Film Education


The Blue Umbrella

A film by Vishal Bhardwaj

Based on the novella by Ruskin Bond

The highlight of the film for me is the beginning credit sequence and the end scene which creates with its magic a special place in my heart. Those are the few moments which live up to my lyrical poetic quality of imagination of the simple yet touching novella of Ruskin Bond by the same name. It is after seeing the end do you realize the special significance of the beginning which adds to the experience.

It is always a challenge to adapt a great literary work onto screen as the reader’s imagination is set free and the filmmaker has to live up to that expectation.

Vishal Bharadwaj has been quite dedicated to his source that is the novella and has been honest to the soul of the work and is an effective film. But there are certain scenes or character emphasis that are different in the film. For one the film seems to be more about

Nandkishore Khatri, a miserly old man who owns a tea stall in a village who is envious of  the blue umbrella that Biniya possesses. The credit sequence and the actual film start by introducing Khatri to the audience while the novella starts with Biniya. In the film you identity more with Khatri and less with Biniya. The performance of Pankaj Kapoor is also a key factor which draws you to his character rather than the actress Shreya Sharma who did not touch a chord with me personally.

What was missing for me was the film did not exploit the poetic quality and cinematic tools to present the beautiful object of the blue umbrella. As it is not a mere object but much more, it symbolizes desire and temptation and at the same time also symbolizes pure beauty which is touched upon in the lines of  Khatri when he is told by Nandu his helper that its not very valuable and why want it, I quote from the novella

“Of what use is a poppy in a cornfield? Of what use is a rainbow? Of what use are you numbskull? Wretch! I, too, have a soul. I want the umbrella, because – because I want its beauty to be mine.” This also brings in the dimension of the human need to want more than material objects at the same time the material desire to possess beauty for power.

The novella and the film take the two protagonists on a journey of self discovery where they share the object of beauty ‘the blue umbrella’ and let go of the need to possess it. However inspite of not cinematically being able to project the blue umbrella as a special object the film does remain true to its message which is special.

Another difference in the novella is that Nandu, Khatri’s helper steals the umbrella but is caught by Biniya’s brother but in the film we see that Nandu gets away and we see now the red/pink umbrella which Khatri claims to have bought for himself to prove that he is wrongly accused by Biniya and is not a thief but has enough money to buy one himself. This is not a big offtrack but is a slight variation to the structure which introduces another red umbrella in the film but is not such a bad choice but does add another shade to the story.

There is one small scene where Binya runs behind her umbrella when its blown away by the wind which I felt had good cinematic lyrical possibilities but I did not find the scene in the film.

I quite like the way the film ends inspite of it not being like the novella and that brings me to my closing scene with a beautiful winter landscape which serves as a poetic backdrop as beautiful as the realization that the action conveys and adding a symbolic  visual metaphor and mood to complete the experience. These are small liberties a filmmaker could take to make the film cinematically strong. The novella ‘s closing scene is when Khatri (in the novella  named ‘Ram Bharosa’) as a thankyou gesture presents Biniya with her lucky charm as she had given it up in exchange to picnickers from whom she got the blue umbrella.

Both the novella and the film are lovely in their own right but I did expect the songs and visual treatment of the film to have more of a visual poetic quality as the subject I feel requires that.

My last words would be ‘it was an inspiring tale of hope and beauty’ and happy to have experienced it in literature and film’. The novella gave you something to build your imagination and make it true and the film made you live with the characters and spaces which made it real. Will the blue umbrella and Biniya of my imagination be more truthful or the living portrayal of Nandkishore Khatri  and the winter landscape make the experience more truthful, only time will tell, but both will live in different ways in my subconscious  and probably meet to form a third existence.

Please note this is not a detailed study of the comparison between the novella and the film but some highlights that remain with me as an experience in the two mediums


2 Comments so far
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respected mam..its ma 2 yr dream to do cinematography in ftii.i’m doin professional photography course for one yr and going to try for cinematography next yr in ftii.can u pls give me info regarding the eligibility and the type of question will they ask in admission exams,so that i can prepare for will be really great and useful if u provide me some info.thanks in advance

Comment by praga lathan

If your desire is deep and sincere then you will find the means to work towards your goal.
I am giving you my humble support.

It would help to know the following
a) Indian Art Cinema, Regional cinema and Popular cinema
b) European World cinema
c) Basics on the principles of light, composition, lens, aperture etc and areas that you would cover under cinematography. Ask your self what does cinematography involve.
d) Observe work of great Indian cinematographers and directors and understand the art and craft
e) keep yourself updated about literary work and news

Comment by oorvazifilmeducation

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