the story. Later, Kalindi further follows Tejas to a stand-up comedy show by Sumukhi Suresh, who recently created Pushpavalli, a web series that also tells the story of a female stalker (like Kalindi). The film opens with the song Dam Bhar Jo Udhar Munh Phere from Awaara. In the song, the woman begs the moon to look away and not make her feel shy so that she can make love to her lover. The song provides a contrast to Kalindi who is actually not at all shy to explore her sexuality. She is the one who leads Akash to have sex with her. Much more than the story, it was Radhika Apte and her monologues that made this segment watchable. Kalindi talks about love, romanticism, and selfishness. She might be the rare character in films who openly loves and identifies with Ayn Rand, the libertarian icon who believed in placing your own self first before anything else.
In Bombay Talkies, all the four stories had no connection per se but there were similar themes that linked all of them. Cinema and films played a role in all the four in some way or the other. The characters in the four shorts had a personal connection with the movies. There were also themes related to awkward relationships, especially between that of a father and a son, in them. In addition, the short films in Bombay Talkies talked about the importance of speaking a lie. In Lust Stories, too, there are some common themes in the four short films, not necessarily in all of them together. The women characters in them are a lot more interesting than the male ones. The women are free and liberated. The men need mothers to sort their lives. Ajit's mother takes care of his house. Reena says Salman needs a mother, not a wife. Paras' mother breaks his wedding. Another aspect we see in Lust Stories is that in all the four stories, people are hiding their relationship. Love might be public, but lust is private. Finally, the different stories talk about selfishness. Kalindi invokes Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness and proclaims that she is selfish and there is nothing wrong in being selfish. Reena tells Salman that he is only pretending to help her, but actually, whatever he is doing, he has his selfish motives. Rekha tells Megha that men are selfish and care only for their pleasure.
Bombay Talkies was a tribute to our films and was released to celebrate the completion of one-hundred years of Indian cinema. Five years later, the same four filmmakers come together again with a similar format in Lust Stories. However, there was no theatrical release for this film. It is available for streaming directly on Netflix. When the history of the second hundredth year of cinema is written, the role of Netflix will be a significant one. We live in seminal times. 
Trivia:
Sudhir's' show is called Heart Matters. (Streaming inside streaming—Meta)
Kalindi teaches accommodation of the heart and all the four points are from this essay—Link
Raj Kapoor movies and a poster of Friends in Tejas' room
The same Dadi (Tripta Lakhanpal) in Queen and Lust Stories. She comes at strategic points.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
Books In Movies:
The Vaccine
Medical Medium by Anthony William
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
 Chetan Bhagat
 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Sophie Kinsella
The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
Other Reading:
On Bombay Talkies—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Poori ho jayegi hasrat, toh band karo yeh kasrat."
—Paras' Mother, Lust Stories

"Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who was there to judge it? The critics."
—Arthur Rimbaud, quoted by Kalindi in Lust Stories

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Trivia Post

Hindi movies with a month in their title:
23rd March 1931: Shaheed (2002)
April Fool (1964)
26th July At Barista (2008)
15th August (1993)
October (2018)
2 October (2003)
31st October (2016)
The Attacks of 26/11 (2013)
16th December (2002)

The same game is played in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
Amole Gupte was the commentator in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. 
Pooja Bhatt has played the character of Pooja many times. 

 Opening credits of One 2 Ka Four.
Arjun reads Great Love Stories of the World by Robert Lynd in Pardes.
Naughty appearance in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. 
Dialogue of the Day:
"Sabse zyada pasand mujhe yeh doori hai, kyun ki agar ye doori na ho toh tumhare kareeb aane ka bahana na mile."
—Amar, Dil Se

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Gifts in Hindi Films

In Tohfa, there is a popular song with the lyrics, "Tohafa tohafa tohafa tohafa. Laaya laaya laaya laaya. Mere mere mere mere. Dil pe chhaaya chhaaya." Tohafa is a gift given to someone. In the world of movies, people often give gifts to other people. Everyone, including friends, family, and lovers, have given some memorable gifts in the movies. I thought to collect some of those gifts in this post.

