Pure and unadulterated -- two words that do justice to Vishal Bhardwaj's cinematic adaptation of Ruskin Bond's novella THE BLUE UMBRELLA. That Vishal is an adept storyteller is known by now. In THE BLUE UMBRELLA, he goes back to his directorial debut. If MAKDEE was about a village girl and a witch, THE BLUE UMBRELLA is about an umbrella that becomes the object of envy in a hamlet in Himachal Pradesh.
Stories like the one narrated in THE BLUE UMBRELLA are a rarity today, since the focus is on a large canvas and larger than life stars. THE BLUE UMBRELLA is set in a hamlet and essentially revolves around an umbrella, a kid and a tea stall owner.
The handling of the subject material is interesting, but the fact remains that the film has its limitations. It caters to a small section of moviegoers, the connoisseurs of cinema, thereby restricting its appeal to select multiplexes in select cities.
The story unfurls with the discovery of a vibrant blue umbrella by Biniya [Shreya Sharma], an eleven-year-old girl from an idyllic mountain village in North India. She has never seen anything more striking and beautiful. Neither has Nandkishore Khatri [Pankaj Kapur].
Khatri runs a small tea stall in the village. He is a miser who has a fondness for pickles and swindling kids off their little possessions. Khatri is smitten by the beauty of the umbrella and goes to remarkable lengths to acquire it, but fails miserably.
However, Khatri is not the only one to covet the umbrella. The umbrella's arrival disturbs the tranquility and harmony of the village. Biniya's secret weapon gives her an enviable power over the small town, as the umbrella assumes mythical status.
One fine day, the umbrella goes missing...
As a storyteller, Vishal Bhardwaj has a knack of narrating a story well and also extracting wonderful performances from the cast. In THE BLUE UMBRELLA, the director succeeds in conveying a message [greed can ruin the best of relationships] forcefully towards the end, when the entire village boycotts Pankaj Kapur for robbing the umbrella. The second hour, in particular the concluding reels, are highly absorbing.
However, the film can do with some trimming in the second hour. Cinematography is inconsistent. Why is the lighting too dark at times, especially during indoor sequences? Otherwise, the outdoor work is remarkable.
Pankaj Kapur is in top form yet again, although, at times, his dialogues aren't audible. Shreya Sharma is a terrific discovery. She stands on her feet, despite being pitted with a towering performer like Kapur. The remaining cast is alright.
On the whole, THE BLUE UMBRELLA is a well-made film, but it's for a handful of viewers in a handful of cities. More for the Festival circuit.
Rating:- [critique] * * *