Children's films made in India are a treat to watch. But there are not many films produced for children. The CFSI - Children's Film Society of India is quite inactive and we only get to see chairperson Nafisa Ali occasionally on NDTV, CNN-IBN etc on debates with Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra and the likes and more often on Page 3 parties.
THE BLUE UMBRELLA
THE BLUE UMBRELLA
The Blue Umbrella, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj and produced by UTV was released today. This film bagged the National Award for the best children's film of 2005, in the 53rd National Awards. Vishal Bharadwaj's debut film as a director was Makdee, released four years ago, a story about a witch and a village girl. I enjoyed watching Makdee and so I decided to watch Blue Umbrella, first day first show. I was not disappointed.
This film is a screen adaptation of a novel by Ruskin Bond. Biniya is a little girl who lives with wrestler cum milk vendor brother, and her old mother in a village in Himachal Pradesh. A happy and sweet looking child, Biniya is fascinated by a Blue Umbrella that a set of Japanese tourists leave behind. Unfortunately the tourists come back to take it but are prepared to exchange the umbrella for Biniya's bear-nail lucky charm locket. She agrees and now is the proud owner of a beautiful blue umbrella.Much to the envy of the village, Nandan Khatri, the shop owner in particular, Biniya carries the umbrella wherever she goes, plays, dances and even carries it while she takes her cows for grazing. Nandan, the scheming shop owner has an obsession for knick knacks especially those owned by kids, like for instance even a small binocular. This clever old guy manages to take possession of all these knick knacks in exchange for goodies viz. biscoots, chocolates that he gives the kids on debt.
Biniya and her umbrella is the talk of the town and naturally Nandan wants to possess one too. He goes to the local Umbrella shop who tells him that these kind of umbrellas are priced Rs.2500/= and one can get them ordered from Delhi but only if Nandan promises to pay the money in advance. A dejected Nandan comes and pleads with Biniya to exchange her blue umbrella for the goodies he promises. Biniya does not agree. Nandan even gives her money. Biniya refuses to part with her umbrella.
And the one day.... Biniya loses her umbrella. She panics..broods, refuses to eat for days. Who stole her umbrella? Is it Nandan or his man friday or the rolly-polly Lilly aunty who too has an eye on the umbrella or any of those neighbours around her with an envious look everytime Biniya went around town dancing with the umbrella? No clue.
Nandan receives a huge parcel one day and as he opens it we see a bright Red umbrella similar to what Biniya had, in it. Nandan is now seen dancing with it, posing for tourists' photograph with his Red umbrella, getting himself shaved under the Umbrella's shade.. ha! Nandan is a happy man but Biniya is still unhappy.
As the rest of the story unfolds, does Biniya actually gets the joy of her life - The Blue Umbrella back? Yes, she does get her umbrella back... The blue umbrella? hmmm..I do not want to give away the suspense
The strength of the film is in its casting. Shreya Sharma as the little girl is apt in her role as a village girl from Himachal. Pink cheeks, two plaits, eyes with kajal, salwar kameez clad and perfect expression. She is bang on. Watch out for her expression in the scene where she meets Nandan, for the last time.For this scene, in particular,I will not use words like "Fantastic" or "Superb", Nice is the word.. really nice. No over acting.Just apt. Vishal Bharadwaj had auditioned more than 500 kids before he finalised Shreya for this role. Shreya hails from Himachal Pradesh and this has definitely added to this film set entirely in Himachal Pradesh.
Pankaj Kapur plays Nandan Khatri. His face fits the role of a greedy old villager perfectly. But I found it uncomfortable looking at him, caricatured. His character is not a caricature, actually. He is superb in the (pre) climax scene.May be one is used to seeing him as a serious villian in films like Roja, Maqbool etc, it was difficult to digest the modulated caricatured voice. It was way too uncomfortable. I wish the director had made him speak in his original voice and not made it artificially squeaky for accent's sake.
Apart from these two, the brother, Lilly aunty, the mother, friends of Biniya, the police man etc, many of them first timers are well cast.
This is probably a very good film for the tourism board of Himachal Pradesh. Himachal in summer, winter and other seasons - well captured by cinematographer Sachin Krishn. You go 'wow' everytime there is a crane shot or a long shot of the picturisque village. The scenes filmed in the rain are a treat for the eyes. Shreya +Blue Umbrella shot in twilight.. beautiful!
Aarif Sheikh is the editor. The film tends to slow down a bit in the middle but seamless editing, I must add.
The little village in Himachal, dressed up art director Sameer Chandra is pleasing. The Blue Umbrella designed by Sa Paper & Handicrafts in Thailand, looks really good, you want to own one.
Vishal Bharadwaj is also the music director of the film. Two of the three songs are melodious.
Kudos to Vishal Bharadwaj for giving us a warm and feel good film.Awaiting his next Children's film.
Overall the look of the film is fresh and I wish more producers come up to produce children's films for India, based in India .The last children's film I saw was Makdee which was more than 4 years ago. I do not categorize films like Anjali as children's films because of the masala element added for commercial reasons...not even Mazhalai pattalam which I enjoy whenever I watch it on VijayTV even now - which seems to be playing the film atleast once a week.
Having said that, I wonder how many kids of today will enjoy The Blue Umbrella. With films like Spiderman, Harry Potter, Shrek etc these days, I doubt if kids will enjoy a film which does not boast of any special effects but still excels in a story with a moral, well narrated, well filmed.
The Blue Umbrella which runs for approximately 100 minutes, is a Hindi film with a very distinct dialect.Since the movie is very dialogue based, the dialects can be quite difficult to follow for a non-hindi speaking person.But worry not. The film has english subtitles. If you do not manage to catch it at a theatre near you, wait for the original DVD. It should hit the markets soon.
The Blue Umbrella : Colourful, pleasing.
Ps : Which was the last Indian children's film you saw [Any Indian language or English]?Did you enjoy it? Let me know.. over to the response section.