In Omkara, inspired by Shakespeare's Othello, Omi gifts a jeweled cummerbund, an heirloom, to Dolly, who carelessly drops it. The cummerbund is stolen by Indu who gives it to Langda. It eventually reaches Kesu who gifts it to Billo Chamanbahar. The cummerbund plays an important part in the story as it becomes an evidence of Dolly's fidelity. In Haider, adapted from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Arshia knits a red muffler which she gifts to her father. After her father is shot dead by Haider, Arshia is seen unknitting the muffler. A few moments later, she is lying on her bed, with the muffler completely unknit, and the strands of the red wool on her face signifying blood and death. 

In Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Rahul gets a new best friend in Rianna when she gives him a second-hand film camera as a new year present. It is the best gift he has ever received as he had wanted to be a photographer. On the back of the camera, the words 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' are written, which form the essence of the advice that Rianna gives Rahul where she tells him that he should loosen up and start enjoying life. In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Alizeh brings a cactus plant as a tohfa for Ayan. She says that flowers are overrated but goes on to praise the thorns. "Maarte hai, marte nahi, aur unhe murjhaane ka khauff nahi hota." Thorns do not need to be afraid of wilting. Alizeh does not want to be a flower of a bouquet but prefers to be a thorn. When Ayan becomes a musical sensation, he is seen around a bunch of cacti. He collects those thorns, and keeps them with him as a remembrance of the pain that his unrequited love gives him.

In Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Simran had purchased a cowbell on her Europe trip. Raj comes to India to break Simran's wedding and brings along the cowbell that Simran left back at her home. When he meets Simran's sister Chutki for the first time, he gifts her a small replica of the same cowbell calling it a little gift for a little bride. In Queen, a naïve Rani shops for gifts for her family in a sex store called Kink Kong in Amsterdam. She gets a dildo for her grandfather as she thinks it is an electric massager and will help in curing her grandfather's joint pains. In Aligarh, Professor Siras gifts a book of his poetry that he translated into English to Deepu. In Yes Boss, Rahul is the go-to person for any situation for his boss Siddharth. Rahul reminds him that it is his boss' marriage anniversary and he has already purchased a gift for his wife, but would need money to transport the gift. Rahul brings a big white piano as an anniversary gift to Sheela, his boss' wife. 
The beginning of relationships is often accompanied by an exchange of gifts. In Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Pooja sends a gift to Prem through Nisha. It is a brooch that Nisha puts on Prem's jacket. Later, Prem brings flowers and chocolates for Nisha when he comes to pick her up at her place. In another instance, at the beginning of a new friendship, Prem gives a cap to Suman in Maine Pyar Kiya. The cap has Friend written on it and has become an icon of some kind. The same friendship blossoms into love at a later point, as someone said in that film that a girl and a boy cannot be just friends. In Om Shanti Om, Shanti gifts Om a souvenir of a man and a woman dancing in a glass ball after he saves her from the fire.

Sometimes, certain food items are also given as gifts. In Fan, Gaurav takes sohan halwa from Ghantewala in Chandni Chowk as a gift for his idol Aryan. His mother had given it to him when he was planning to go to Mumbai. However, Gaurav is unable to give his gift in the melee outside Aryan's house. Likewise, in Bombay Talkies, Vijay offers a jar of murabba to the superstar Amitabh Bachchan at his house. After much struggle, he finally gets to meet the man who eats half of a murabba. In Pardes, Ganga brings some hot parathes for Arjun on his birthday.

