‘June’ Review: A Riveting Tale About Loss, Healing and Growing
Tradition and modernity, youth and mental health are part of the Marathi coming of age film
Sometimes letting go hurts less than holding on. That’s June in a nutshell. Released on June 30th, this Marathi-language film deals with trauma, mental health issues, guilt, compromise, and liberating oneself from them — something almost impossible for many. June handles sensitive topics with care and without an overbearing sense of romanticism. Written by Nikhil Mahajan (Baji, Pune-52), it is directed by debutant duo Vaibhav Khisti and Suhrud Godbole. It stars Nehha Pendse Bayas, a well-known face in Marathi and Hindi television, and Siddharth Menon, a multi-faceted film and theatre artist.
June kicks off with a curious beginning as Neha (Pendse Bayas) moves from Pune to Aurangabad into a middle-class social environment with little exposure to a metropolitan world. Her modern ways baffle residents and end up building a bad reputation among the older generation. However, a secret lies behind Neha’s sudden migration. One which grants her an eerie aura.
Neel, played by Menon, is an engineering student who failed his exams and is now living with his parents. He has the typical temperament of a twenty-something and is constantly falling out with his parents. Troubled by the confinement of the small city, his minute rebellious actions like wearing expensive headphones give him solace and an escape from the mundane. Menon’s character inches on being the angry, young, and rude-to-his-girlfriend man. More often than not, his fury, fueled by his past trauma, takes over his emotions and cuts through his relationships.
Neha and Neel cross paths right at the beginning of the movie but only connect over a misunderstanding that sends Neha into a fury. The wine-loving, guitar-playing cat mom invites Neel and his friend Pritesh (Saurabh Pachauri) over to her apartment for a drink, and that’s where their story begins. Coming from two completely different worlds, the two protagonists connect over suicidal tendencies and damaged hearts. Somewhere between city tours and late-night life lessons over cigarettes, their shared feeling of emotional burden thrusts them into a spiral of self-hate and despair. The two broken souls eventually reveal the deepest secrets gnawing their insides and embark on a journey to freedom from the shackles of guilt and loss.
Although the storytelling translates exactly on screen, the buildup of the movie may seem slow to some. We are only introduced to the actual problems of the characters thirty minutes into the movie – but a topic as intense deems a slow progression till it hits you in the face that a darker intent looms in the backdrop. While the crux of June addresses mental health issues, self-harm, and the art of healing and letting go, the movie delves into more social issues than necessary. Sexual liberation, taboos around body hair, toxic masculinity, small-town mentality, islamophobia, addiction and many other topics are barely touched upon and then let go. Tightly crammed into this 90-minute film, one may think it has packed a little too much information to grasp.
However, the main motive (and tagline) of the movie — “Healing is Beautiful” — comes across strongly once we move into the second half of the film. Even with the harsh realities and convoluted personal journeys that June aims to explore, it is a pleasant relief that it does not overdo the protagonists’ suffering or their salvation, for that matter. The dialogues play a big role in that. Adding to the dramatism of the movie, there’s only necessary conversation. Sometimes going into a long-run poetic narrative, there is still more to the eye than the dialogues convey.
Pendse Bayas channeling a typical modern Punekar is spot-on. It’s natural yet exaggerated at specific places, which adds to the overall uneasy feel of her character. Menon has also done a fantastic job of handling the outbursts of a young adult. Neel’s trauma and frustration are depicted with the utmost sensitivity but the character shows a complex layering of emotions, which often leaves the viewer confused as well. Kiran Karmarkar, a popular face on Indian television (Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii), plays the role of the understanding parent that every rebellious and disturbed teenager deserves. Debutante Resham Shrivardhan, who plays Neel’s girlfriend Nicky, is definitely someone to watch out for in the future.
Cinematographer and director of photography Quais Waseeq ties the whole experience together by creating an artsy faded look right from the first frame, making it seem like a large thundercloud has taken over all of Aurangabad’s gloomy disposition. It’s one which finally pours its heavy heart out onto the city in the end. The only color in this town is the bright sunshine yellow of Neha’s clothes and her i10 – making her the literal sunshine of Neel’s life.
Overall, June is for those who need support during difficult times to heal. It is a journey of emotions. It is not just the story of Neha and Neel’s unshackling, but an experience that reminds us that holding onto the past invents worse demons than one is dealing with already. In the end, you will hear June whisper in your mind, “Give yourself time to heal. Everything will be alright.”
‘June’ is now streaming on Planet Marathi OTT. Watch the trailer below.