Film: Beyond the Clouds (Ansooy-e Abrha)
Cast: Ishaan Khattar, Malavika Mohanan, Goutam Ghose, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sharada, Dwani Rajesh
Director: Majid Majidi
Rating: * * ½
Internationally celebrated Iranian Auteur Majid Majidi’s latest, an Indo-Iranian co-production, ‘Beyond the Clouds’ is an attempt to fit into the Satyajit Ray mould but the treatment is so indistinct that it neither fits in well with his exemplary Iranian oeuvre (which includes Oscar-nominated ‘The Children of Heaven’, ‘Baran’ and the epic biopic on Prophet Mohammad) nor does it sit well within the Indian art/middle-of-the-road cinema construct. It’s basically a melodrama that peeks into the lives of the impoverished class.
Well-intentioned as it may be to bring to light Indian poverty within an intentionally deviant touristy paradigm, this film rarely rises up to the level of significance that Majid Majidi’s earlier works command. It almost feels as if the director who is not well versed in English or Hindi, got confused with the mediocre translations of his own avowed intentions towards a sharper, more authoritative work of cinema.
On the run from the cops after a drug bust, Amir (Ishaan Khattar), a 19 year old drug peddler bumps into his estranged sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan) who tries to shield him and in the process lands up in jail. Tara, in her bid to reclaim the white powder entrusted in her care, runs fowl of her paramour Akshi (Gautam Ghose), and in order to protect herself from the rape attempt, splits open his skull. This catastrophic incident overturns their largely individualistic lonesome lives forever. Tara, who is hysterical about wanting to get out of prison gains solace from a young boy whose mother (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is terminally ill while Amir, in his attempt to keep Akshi alive so that his sister gets free, ends up footing the hospital bills as well as playing guardian and provider to Akshi’s old mother and two young daughters.
This, filmed in the underbelly of Mumbai, drama, marks a shrill departure from Majidi’s famed, meaningfully paced evocation of children’s experiences within a war-torn Iran. Majid Majidi, who is famous for the sensitivity with which he handles kids hasn’t lost that touch though. The kids who populate this drama evoke poignancy and empathy but the two young adults who are it’s protagonists don’t garner as much sympathetic attention. Both Ishaan and Malavika, blessed with charismatic screen presence, manage to temper their performances through the routine bits but when a dramatic curve hits them they burst into hysterics that despoils the entire temper and tone of the drama. That kind of trigger-happy acting is best suited to mainstream Bollywood cinema, though.
Mehran Kashani’s scripting does not give definition or power to the story. The lack of knowledge of laws and judicial processes is camouflaged in simplistic phraseology that sounds stupid. Majidi in fact tries hard to cover up the many blemishes by focussing on the slum-life of Mumbai. Anil Mehta’s accomplished lensing aids him in that objective. The colour transitions employed here, interestingly mark up the contrasts between good and evil. A. R. Rahman’s background score though is both meddlesome and fitful. This is an effort that labours its point stridently, even as it posits a striking outsider’s view of poverty in Mumbai.