A gift can also be a part of some tradition. In Bajirao Mastani, Bajirao gives his kataar to Mastani. The gift of a dagger was considered akin to marriage in Bundelkhand. Mastani accepts the gift and goes to Bajirao's palace asking for her rightful place as his wife. Bajirao's first wife Kashibai had jokingly called his dagger as her sauten

There have been some instances where people have given expensive gifts, such as vehicles and houses. Harpreet Singh Bedi in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year gets a scooter as a gift from his grandfather who spent all his savings for the same. In Baar Baar Dekho, Jai hides his gift of a book when he sees that Divya has got a car as a gift from her father. In Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Tej Khullar buys a new Maruti car as a wedding gift for his daughter son-in-law. However, a few days before the wedding, his son Sameer loses the car when he takes it out for a drive. In Biwi No. 1, Prem gifts Rupali a new house where he can meet her easily. 

In Secret Superstar, Najma sells her jewelry to buy the gift of a laptop for her daughter Insia. The laptop becomes a powerful medium for Insia to fulfill her dreams. She uses the internet to upload her videos and becomes a singing sensation across the world. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, every year on her birthday, Anjali gets many gifts but the most precious present that she awaits is the letter from her late mother. Tina leaves behind those letters as a way to communicate her story with her daughter. In Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke, Rahul brings gifts for all his sister's children and Vyjyanthi. The kids are not happy with the presents as they wanted something else for them. However, it is Vyjyanthi who makes them realize the importance of gifts and that one should not hurt the feelings of the giver even if you do not like the gift. 
Lovers are the ones who give the most number of gifts in the movies. In Neerja, Jaideep gives a letter to Neerja and asks her to read that letter on her birthday. Along with the letter, he had given her a chocolate cookie. Perhaps, Neerja had some premonition that her life is going to end, which is why she reads Jaideep's letter before her birthday. She was proposed for marriage, and the sweetness of the chocolate brings her a momentary comfort from the events happening around her. In Tanu Weds Manu, during her wedding celebrations, Tanu asks Manu as to what gift he is giving her. Manu has brought something special which he kept in Tanu's room. Tanu goes to her room and finds that Manu has given her a beautiful collage of her pictures. She is immensely touched by looking at the gift. In Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, Maddy gives Reena a small statue of a girl which he thinks is like her. 

In Kahaani, Rana, who has a crush on Vidya Bagchi, gifts her a white saree with a red border on the occasion of Durga Puja. In English Vinglish, Satish brings a red saree for Shashi which she wears at her niece's wedding. In Taal, Manav gifts Mansi a necklace which he purchased from a shop near the temple. When Mansi meets him in Delhi, she breaks the necklace that he gave her. In Rock On!!, Sakshi is purchasing an expensive watch as a gift for her husband Aditya where she runs into his former music-band partner KD at a store. It is from him she learns about Aditya's past. In Devdas, Dev gifts Paro a gold bangle that his grandmother kept for Dev's future wife. When Paro meets Chandramukhi, she gives the same bangle to her, because as Dev's other worshipper, she should have also the right to wear it.
In Raincoat, based on O Henry's The Gift of the Magi, gifts play an important part in the plot. Mannu and Niru grew up in the same neighborhood and were lovers once. Due to Mannu's poor financial condition, Niru marries another guy. Six years later, Mannu and Niru are struggling to make ends meet. Mannu goes to visit Niru; they reminisce about the past and make up false stories about their perfect life. In the end, like it happens in The Gift of the Magi, they leave a gift for each other without letting the other person know. Mannu pays Niru's rent, and Niru gives her gold bangles to Mannu. 

Pooja's Tai gifts her a Ganesh idol in Dil Toh Pagal Hai. Tai tells her that whenever she is stuck in a difficult situation in life, the idol will guide her to make the right decision for herself. It will give her the power to fulfill her dreams. In Lamhe, Viren gave gifts to Pooja on her birthday. She never opens the gifts. When she grows up, she asks Viren to give all those gifts to her from his own hands. Later, Pooja also buys another gift for Viren where she chooses a colorful sweater for him which is not per his choice, yet he wears it. Pooja's mother Pallavi had also gifted him a traditional royal dress. In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, the always-so-wonderful Bunny's father gifts Bunny a trekking bag before his Manali trip. He is worried about Bunny going on a trip, but at the same time, he wants Bunny to live life on his own terms. In Black, when Michelle asks Debraj for a gift after she gets an admission to the university, he hands her a stick to tell her that it is the time for her to be independent.

