A lot can happen in a month. The clouds of grief and guilt can lift, the desire for self-erasure can disappear and fragility can make way for courage. The Marathi-language film June sets out to achieve the impossible. What lingers aren’t the feel-good moments but the darkness and the despair.
Written by Nikhil Mahajan (Pune-52, Baji) and directed by Vaibhav Kshiti and Suhrud Godbole, June is being streamed on the newly launched streaming platform Planet Marathi. Nehha Pendse and Siddharth Menon play the damaged souls whose friendship leads to salvation. Aurangabad, the city of monuments and gates that lead back into history, provides the setting for a simplistic but sensitive and affecting exploration of holding on and letting go.
Neel (Menon) has failed his engineering course in Pune and crawls back home in shame. His rage and bitterness are threatening to scorch his well-meaning parents and his understanding girlfriend as well as himself. Neel dangerously looks ever so often at the ceiling fan – as does Neha, a new entrant to his housing complex who arrives with her fluffy cat, her guitar and her demons.
We see nothing of the cat after Neha moves in, but we see plenty of her dealings with her conservative neighbours. Neha forms a bond with the troubled Neel. The older woman’s experience eases Neel’s pain and encourages him to view his city differently as well as re-examine his emotional responses. In turn, Neel’s youth prompts Neha to relook at her own actions.
The muted colour palette – the cinematography is by Quais Waseeq – matches the film’s subdued handling of such knotty subjects as bullying, academic failure, the loss of a child, suicidal tendencies and the necessity of compromise. The eruptions, when they come, emanate from Neel, played with immense feeling by Siddharth Menon. Neel is always on the edge and the verge, brought out beautifully by Menon’s immersion in his character.
Nehha Pendse too is a warm and winsome presence as the dispenser of occasional bumper-sticker wisdom. The rest of the cast is uniformly good, with Kiran Karmarkar, as Neel’s father, and Resham Shrivardhan, as Neel’s girlfriend, being particularly impressive.
The movie sometimes bites off more than it can chew. Not content with positioning Neha as the older and wiser friend, the movie also portrays her as the liberal wind blowing through the fusty and small-minded housing complex – a needless overreach.
When the dust has settled, it’s the debris that one remembers: Neel’s heart-breaking outbursts, the wells of hurt in Neha’s large eyes, the resignation with which Nicky deals with her own challenges. The 94-minute movie’s handling of its complex issues are a bit too smooth for those who know that a month is often a very short time to heal the heart. To the credit of June’s creators, they make an overnight transformation seem as natural and possible as summer transitioning to the monsoon.
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