Visually stunning and emotionally complex, COBALT BLUE, Sachin Kundalkar's adaptation of his highly regarded novel, comes to brilliant life with the author providing excellent, detailed direction. Every frame is a portrait. The use of color, light, and music is exceptional.
Neelay Mehendal carries the film as Tanay, who evolves from student to lover to artist. His development is finely tuned, supported in full by Amit Divekar's costumes. A budding writer, Tanay has many questions that his traditional family cannot entertain.
His athletic sister pays him no mind. His older brother is on his path to an arranged marriage. He talks to his only confidant - who happens to live in a pond - daily. Voiceovers of his poetry underscore his growth.
Only an alluring professor (Neil Bhoopalam) seems to interest the youth. Taking a trip to the professor's house - full of carvings, books, pigeons, and gorgeous light - hints at what lies ahead.
When financial needs require a tenant for the top floor of Tanay's house, his world begins to turn. An impossibly handsome artist (Prateik Babbar) introduces queer imagery and nighttime trips in a canoe across a lake. The visuals ratchet the rising sensuality. The film is very discrete, yet a scene with an orange will remain with you.
The plot also twists through political, societal, and family issues. It frustrates when it strays too far from the main story. But the lovely music - including a version of 'Moonlight Sonata' rearranged by Clinton Crejo - is sensational.
Cinematographer Vincenzo Condorelli exquisitely captures the landscapes of Kerala, including both stunning opulence and poverty. The use of water imagery throughout is excellent.
The theme of a young man falling for an older, more experienced partner may remind you of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, a vivid novel, with a pale film adaptation. In this case, watching a thrilling movie made me want to read the book.
The best art takes us through unfamiliar landscapes while touching the heart and changing the soul. COBALT BLUE, now on NetFlix, entirely lives up to those standards. It may not end up on top of my list for the year's best, but it is a leading contender now.
Beware of spoilers in the trailer. But the first 45 seconds will give you a taste of the music.