In Masaan, Piyush gifts Devi a tiny box. After the incident with the police, Piyush kills himself. Devi keeps the box unopened till the very end when she submerges it in the river Ganga. We never get to know what is inside the box, but it reminds us that whatever be the gift, it is the feeling behind it that matters more.

Other Reading:
1. Diaries in Hindi Cinema—Link
2. O Henry in Hindi Cinema—Link
3. Movies in Movies—Link
4. Books in Movies—Link

Dialogue of the Day:
"Phoolon se zyada overrated cheez koi dekhi hai. Pehle rang se impress karte hain, phir khushboo se; phir rang dhal jaata hai, khushboo udd jati hai, aur kya reh jaata hai."
—Alizeh, Ae Dil Hai Mushil

Sunday, July 1, 2018

October—Fragrance of Jasmine

Shoojit Sircar's October is a beautiful story of love. The film is set in the two ends of the hospitality industry—a hotel and a hospital. Dan (Varun Dhawan) and Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) are training as interns at a hotel in Delhi. One night, Shiuli falls from the hotel and enters into a state of coma. After visiting Shiuli at the hospital, Dan is immensely affected by her condition and starts taking care of her at the expense of his personal life. In the process, he develops a special bond with Shiuli's mother Vidya (Gitanjali Rao). Taking care of Shiuli gives a purpose to Dan's life, and brings a change in him. 
October shows us the fragility, the unpredictability, and the inevitability of life. One moment someone is enjoying a party, and the very next moment, one can slip to death. A group of people can be dancing merrily in a wedding procession, while someone would be struggling to buy medicines for a loved one who is fighting death. As we see in the film, Dan purchases medicines for Shiuli from a chemist when people around him are dancing in a wedding procession. Shiuli survived the trauma of the fall and recovered slightly but death came to her suddenly through a seizure after she went home. As Bhaskor Banerjee said in Piku, death and shit come unannounced. During all this period, Shiuli's mother continues to teach at her college. Shiuli's siblings bring their books to the hospital. After Shiuli's death, her brother asks his mother if he should go for his tuition class. She replies that he should. Life does not stop for anyone. It goes on and we all have to move with it.
In October, flowers are a repeating motif. Splendidly shot by Abhik Mukhopadhyay, flowers can be seen all through the film, both in artificial and in natural surroundings. These flowers have a special significance in the film, especially, in the case of Shiuli. She is named after the shiuli flower, which is also known by parijat, harsingar, raat ki rani, and the night jasmine. These flowers bloom in the month of October. They have a short life, and fall from the trees during the night time. Shiuli used to collect these flowers and keep them with her. Like the shiuli flower, Shiuli falls from a building and has a short life. Before her death, Shiuli starts recovering only after Dan keeps these flowers in her room. The fragrance of these flowers had some kind of a medicinal effect on her.
In an earlier scene in the film, Dan had seen shiuli flowers scattered all over the floor at the hotel. He does not care much about them. Shiuli chides him that he could have picked them up even if he did not throw them on the floor. By the end of the film, Dan undergoes a profound change and grows up. When he visits Shiuli's house, he picks up not just the flowers, but rather takes the entire tree of shiuli with him. He takes the same flowers for which he did not care anything about earlier. With these, he is also taking Shiuli's memories with her that he will nurture for his life. This is a touch that is reminiscent of Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera where Varun paints the last leaf of a tree to prove his immense love for Pakhi and by doing so, he gives Pakhi a hope to live. 
