We’ve long relied on Bollywood for desi rom-coms, those that are more relatable than Hollywood’s classics. But, with the exception of a few truly moving romance films like The Lunchbox and Masaan (sorry, I’m already out of examples, that’s how rare these are), all we’ve been offered are problematic premises and toxic lovers.
After decades of trying to nail the cis-het romance, mainstream Hindi cinema recently sought to explore same-sex narratives. And it wasn’t until this year’s release of Badhaai Do that we got a near-perfect LGBTQ+ rom-com.
However, while you wait for our mainstream cinema to deliver another worthy romantic drama, you can binge-watch the underappreciated but phenomenal film Cobalt Blue. Apart from the plot, which deftly conveys desire, heartbreak, loss, and healing, the Sachin Kundalkar directorial has many other factors that make it worthwhile.
And, no, I’m not referring to Prateik Babbar. *wink wink*
Cobalt Blue is based on Kundalkar’s debut novel, which was first published in Marathi in 2006. From the first shot, it is clear that this film was created by a writer, as practically everything has a poetic expression.
What else is apparent in the movie’s frames, which are set in a coastal town, is that it strikingly resembles Luca Guadagnino’s multi-Oscar-winning film Call Me By Your Name.
This story begins with a teenager (Neelay Mehendale) who, like Elio, hardly glances up from his books and is enamoured with a new guest (Prateik Babbar) in their house. Despite the films’ parallels, Tanay and Babbar’s nameless character are nothing like Elio and Oliver. They are, however, far more than just two men in love.
On the surface, the film does look like a tale of two siblings, Tanay and Anuja (Anjali Sivaraman), who fall for their new paying guest, who eventually abandons them both.
While the former speaks with Pablo Neruda’s spirit in the koi pond and doodles in notebooks, the latter is a tomboyish field hockey player pining to break free from the shackles of a patriarchal culture that has held her back. Same yet different.
Following a death in the family, what begins with the siblings trying to claim their own room ends with their concealed tussle for the adoration of a stranger. The one who, ironically, takes up residence in the same room while also capturing their teen hearts.
The film, which delves into the politics of gender, sexual identity, and family dynamics, treats the two leads and their sexual expression differently.
Throughout the film, Tanay’s gaze is charged with sexual desire, which is vibrantly captured by Vincenzo Condorelli’s camera. On the contrary, Anuja merely converses with the paying guest, with whom she eventually elopes. The novel’s inadequacy of her perspective is mirrored in the film adaptation.
However, Anuja, who was unable to make her romance quite public, is permitted a visible expression of her emotional turmoil, whereas Tanay is left with just silent grief.
And along with that, the sight of his adolescent love’s last embers, burning like a funeral pyre of memories.
Cobalt Blue, like the colour streak that remains on Tanay’s neck, leaves the viewer with several lingering questions about its protagonists. Despite its slow pace and rather less seamless script, the film depicts love and loss in primary colours. Furthermore, it gives its protagonist more than just desire; they find freedom.
In Bollywood’s world of loud gestures, remixed songs, and tired cliches, Cobalt Blue strikingly catches your attention-if only you know where to look.