‘Beyond the Clouds’ review: Fails to pack in a punch

A few days before the release of Beyond The Clouds, when asked about how he had combined the minimalism of Iranian cinema with the song-n-dance and boisterousness of mainstream Indian films, veteran Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi talked about the faster rhythm and pace and a more liberal use of music in his latest film. This balancing act between the two opposed aesthetics, however, proves to be the undoing for the otherwise well-meaning film—neither is it able to capitalise on the quietude and intimate strength of the silent, spartan and the understated, nor the emotional wallop and extravagance of a melodrama.

Beyond The Clouds
  • Director: Majid Majidi
  • Cast: Ishan Khatter, Malavika Mohanan, Gautam Ghose
  • Run time: 122.55 minutes
  • Storyline: Aamir and his estranged sister Tara lead a life fraught with danger and despair

The resemblance to Children of Heaven is merely coincidental in that BTC also has two siblings in the lead—their lives fraught with ceaseless problems, danger and despair. Aamir is on the run for drug dealing when he bumps into his estranged sister. For a while, life seems to offer hope and reconciliation till Tara lands up in prison for attempting to kill a man trying to rape her. Even as Aamir looks for ways to get her out, the grievously injured man’s family becomes an emotional weight for him to bear. Meanwhile, Tara forms her own bond with the little boy of a sickly fellow jail inmate.

It’s this ironic renegotiation of relationships, the moral dilemmas, families torn asunder and new, unlikely foster families formed on a humanitarian soil that give the film its profound core. Unfortunately, instead of plunging headlong into it, as he is known to have done in his earlier films, Majidi stays on the surface, looking at issues here and there: poverty, prostitution and the plight of the undertrials.

The broad frame of the underdog story, the underprivileged characters and its location—the not-so-shining, underbelly of Mumbai—is something that Indian viewers would be only too familiar with. It seems to strike Majidi with a sense of novelty. Not that he exoticises or exploits the vistas of Mumbai, but his gaze remains that of a curious outsider, wide-eyed and wondrous. It gives some delectably framed (at times geographically challenged) sequences—a run from Dhobi Ghat to Yari Road via Kabutarkhana, the prostitution dens, the attempted rape amidst the pristine white sheets or the perennial metaphor of shadow play for instance. There are also monsoon showers thrown in the thick of Holi that make you rub your eyes in utter disbelief.

Most of the performances remain laboured and maudlin. No wonder then, in his second outing, Ishan Khatter, despite the scruffy, unwashed presence, manages to stand out. Not only is he there in every frame, he is also made to display all his wares—action, drama, comedy, emotion, dance and what have you.

The film just doesn’t manage to throb with the authenticity of experience. It feels like an artificial world – virtuous but curiously inert. The depiction of violence, sex and trafficking is oblique, bashful and old-worldly. As is the forgiveness and redemption offered for all the trespasses — everything is well as long as the conscience and compassion is alive and kicking.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 8:48:56 PM |

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