At some point in the film, the nurse asks Dan about his relationship with Shiuli. He replies that he is neither her relative nor her boyfriend. Before Shiuli went into a coma, Dan and Shiuli were not the best of friends. There was no special affinity between the two except for the fact that they were in the same training program. After Shiuli's accident, Dan becomes completely devoted to Shiuli's care even if there was no relationship between them. He is so much into Shiuli's care that he starts losing things in his own life. He loses his relationships. He loses his parents. He loses his job. Yet, he goes on taking care of her selflessly. I kept thinking if his selfless devotion to Shiuli was the reason that he was named Dan. His full name, Danish Walia, is heard only once or twice in the entire film. Everyone calls him with the shorter anglicised version 'Dan', but it is actually दान in Devanagari script. दान means a gift given to someone without the expectation of getting back anything in return. Dan gave up everything for Shiuli. It was his selfless and unconditional love that he gave to another human being. The film names Shiuli after the flowers, and Shiuli's mother Vidya after education as she is a teacher. As names and titles in the film are given after some thought, perhaps, Dan is named after his selflessness (दान). 
In an interview, writer Mohsin Hamid has said, "Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself." Empathy is about understanding someone else's emotions. It is not the same as pity. October shows a change in Dan by developing an empathy in him. After Shiuli's accident, Dan sees a man cleaning the windows of a skyscraper while being suspended from a rope. Probably, Dan was wondering at the height from which the man was working. We all might have seen a person like this, but how often do we stop to think about these people. In another instance, when Dan is in the hospital, he tells everyone sitting there to put their feet up so that the cleaning person can sweep the floor. As a worker who also had to clean floors, Dan empathizes with this person. Early in the film, Dan was put in the laundry department. He did not like working there and was constantly complaining to the workers. Immediately after this scene, he comes home and the cleaning lady is washing his jeans. Dan is irritated when she calls his pants as a panty. Slowly and slowly, while taking care of Shiuli, Dan becomes empathetic. When Shiuli comes home after being discharged, Dan helps build a wooden ramp at her house, which prompts Shiuli's sister to remark that they did not think of it. Dan could understand the problems that they might face by being in others' shoes. He even becomes empathetic to kids and starts talking to them.
In addition to the blossoming of the shiuli flowers, October is the month of change of seasons in Delhi. The movie's title can also be read as a symbol of the external and the internal change in Dan. He joined as a trainee in a hotel management program. He was made to do different things, such as housekeeping, washing, fly swatting, and bartending. He did not enjoy many of these tasks and had plans to start up his own business. By the end of the film, Dan finds his calling and becomes a sous chef at the hotel. This external journey of Dan is complemented by his inner transformation. The last words that Shiuli spoke before she fell were, "Where is Dan?" These words have a profound impact on Dan and he is immensely affected by them. He believes that the last words of a person are important, and convinces himself that Shiuli felt something for him. These words gave him a purpose and he started caring for Shiuli, which brought about a change in him. He remained irritated earlier, but later, he becomes empathetic and mellow. Earlier, he could not understand the various machines in the hospital. He did not know anything about ammonia and chlorine. Later, he grows up and could easily read even the bad handwriting of a doctor on a prescription of blood pressure. He understands that when the urine output is high, it means that the brain and the kidney are not affected. Like a kid, he was walking over the hotel's towels to express his anger. Once, while cleaning, he finds a young child in a room. He could well be that lost boy in the room. Later, Dan grows up from that rebellious kid to a compliant man. When Shiuli's mother asks him to leave, he goes away without any questions. All through the film, we see him sleeping in different places. He was going through this inner turmoil. Shiuli has a calming impact on him. By the end of the film, he seems to be a completely different person. Dan has matured and grown up.
