Directors: Suhrud Godbole and Vaibhav Khisti
Writer: Nikhil Mahajan
Cast: Nehha Pendse, Siddharth Menon, Kiran Karmarkar
Suhrud Godbole and Vaibhav Khisti’s ‘June’ is only 90 minutes long but it packs more punch per minute than any film in recent memory. Written by Nikhil Mahajan, the film honestly speaks on multiple levels about confronting your worst fears, trusting your gut, and getting that negative voice out of your head. Even though the main concept of the film revolves around healing past wounds and forgiving present scars, it also manages to capture the pressures and anxiety of youth belonging to small towns of India without victimising them.
The film follows Neel (Siddharth Menon), an engineering student, hailing from Aurangabad, who is dealing with his inner conflicts after experiencing a personal tragedy. One day, he chances upon Neha (Nehha Pendse), an unabashed modern woman who has just shifted to his colony, and his life changes pretty much forever. As their friendship blossoms, the duo tackles acceptance, especially self-acceptance, in a society which not only judges the nature of their relationship but also isolates them for attempting to challenge the status quo.
Together, Neel and Neha get emotional, become vulnerable, and most importantly feel safe and share hope. Their bond aptly portrays the very real struggles of an anxious teen and a non-conformist woman who are learning how to navigate their way through guilt they probably shouldn’t have to carry. The film beautifully tracks the unspoken feelings between these two broken strangers as Neha helps heal Neel. The troubling paradox at the heart of the story is that Neel is a little reluctant to take help because he fears people will see the terrible things he has experienced.
Neel doesn’t even show much compassion for his parents, played by Kiran Karmarkar and Sneha Raikar, but fortunately, the film does, thanks to its sharp-witted depiction of the hopelessness and helplessness of being working-class in India.
For the most part, ‘June’ doesn’t explicitly spell out the answer; it’s the emotions in the lead actors’ faces that tell the story. Gradually, at a slow burn, we discover that Neel might have the right reason to hate everyone and everything and that an extremely personal loss cuts Neha off from the wider world. Siddharth as Neel brilliantly brings out the frustration of a troubled teen and does complete justice to his role. On the other hand, Nehha plays her character with utmost maturity and sensitivity. She fits the part perfectly.
Having said that, ‘June’ is not an easy film to watch as there are a bunch of scenes that could be triggering. But the film’s moving climax and understated performances by the lead actors make it all worth it. PS: The film has a meaningful explanation for its unconventional title at the end.