June (2021) Review

Nehha Pendse Bayas and Siddharth Menon dazzle in this life-affirming drama

Rony Patra -

June (2021) Review
Platform
Planet Marathi
Platform Icons Click To Stream
Format
Original Movie Review
Movie Rated
18+
Genre
DRAMA
Language
Marathi

What is the story about?

Neha, a woman living in Pune, drives off to Aurangabad in June 2019, where she decides to live in a flat owned by her estranged husband Abhijeet in a conservative housing society. As she tries to cope with her own depression, she bumps into Neel, a young boy, who struggles with his own demons and has come back from Pune, having failed in his engineering exams. As Neha and Neel strike up a warm friendship, can this bond help them forgive themselves and move on?

Analysis

Words matter a lot. In life, we take our words for granted and tend to utter them without thinking of the consequences they can bring about. Neel is someone who has always wanted to get out of Aurangabad, because he feels constricted by everything: the high expectations of his parents and neighbours, and the ultra-conservative and bigoted nature of the city he has grown up seeing. Yet when he finally goes to Pune and gets admission in an engineering college, his life changes when he realizes the devastating impact his words could have on someone's life. And yet, he struggles to open up to anyone when he is forced to come back to Aurangabad: his displeased parents, his nosy neighbours and even his girlfriend, Nicky, don't know about the guilt he carries within him.
 
Then there's Neha. Her husband Abhijeet, in a previous life, has been the typical "shooting star" for middle-class families like Neel's: he managed to escape from Aurangabad, crack IIT and IIM, and make a good life for himself and Neha. And yet, Neha has separated from him because of a tragedy with which she has still not been able to come to terms with. She feels responsible, and her guilt eats at her conscience as well.

It would be very mild to say that both Neel and Neha have a death-wish of their own. But June is about them, and yet, not quite. At one level, it is a beautiful story of how two people, damaged by circumstances, find solace in a heartfelt friendship, that forces them to confront their own guilt and move on with their lives. Nikhil Mahajan's screenplay, however, is not interested only in these people. His focus is on the city of Aurangabad as a whole, and how beautiful it can be, in spite of the jaundiced views of its residents. Even as Neel and Neha roam around Aurangabad in search of answers, we see the insecurities of other people too. Nicky, for instance, feels ashamed of her body, because of a failed episode at intimacy with Neel. Neel's father fears telling other people the truth about his return to Aurangabad, because he seems to carry the burden of his frustrations, which he has unwittingly passed on to his son. Then there's Moreshwar, whose suicide keeps haunting Neel. June is about all of these characters, and how a stray word or act of cruelty can wreak havoc on someone else's life. Yet, the film is in favour of forgiveness over retribution. It also points to how people need to be true to their selves, instead of trying to conform to social expectations and peer pressure.
 
Through Mahajan's eyes, we see Aurangabad come alive in only a way someone who has grown up in the city will know, warts and all. I kept getting reminded of Harshvardhan Kulkarni's Hunterrr, which was an unofficial love-letter to Pune, and the desire of various characters to leave Aurangabad has strong echoes on Vikramaditya Motwane's Udaan. There are frank references to sex and pornography, and a cheap joke about "K for Kondom". There are also a couple of suicide attempts where you want to look away from the screen. However, the film does not glorify suicide as a way out at all. Mahajan, and the directors Suhrud Godbole and Vaibhav Khisti, use the decadence of the city as a metaphor for the insecurities and frustrations of its middle-class residents, against which the journeys of Neel and Neha are framed. The screenplay also deftly weaves in commentary about the various binaries and faultlines that have crept into the social discourse in today's times, without it seeming forced. As both Neel and Neha spend the month of June trying to overcome their grief, the film shines in their journey towards the light, making this film one of the most life-affirming dramas ever seen in recent times.

Performances

June rests on the shoulders of its two leads, and they do not disappoint. Nehha Pendse Bayas, who also co-produces the film, is terrific as Neha, who spends her waking days lost in a haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol, but craves to get back to the light. Siddharth Menon is in fine form as Neel, and he is downright brilliant in certain sequences, especially in the one where he breaks down and confesses to Neha about what actually happened in Pune. Debutant Resham Shrivardhan is assured as Nicky, and she is terrific in that one scene where she uses her father's razor to shave her legs out of desperation. Saurabh Pachauri is the find of the film as Pritesh, Neel's best friend, and he gets a heartfelt scene towards the end where he expresses to a stranger how much Neel means to him. Kiran Karmarkar is decent as Neel's father, and he kills it in that scene on the terrace of their building. Jagdish Kannam is all right as Moreshwar, whose death haunts Neel. While Jitendra Joshi shines in a special appearance as Abhijeet, Sanskruti Balgude is all right as Sarah, Neha's friend. The rest of the cast are okay.

Music & Other Departments

Quais Waseeq's cinematography makes the beauty and soul-deadening nature of Aurangabad come alive in the same frames, while Nitin Ganpat Borkar's art design makes the housing society pop us as a constricting space. Shalmali Kholgade's tracks are an easy listen, with Ha Vaara and Paar Geli the picks of the lot.

Highlights

Multiple sequences stay with you. The sequence at Bibi Ka Maqbara, where Neha tells Neel about her failed marriage for the first time, and the sequence where Neha and Neel confess to each other about the sources of their guilt, are outstanding. The sequence where Pritesh uses the "frog-and-well" analogy to talk about his bond with Neel is also beautifully done.

Drawbacks

A few sequences showing suicide attempts or attempts at self-harm could prove to be triggering for certain audiences.

Did I enjoy it?

Yes. The ending makes you tear up.

Do I recommend it?

Please give this a watch. This Marathi drama is worth your time.


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