The impression Iranian maestro Majid Majidi has left in the world is profound; The beautiful Oscar nominated THE CHILDREN OF HEAVEN, the poignant gem – THE SONG OF SPARROWS, the politically lyrical BARAN & the powerful WILOW TREE. Majid Majidi is an auteur who has mastered the art of capturing human nature with sensitive stories mostly centered on kids that underlines the pathos of existing social circumstances with ethos of humanity and hope.
When a filmmaker with such impeccable sensibility makes his debut in Bollywood which is labeled as temple of melodrama, the connoisseurs of art especially in Asia look forward with bated breath.
So what does the master Majid Majidi does over here?. Well, he follows the golden rule of ‘Doing in Rome what the Romans do’ Majidi narrates a melodramatic tale of a brother and a sister in the city of dreams – Mumbai who are victims of faith and circumstances and how they find purpose and redemption after committing sins.
Majid Majidi in association with Mehran Kashani takes an unexpected turn as the movie begins with a bang on depiction of the class divide in the city of dreams. A long opening shot introduces Amir (debutant Ishaan Khatter). Amir is rushing between speeding vehicles against a backdrop of huge hoardings he sprints under the road bridge amidst those underprivileged families and hops on to the back of a waiting motorbike. Amir is a drug peddler who enjoys his swag and is free spirited. Faith takes an evil turn when police raids the hideout of these young outlaws who have believed to have taken into crime due to circumstances. A pulse rising chase between the cops and Amir ends up at a laundry and we are introduced to Amir’s sister Taara (Malavika Mohanan). Tara’s colleague Akshi (Goutam Ghose), protects Amir from cops and hides him. Believing that Tara is now his property, the next day Akshi assaults her resulting in a violent reaction from Tara that lands her up in jail and Akshi hospitalized.
The complexity of Amir and Tara increases further with Akshi regaining consciousness but loosing the power to speak. With dark clouds glooming over Amir and Tara, the sibling find hope in difficult situations. Amir bonds with Akshi’s mother and his two daughters while Taara finds a companion in Chotu – the child of her fellow prisoner played by Tannishtha Chatterjee.
It’s overwhelming to see Majid Majidi pressing the adrenaline button of energy in his bollywood debut. Though the filmmaker is an outsider as far as the shanty alleys and dirty lanes of Mumbai slums are concerned, the filmmaker is surprisingly at ease but undesirably in competition with Danny Boyle who helmed the modern masterpiece SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE that celebrated the essence of bollywood in the buoyant celebration of love, lost, life and sacrifice.
As the children start sharing the screen with the gown ups Amir and Tara, Majidi smartly in this touted grown up version of Majidi’s previous CHILDREN OF HEAVEN makes the audience enter his familiar zone as it finds its true emotional colors of passion filled with sequences that are pure gem. Certainly Majid Majidi is one of those filmmakers who are inspired by the genius of Satyajit Ray and there are moments in the film which proves Majidi’s fondness towards the great Indian filmmaker.
Ironically, the Iranian master’s Bollywood debut is less ‘epic’ than his Iranian mega budget MUHAMMAD : THE MESSENGER OF GOD that ran into controversies and it may be argued that Majidi in his subconscious mind may be thinking of playing safe and restored to his known elements like birds, children and innocence in this melodramatic tale of a brother and sister with echoing tones of redemption every now and then where every character is a victim of circumstance.
Plus it will also be observed that the director has not made a strong statement on the class divide and prevailing situations in India, though he is bang on in selecting the traditional, colorful festival of Holi as a metaphor in accumulating the crux of this physiological melodrama that reiterates the theme of good and evil.
The pitch perfect casting serves as the apt vehicle to convey the vision of Majidi. The tousle-haired debutant Ishaan Khatter is a charismatic swag that demands attention and is bound to make his place in hearts of cinegoers in future beyond doubt.
Malayalam actress Malavika Mohanan in his bollywood debut is intense, powerful and solid as the sister Tara.
Bengali talent Ghose is competent as Akshi. Sharada Jhumpa who plays Akshi’s mother is first rate and the child artistes who play Akshi’s daughters are excellent. Ditto for child actor who plays chotu. Tannishtha Chatterjee is natural in her limited appearance.
Technically a masterly crafted piece of art, BEYOND THE CLOUDS is exquisitely shot by Anil Mehta, the ace Indian cinematographer brings those magical moments especially the one behind the cloth/bed sheet and shadow playing using the right tone and colour for the different moods creating the required artistic contrast. BEYOND THE CLOUDS is visually striking.
A. R. Rahman score adds momentum but lacks the take home quality. Though a nostalgic feeling of his iconic ‘Mukkala Mukabla Laila O Laila’ stays for a while.
Iranian master Majid Majidi in his highly awaited Bollywood debut is surprisingly energetic. Though BEYOND THE CLOUDS travels the known terrain of a melodrama involving a brother and sister that offers tribute to the good and evil theme, the prolific filmmaker adds his winningly emphatic sensitivity to the proceedings that is eloquently nurtured by Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan’s poignant performance. This heartfelt and sensitive adage on the triumph of good over evil ends on a beautiful note of hope with that closing shot that stamps, cements and underlines the magic of Majidi we know.