The film, like most screen adaptations, failed to do justice to the evocative and atmospheric text on which it is based, even though both are created by noted Marathi filmmaker and writer Sachin Kundalkar. Cobalt Blue makes a conscious choice to unfold languorously, that helps it become at one with its sleepy setting of a family home in Pune.
Siblings Tanay and Anuja are smitten by the newly arrived paying guest with no last name who rents a room in the Joshi household and enters their lives as feverishly as spilled paint on canvas. Many translated books – especially fiction – leave you with the feeling that some things got lost in translation. Jerry Pinto ensures that it’s not the case here.
As soon as this mysterious, free-spirted stranger starts leaving and ineffaceable impression on the lives of the two young people, he disappears, almost as unexpectedly as he arrived. The novel is divided into two sections of lyrical monologues – first it’s Tanay’s stream of consciousness addressing the man he loves directly and then it’s Anuja writing on the pages of her private diary.
Early on in the book there are two lines: “One of the fundamental rights of mankind should be that of wearing as many or as few clothes as one likes inside one’s own home. Or one should be able to wear none at all.” Cobalt takes us deep into the interior lives of a family that’s never allowed to take off the cloak of societal expectations they’ve been lugging around for generations. Anuja is the more rebellious of the lot, but the heartbreaks are all equally intense.
Even though this book was originally written in 2006, queer love has rarely been depicted in Indian literature with such poignancy ever since. Pinto mentions in his translator’s note at the end that he let some of the Marathi words remain as they were in the original novel. Sometimes the real meaning of a word is not as important as what it stirs inside us. Much like first love, one that often doesn’t make sense to others but we know, even if we can’t find the right words.