By Rimli Bhattacharya
“Love is a habit. Once that habit is broken the person ceases to live,” says Tanay (played by Neelay Mehendale) to his sister Anuja (played by Anjali Sivaraman) after they lose their Appa (Grandfather) and Ajji (Grandmother) on the same day. But did Tanay and Anuja live for the sake of love? That is what the audience needs to explore in the movie Cobalt Blue.
Based on an acclaimed novel by Sachin Kundalkar, the transformation of the book into a film is praiseworthy. Originally written in Marathi in 2006, the book was translated into English in 2013. Now streaming on OTT platform Netflix, it is the narrative of siblings whose lives change forever after they get a new paying guest.
The movie is set in 1996 at Fort Kochi in Kerala, the picturesque state that provides us a visual delight. The lush green fields, the emerald backwaters and the sea elevate the backdrop of the movie. The story is narrated through from the perspective of Tanay, a boy with a background in English literature. In 1996, when same sex love was not only a taboo but also illegal, Kundalkar dared to follow a route less trodden. Tanay studies English, writes poems, wants to write a novel someday and occasionally flirts with his professor, played by Neil Bhoopalam. Tanay also mentions that he regularly sends his poems to The Bombay Magazine but each time they are rejected with the editor sending a polite ‘thank you’ note.
Tanay aches for a single room for himself where he can read and write and instead he gets a paying guest (played by Prateik Babbar). He has no name, no surname, and no address. He is well-built. Tanay immediately falls for him. As fate would have it, Anuja, who is a hockey player trying to make a career of it against all societal norms, encounters the new man when he flashes a brassiere asking for its claimant. Anuja yells at him but deep within the seeds of love has already been sown.
Unknowingly, the brother-sister duo enters into a relationship with their guest. Kundalkar has very boldly mentioned and displayed same sex liaisons between Tanay and the guest in the movie as well as in his book. The guest is mysterious. He is sometimes kind and sometimes rude. In the meantime, The Bombay Magazine publishes one of Tanay’s poems. He is ecstatic and expresses his joy through another episode of love making with the mystery man, something which he had always yearned for. Both of them are deeply engrossed in their relationship until Tanay gets a rude shock one morning when he learns that his sister Anuja has eloped with his beau. But Anuja too returns one day after being dumped by the mystery man. There are no explanations, no apologies. Life changes for both Tanay and Anuja and they leave their home frustrated and dejected.
The potholed and contrived pacing can be seen revolving around Tanay’s Aai (played by Geetanjali Kulkarni), Baba (played by Shishir Sharma) and the eldest of the three siblings, Aseem (played Anant Vijay Joshi).
The entire movie has a touch of blue making it all the more alluring. The tenderness of Tanay and the daring of Babbar leave the audience with a feel of the primitive love. We can see posters of the movie Fire as Tanay leaves his home in a taxi. It is a coincidence? Maybe! Poetry is the essence of this movie and has been used to relay the erotic expressions. Through the representation of the English professor, Kundalkar shows how lonely, cruel and suffocating the society can be for people like him and Tanay.
Cobalt Blue subtly depicts our patriarchal society and how dominating a man can be. The hunger of a husband forces his wife to migrate to his new working place, while his wife thinks how migration might affect their children. The movie also mentions domestic violence.
While the movie slightly deviates from the book, Sachin Kundalkar deserves credit for portraying a poignant tale of love, relationship, and societal norms on screen.
Rimli Bhattacharya is a first class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering with a MBA in supply chain management. She has contributed to two anthologies, A Book of light and Muffled Moans and has written two solo books, The crosshairs of life and That day it rained and other stories. Her other works have appeared in twenty-nine literary magazines & E-Zines. She is also an Indian Classical dancer.
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