Dan is not a very likable person initially. However, as the film progressed, I started to like Dan. The scene where he talks to the nurse about his wedding and asks her to bring a gift is lovely. Varun Dhawan as Dan is wonderful. Some of Dan's transgressions made me frown. For instance, he brings a lady to the hospital and makes her thread Shiuli's eyebrows. Without taking anybody's consent, he does that to Shiuli. He does not really understand the concept of personal space. Earlier also, it was seen in the film when he asks Ishani to scratch his back. He tells her to scratch at different positions, which made her feel uncomfortable. He also fought with a guest who had brought a woman along with him and passive aggressively tells him that last time, he came with a different woman, insinuating that he is a man of a questionable character. In another such instance, he tells the hospital clerk that he knows about his shenanigans with the nurses. But, somehow, this nosiness became a pillar of support to Shiuli's mother. Shiuli's uncle wanted to pull the plug, but it was Dan who commented that Shiuli would not like to die. It was as if his words gave support to Shiuli's mother. He becomes a part of their family.
October is the third collaboration between Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi after Vicky Donor and Piku. The film incorporates the personal experiences of the two of them as their respective mothers were also in a state of coma at some point in their lives. In all three films, there are certain common elements. The three films are predominantly set in Delhi. Films are shot on real locations, such as Lajpat Nagar, Chittaranjan Park, and Dwarka. There are single parents in all the three films. Vicky was raised by his mother and his grandmother. Piku was raised by Bhaskor. Shiuli and her siblings are raised by her mother Vidya as their father died ten years ago. In addition, the films deal with bodily fluids. In Vicky Donor, it was semen. In Piku, it was shit. In October, it is urine. When Shiuli is in hospital, Dan checks the urine bag attached to her body. 
There is one more thing common in all the three films and that is food. There are two aspects to it. First and more prominent is the way food is presented in the film. There are close-up shots of food in all the three films that are just lovely. In October, there are shots of exquisite dishes being prepared in the hotel. Later, Dan prepares pasta and salmon which are presented beautifully. In Piku, too, there were was a special focus on the absolutely delicious shots of any food item in the film. This was seen when Piku and Bhaskor were having their dinners. Later, when they stop at a dhaba during their trip, there were shots of paranthas. And, in Calcutta, Bhaskor goes on a day trip where we again see some lovely close-up shots of jalebis and puris. In Vicky Donor, the same thing is shown when Ashima is preparing fish. The camera shows fish being fried. Or in another instance, Vicky is eating chhole bhature and the camera pans to the puffy bhature. The second and less prominent aspect related to food in the films of Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi is that the characters are often seen eating something. There are literally so many scenes where the characters are seen eating something. After a point, I lost track. This is present in all their three films. In October, people are seen eating items, such as khichdi, pizza, and kababs. In Piku, as well, there are many shots of Piku eating something. Rana and Piku talk about life while having kathi rolls. Bhaskor used to hide salt. In both October and Piku, there is mention of khichdi. Dan and Manjeet are eating khichdi. Bhaskor and Piku are also seen eating khichdi. In Vicky Donor, Dr. Baldev Chaddha is always found near a chaat stall. Ashima's father used to do a fish test for prospective grooms for her. Ashima and Vicky used to call each other Butter Chicken and Fish Fry. It seems Shoojit and Juhi love food. They can clarify more on the meaning of these shots. Maybe something related to slice of life
Food Pictures
People eating in October, Piku, and Vicky Donor
Khichdi in Piku and October
In addition to the above elements, October has themes similar to that of Piku. There is a talk of death and ventilators in the two films; however, the tone of Piku is less melancholic than October. There is a point in Piku where Piku tells Rana that she cannot leave her father. She has become like a mother to him. She will take care of him always. In October, Shiuli's mother takes care of Shiuli. It is about never giving up on your loved ones. Additionally, in Piku, there are many scenes where Piku is cleaning the house. At one point, she unclogs the kitchen sink. The underlying theme in the movie was that something was stuck. Constipation in Piku was another representation of something that remained stuck and the body needed to be cleaned. In October, too, there are many scenes related to cleaning. Dan is cleaning the toilet. He is doing laundry. He is sweeping the floors. Dan asks others to raise their feet when he sees a person sweeping