Cobalt Blue ***
Starring: Neelay Mehendale, Prateik Babbar, Anjali Sivaraman
Director: Sachin Kundalkar
Tanay (Mehendale) lives with his family in Kerala in the 1970s under the difficult patriarchy of his father. When they decide to take in a paying lodger to help with the finances, Tanay becomes enamoured of the handsome stranger (Babbar) and so does his sister (Sivaraman). When affection is secretly returned both ways, the siblings’ relationship is put to the test as this enigmatic man changes the destiny of this family forever.
Based on a novel written by director Kundalkar, this has the feel of a romantic drama that would absolutely enthrall on the page. On screen, there is less to excite, with the plot plodding back and forth between brother and sister, but only really daring to depict the same-sex tryst. Its love scenes are long and laboured, with heavy breathing and sweaty bodies aplenty, but a sexy love scene does not a romance make, as the ancient saying goes.
Its final act turns up the heat, with attitudes toward all forms of sexuality taking the spotlight. There’s no doubt this is a daring adaptation of a popular but contentious book and It’s a colourful and artistic film for sure. Poetry is used in voiceover, painting imaginatively inserted into the editing as well as using bold art directions and an authentic and atmospheric soundtrack. Its acting is compelling too, but the story holds back an otherwise solid film from being anything but a casual meander straight down the middle of the road.
UK Release: Out now on Netflix