The Blue Umbrella (2005)

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Vishal Bhardwaj is a genius. He writes lovely music, compelling screenplays and makes wonderful movies. So I was thrilled to see that a movie he made in 2005 (before Omkara) was finally out on DVD. It is based on a novella by Ruskin Bond, and takes place in a small village in Himachal Pradesh—the scenery is breathtaking and of course the cinematography does it full justice. And the music doesn’t suck either. The film has been billed somewhat as a children’s story but it’s really for anyone who enjoys a good story and a beautiful film.

The performances from the cast are stellar. Pankaj Kapur plays a miserly old tea-stall owner named Nandu who delights in separating people (especially kids) from their money. One of the village girls, Biniya (Shreya Sharma) is watching her goats one day when a blue umbrella floats down out of the sky and lands by her. It belongs to some Japanese tourists who trade it to her for a bear claw necklace that is her “lucky charm”.

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The umbrella is Biniya’s pride and joy, and the object of much envy in the village. Nandu in particular covets it; he offers Biniya sweets, biscuits, even money, but she won’t give it up. He finds a similar pink one in the city, but it is prohibitively expensive at Rs 2500. His longing for the umbrella obsesses him:

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He’s not alone, however; and when the umbrella goes missing one day the villagers’ schadenfreude over Biniya’s loss is palpable. She is devastated and suspects Nandu of stealing it; she even gets the police to search his house, but it’s nowhere to be found. Nandu is angry and swears that he will stop eating the pickles that he loves until he has his own umbrella. Then one fine day, the pink umbrella arrives at his house and now he is the one envied by the whole village.

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But what has happened to the blue umbrella? Will Biniya find it? This is when the movie really begins to shine. Biniya’s discovery of the thief, the consequent ostracization and suffering of said thief, and Biniya’s growing awareness of what is really important in life, is compelling watching; and the end is as satisfying as a good, well…mango pickle!

The music is fantastic. Mr. Bhardwaj composed it (naturally) and Gulzar wrote the lyrics, which—happily for me—are subtitled. There are only 3 songs (and background music), but they are all wonderful. My favorite is “Tesoo”, the opening children’s song and dance which introduces the viewer to the people of the village. It is infectious and beautifully choreographed and shot (and forget the umbrella—I want the puppet!).

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Vishal Bhardwaj is a genius.

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12 Comments to “The Blue Umbrella (2005)”

  1. I saw the Blue Umbrella yesterday. A beautiful fim indeed.

    This is a very good review of the movie. Agree with your views.

  2. I didn’t know Vishal Bhardwaj did this movie! I saw the promos but didn’t know what to think about them being narrated by the umbrella itself (or himself, if you’re to judge by the voice). Now I have to see it, it sounds wonderful.

  3. The umbrella is just an umbrella…it’s not the narrator :-) It is lovely. One of my favorites last year…

  4. I am still watching this move almost 5 times finished I 100% agree with you that only a genius can do such a movie like this and I plan to visit Himachal the same place where the shooting held
    Thank you Mr. Vishal Bhardwaj
    Pankaj Kapur, He is living in this movie and Shreya Sharma, (Biniya) also did very well

  5. the day i saw the movie i fell in love with Shreya

  6. I loved it too. It was based on Ruskin Bond’s story – The Blue Umbrella. The movie differs a bit from the book but they are both equally good.

    I loved loved loved the speech Pankaj Kapur makes at the akhara (wrestling pit). It was sheer genius.

  7. I felt that the movie’s best part was before the stealing, the chronicle of innocence unlost, so to say.

    Brilliant review, anyway.

    • Isn’t that the beauty of cinema? We all take something different away from it. Certainly I really loved the beginning too, every minute of this film. Absolutely wonderful…

      • Excellent moview. Vishal Bharadwaj is turning out to be a great all round artist. He seems to be aptly inspired by right people like: Shakespere, RD-God and Gulzar.He sounds sincere and rooted in his beliefs. You should hear him in PANCHAM UNMIXED documentary. Also, OMKARA DVD has good info. Like that teacher in DEEWAAR who says about little Shashi Kapoor: Dekhna yeh age chalkar ek bada insaan banega (He will be do somehing substantial when he grows up)

  8. very beautiful umbrella!! :)

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