the floors in the hospital. When Dan is about to enter the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to meet Shiuli, he is asked to take off his shoes and cleanse his hands. It is the most basic procedure to be followed but it reminded me of the way, people wash their hands and feet before entering any place of worship. It is as if his soul is being cleaned and a direction is given to his life. At some point, Dan's friend had remarked that his entire training will go into cleaning. It is said that cleanliness is next to godliness (as a poster in Dan's hotel also says). There is a devotional aspect to this cleansing of Dan. In another similarity between the two films, we see that in Piku, during the last scene, Rana is playing badminton with Piku at her place but he is not inside the gate like they are not in a relationship yet, but sometime in the future, he could well be inside. The state of their relationship is left open to interpretation. In October, too, when Shiuli's mother is leaving for Trichy, she calls Dan at her house. When Dan comes, they talk while sitting at the doorstep. They do not sit inside. Dan's state of mind and his relationship with Shiuli is again left open at the end.
Cleaning
Apart from Dan, there is something poignant about the other characters in the film. Shiuli's mother Vidya has such a strength of character. She never gives up. Gitanjali Rao is brilliant in the film. The scene between the mothers of Shiuli and Dan is heartbreaking. They are talking about losing their children. "Hamari zindagi sochte sochte nikal jati hai kahin unhe kho toh nahi denge." One mother has lost her child to a tragedy, and in some ways, another mother has also lost her child to a tragedy. When Dan's mother sees the interaction between Dan and Vidya, she realizes she has lost Dan. Also, Dan's manager Asthana (played by Prateek Kapoor, who has the most memorable unibrow after Padmaavat's Padmavati) is another of my favorite character in the film. Initially, he seems like a typical inhumane boss. But, then, even he warms up to Dan. He defends Dan in front of his own boss. When Asthana's manager scolds Dan that he attended only fifty-five days in six months, Asthana chimes in and says that it is fifty-eight days, as if adding three more days is going to change anything. Asthana recommends Dan to the resort in Kullu where is hired without an interview. Like all of us, Asthana develops a kindness towards Dan.
The film shows all the clinical procedures in the hospital with precision. Characters talk about being practical. Shiuli's uncle tells everyone to be practical. Ishani also tells Dan that in life we have to be practical. At the same time, there is an underlying emotional core to the film that cannot be fully explained by science. Shiuli starts getting better only after she smells the fragrance of the shiuli flowers. In another non-scientific scene, before Shiuli dies, Dan sees her spirit at his place as if she came to say one last goodbye to him. Dr. Bose enlightens Dan by telling him that the all the scientific terms are essentially talking about the human soul and a soul does not go into a coma. The soul is always conscious. Dan's friends tell him that Shiuli has a low chance of survival. Dan asks his friends if they do something only when it is a sure 'chance'. In the book When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi writes, "Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue." I think that sums up October as well. When science gives no answers, hope, love, and striving can get us through even the most difficult of times.
Trivia:
Poster in Dan's room
Cleanliness is next to godliness
The film opens with the name of the actors in an alphabetical order. Varun Dhawan's name comes last, unlike other films where the name of the biggest star appears first.
Shoojit's unreleased film Shoebite was also about a comatose man.
Vidya teaches engineering drawing. (#IHateED)
In another cosmic coincidence, when Dan goes to the terrace to understand how Shiuli fell, a mynah is sitting on the rooftop at the same time. Somehow, the makers were able to shoot the scene at that very time.
Another mynah scene
Books In Movies:
The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
Other Reading:
1. Rahul Desai's excellent review of OctoberLink
2. The post on PikuLink
3. The post on LooteraLink
4. Second post on LooteraLink

Dialogue of the day:
"Tum log har kaam chance ho tohi karte ho kya."
—Dan, October

"Woh thori coma me jata hai. The soul is always conscious."
—Dr. Ghosh, October

P.S.— I wrote this very badly :(