Delightful Longing: The Blue Umbrella
These days I have been watching a lot fewer movies than before. After writing my 50th post (on Masoom) in the recall series, I decided to take a break from old movies for a few days, and now I am catching up on some of the recent acclaimed Hindi movies that I didn’t pay much attention to at the time when they released. So this week I saw Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil (after watching the superb Paan Singh Tomar), Satya (Ram Gopal Varma’s finest hour arguably), and Vishal Bhardwaj’s The Blue Umbrella. Haasil and Satya are widely recognized as brilliant films, and I concur with most of the glowing reviews received by the two movies that I read post watching them. But none of them has the haunting quality that the third film I saw has. Maybe it is because there have been many an attempts to rehash and cash in on the Satya cult (Ram Gopal Varma has done quite a bit of it himself), while the atmospherics of Haasil has been matched by movies like Gulaal and a few others. Or maybe it is just because the settings of Satya and Haasil are more familiar to the average Hindi movie audience.
On the other hand, The Blue Umbrella is truly a unique film. Everything- from its simple storyline, its performances, its setting, its intentions, to its unconventional execution has incredible freshness and charm. Prima facie it is a children’s film based on a novella by Ruskin Bond. Most certainly it is that, but more importantly it is also a film that makes you feel for its lead characters- and for that it takes a very difficult route- it makes you part of the longing the characters experience. Longing for acceptance, longing for joy, and longing for appreciation- wonderfully conveyed through their longing for a beautiful Japanese blue umbrella. The umbrella here is an important plot instrument, as while the story is woven around it, it also acts as a metaphor for all the small joys in life that may not be big achievements, but are certainly no less in the kind of happiness and satisfaction they lead to.
The movie transports you to a small village in Himachal Pradesh. The setting is idyllic and pristine, from the rain-washed valleys to the snow clad roads, from the small kutcha-pucca huts to the almost family like village bonhomie. The people are as simple as they come- uncontaminated and pure. They have aspirations that don’t have the grand vision and scale like the aspirations of the city people have. Their smiles are genuine, their laughs are uninhibited. Their sorrows are sudden and wild like torrential hailstorms that leave behind a brighter landscape when they leave. Their slight quirks, their eccentricities may be jarring to the outsider, but they are a part of their way of life- their way of living.
Movies are stories on celluloid- it is an oft repeated statement. But this particular movie is the quintessential story on celluloid. There is no other way to describe it. It is like a page out of a children’s story book and its imagery gives an impression that that particular story book must be very well illustrated. Mr. Vishal Bhardwaj has certainly followed his instincts and a crystal clear vision. I have seen three of his other films- Makdee, Kaminey, and 7 Khoon Maaf. And ‘The Blue Umbrella’ is my favorite from whatever I have seen of him.
I strongly urge all the people who like movies and fiction- to watch this movie. It is just 90 minutes- and it will surely transport you to a world that is alien to us, but in a certain way a very small part of us. Just a tip- persist with the movie- Pankaj Kapoor’s weird ways and idiosyncrasies might put a few people off in the beginning- but by the end they will be sure to realize the finesse and dexterity of his performance.