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”.
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:
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.
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!).
Vishal Bhardwaj is a genius.