The crown for someone who knows how to produce a film that has the power to dig its claws into the very sentiments of the audience with the opening scene, keeps them emotionally invested as the narrative unfolds, and allows them to release a breath of relief at the end, goes to Iran’s most celebrated and Oscar-nominated director, Majid Majidi for his film Beyond The Clouds.
Majidi is known for making powerful films such as the Oscar-nominated The Children of Heaven (1997) and Baran (2001), both of which are emotionally moving films for reasons beyond the narrative. He has now debuted in the Hindi cinema with an equally moving, emotionally rich and visually pleasing film called Beyond the Clouds (2017).
Beyond the Clouds is a drama based on a boy called Amir (Ishaan Khattar) and his sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan). The film centres around their ever-developing relationship during unfortunate circumstances. Tara, typical of any Indian sister who has been brought up in a patriarchal system, sacrifices herself by ending up in jail to protect her drug-selling brother from the police. The story really takes form from this point on.
Both, Ishaan and Malavika give a convincing performance as individuals who are a product of a luckless life. The film’s focus is not on developing their characters further, but rather, on presenting the raw reality of their environment and everything that comes with depicting such realities. This includes corrupt systems and institutes, and ingrained ideologies around identity politics.
Though the protagonist is Amir, it is Tara who really binds the story together. Malavika’s powerful performance as a down-trodden woman married with Majidi’s distinctive way of portraying the intimacy and fragility of relationships, adds weight to a film which otherwise can be mistaken as an estranged cousin of Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Having said that, soft sentiments of Slumdog Millionaire do resurface throughout the film, especially as the soundtrack has been produced by the maestro A.R. Rahman, who coincidentally, produced the music for Slumdog Millionaire too.
Majidi, who is very well versed with the subject of poverty, has managed to capture the essences of the everyday struggle for those in society for whom the law will not work in a place like Mumbai. Majidi makes it incumbent upon any half-conscientious soul to be affected in one way or another, by the manner in which the human truth is unveiled.
The narrative of good vs. evil humanises the voiceless and downtrodden of society. It unmasks the evil that lurks within those who prey upon the weak. The way this has been lensed is very perceptive too. Visuals in scenes of the jail are powerful and provoke the audience with every emotion.
Majidi’s use of silence and expression through imagery which is best in class. He tackles heavy and complex societal themes effortlessly; namely relationships and suffering, with a flow that awakens a need to fight for each victim. This effect is not momentary, and you revisit the struggles of the characters periodically. Their faces are ingrained deep within you, long after the credits have rolled in.
Beyond the Clouds is definitely worth a watch, especially as it is a drama set on the fringes of society, about the people of that society. Ishaan (Shahid Kapoor’s half brother), and Malavika have both delivered convincing and strong portrayals of young people in a city like Mumbai, where the odds are against you if you come from a particular section of that society. Majidi has also proved that one doesn’t necessarily need to belong to a specific geographical space, culture or language, in order to tell the story of the complexity of human relationships, expectations and sufferings.
Releasing in Singapore on 20th April, 2018.