On Friday, Netflix India released the trailer of ‘Cobalt Blue’, a film adaptation of the eponymous novel, written and directed by Sachin Kundalkar.
Kundalkar wrote the book in Marathi. It was published in 2006, and was translated to English by Jerry Pinto, author of Em and the Big Hoom, and was published in 2013.
Starring Prateik Babbar (as the paying guest), Neelay Mehendale—who is a biologist, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, and an Indian classical singer—as Tanay, and Anjali Sivaraman as Anuja, the trailer extends a promise of an exquisite, and probably genuine, queer romantic movie that the Indian audience will get to see.
Though many efforts in the recent past have tried to pander to the LGBTQIA+ viewership, they fall flat on their faces because neither do they get the politics right nor the acting. However, it would be interesting to see how the two-time National Film Award winner will translate his words onto the celluloid.
About the book
I read Cobalt Blue this year in June when I was curating a piece on the histories of LGBTQIA+ themed fiction writing in the English language in India for The Chakkar. Among the thirty-two odd books that I read, Cobalt Blue came across as uniquely interesting, engaging, and striking.
Consisting of two distinct monologues by siblings Tanay, an aspiring author, and Anuja, the book begins with this odd sentence: “That you should not be here when something we’ve both wanted happens is no new thing for me. Today too, as always, you’re not here.” The arrival of a paying guest, whose independent spirit attracted both the siblings, breaks the family apart. But in a way that it’d happen only in a suburban, traditional Indian household.
The boy, of course, because of his male privilege can be with the paying guest in his room, where their romance finds utterance; however, the girl meets the paying guest outside and has an affair with him. Jerry Pinto, in a talk (YouTube: 3:53) that he delivered at Ashoka University, mentions that this book is a perfect example of how “geographical spaces are beautifully divided by the hypocrisy of a family.”
As I’ve noted in my piece, I found the novel to be similar to the great communist Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1968 release at the time of Prague Spring: Teorema (English title: Theorem). In that movie as well, the an outsider enters the picture and ‘mingles’ with everyone, making them crazily fall in love with him, followed by suddenly abandoning all of them one fine day.
Talking about Pinto’s translation with the Indian Express, Kundalkar said: “When he sent me the manuscript, I realised that it was very organically done. It was not technically correct. It was emotionally correct.” It would be interesting to see if Kundalkar himself can get all the technicalities right in his own adaptation while keeping the emotions intact.