Attaching emotions to colors is a familiar practice, red’s for rage, green represents envy, grey evokes gloom, and blue… well blue stirs up all sorts of things… like love and loss in Netflix film ‘Cobalt Blue’.
Directed by Sachin Kundalkar, the story is based on a novel written by him about two siblings falling for the same man in the 90s. Tanay (Neelay Mehendale) is a ruminative literature student who aspires to be a writer, while his sister Anuja (Anjali Sivaraman) is an athlete who loves playing hockey. When their grandparents tragically die on the same day, the two are quick to call dibs on the soon to be empty floor, but their father decides to rent it out, bringing into their life a handsome artsy tenant (Prateik Babbar).
The maker’s decision to keep Prateik Babbar’s character nameless was an interesting decision, however, it’s not very convincing to see him as some sort of a bisexual Lothario, who smoothly seduces both brother and sister under the same roof. Neelay Mehendale as doe-eyed Tanay is endearing as a young gay student, yet to be tainted by the stifling social codes of the world he lives in. Although, in some parts, his lines feel rehearsed, like a kid reading out a play in class… complete with a mild sing-song tone. Anjali Sivaraman delivers some lines the same way, but the casting team did a fantastic job picking her – Neelay and her look like they could be actual siblings.
While the family at the center of the film are Marathis, they live in Kerala, so we get a vibrant glimpse of the land and its political atmosphere. The art direction does justice to the film’s title, some frames look like they could make great still paintings. The color palette however is never the same, it keeps changing with the mood of the moment and scenes with stark contrasting shades stand out best. Shades of blue appear a lot more than usual and seem to be the unnamed tenant’s favorite color, becoming symbolic of him towards the end. The movie is rated ‘A’ for sexual content, and the intimate scenes between Tanay and the tenant are sensual without being sleazy.
Actors Geetanjali Kulkarni and Shishir Sharma play parents to the duo, and while their characters are unaware of Tanay’s burgeoning sexuality, their parenting style might be relatable to some viewers. They aren’t very strict until all hell breaks loose and they just want what every Indian parents wants for their child – to marry and settle down. Neil Bhoopalan in his cameo as a closeted Professor poignantly expresses the despair, loneliness and longing men endure in a country where homosexuality is illegal (Section 377 was still in place in 1990s). “Women take away every man you love,” he warns in a memorable dialogue.
There’s no usual song-dance numbers in the film, but music has its own subtle role in the background. The original score composed by Clinton Cerejo sprinkled across the film sounds like they are per-conceived classics and not fresh tracks, especially the one titled ‘Secret Garden’ – sung by Marianne D’Cruz – it evokes a smooth Jazz era mood.
Also Check Out: How Cobalt Blue The Film Differs From The Novel
I liked how the primary characters speak in Malayalam with the locals, while they speak a mix of Hindi and English at home. There’s also a sweet symbolization of communal harmony – Anuja’s closest confidantes are a Christian nun and a Muslim lady who rides bikes. Tanay is almost friendless, except for a tortoise he talks to, pretentiously named Pablo Neruda. The clashing characters of the siblings make for an interesting study in beating conventional gender norms – athletic Anuja might wear her hair short like a boy, but she is as interested in men as her brother.
‘Cobalt Blue’ is lazily paced for most of it’s runtime, but things suddenly escalate and an abrupt climactic twist leaves the viewer with a lot of questions. Anuja’s side of the story is barely presented and a lot of things don’t make sense. I did like the fact that the siblings find their way in the world, after losing their first love.
It’s a 7/10 from me.
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