The heart of Cobalt Blue is less about the awakening of sexuality, of first love, than it is about the disintegration of an intimate relationship. It is a relationship built in secrecy, through private conversations, through time spent together into the wee hours of the night.
Tanay’s (Neelay Mehendale) life revolves around exploring literature, a flirtation with his professor, and pining for a room of his own. There are things he wants to explore in privacy and the arrival of a paying guest (Prateik Babbar) throws a spanner in his plans.
Tanay falls for the nameless guest the moment he lays eyes on him, but the latter, some kind of artist, brushes off the advances initially. This is perhaps when it’s almost tempting to think of the book the film is based on. Directed by the author, Sachin Kundalkar, the film somehow lacks the emotional depth present in the book, which speaks of Tanay’s first relationship through the lens of a man with a broken heart.
It is clear from the beginning that the experience being presented to us is of having fallen for the wrong man, one who goes on to cheat on him as well. These portions, including Tanay’s confusion and frustration over the sudden separation in what seems like a beautiful relationship, don’t quite affect you like the portions in the book do. The scenes where he experiences betrayal, for instance, don’t quite capture the anger.
What’s great about Cobalt Blue though is the exploration of this relationship, without any real focus on social pressure... it’s as though the two are in a bubble of their own. They hide from Tanay’s parents but make love in an open field. They find pockets of space to express their sexuality without fear, in a country at a time when pursuing a same-sex relationship could get them into trouble.
The film is a coming-of-age story that tells us about the disintegration of love as a set-up that inspires a writer to pen his first novel. There’s an interesting idea as well, with Tanay using a turtle in his pond as a sounding board. He names the turtle Pablo, and shares everything about his life with it, including his first lover and his first published work of poetry. The parallels drawn between this relationship with an unseen turtle and his relationship with a nameless man, combine to communicate unsaid ideas.
Tanay dedicates his book ‘To the man at the lake’, a result of the strong imprint the said man left on his subconscious, like a streak of cobalt blue on plain white paper. The film doesn’t leave as much of an impression, but it does move you from time to time.
Cast: Neelay Mehendale, Anjali Sivaraman, Prateik Babbar
Director: Sachin Kundalkar
Streaming on: Netflix