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Beyond The Clouds  : Beyond The Clichés
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Friday, April 20, 2018
Majid Majidi
Tannishtha Chatterjee, Ishaan Khattar, Malavika Mohanan, Sharada

Poverty, the abuse of women and the wretchedness of the system is what the West likes best about India. Danny Boyle served it generously with Slumdog Millionaire and the West lapped it up, even gave him a few Oscars.


Iranian maestro Majid Majidi also picks the slum life of Mumbai as his location. For the average Indian viewer, there’s little novelty in characters and situations.


However, with Majidi in command, the sensibilities are pure as he updates his Children Of Heaven theme of a bond between a brother and sister. Only, Aamir and Tara are older and street smart, having learnt to fend for themselves as kids.    


The first shot reveals the hand of expertise as it takes a look at the many cars plying up and down Mahim Causeway. Anil Mehta’s camera has been standing a little away all this while and now it dips to show the miserable world that lies just below the bridge. Young man Aamir who has picked up his goods from a car above, peddles his drugs below with the casualness of one raised in deprivation.


Tara is no paragon of virtue but when her boss Akshi eyes her as his own, she hits out and he lands in hospital, veering between life and death. The shadow play with just the two characters between sheets hanging in dhobi ghat is a fine example of both Majidi and the cinematographer telling a stark situation in a subtle manner. They use shadow play effectively again with Aamir in a lighter situation.


But the repeated use of a few fond clichés about India is like lead and weighs down the already leisurely pace of narration. Like the familiarity of a drunken husband who beats up Tara. When she lands in prison for attempting to murder her boss, her jailmate is a woman who’s also had a drunken, abusive husband. Ho hum.


The filmmaker may like to leave certain portions to interpretation. But Aamir who’s unable to talk to Tara at the police station runs to the hospital to threaten Akshi on the hospital bed. You do wonder how Aamir knew with such certainty what had transpired between Tara and Akshi.


On the other hand, Majidi’s speciality of unlikely bonds is once again masterly. Aamir has to take care of Akshi, the man he hates, to keep him alive and make him speak up to save Tara.


The parallels between new ties being made by Aamir with Akshi’s Tamil-speaking family and Tara with a child in jail are in your face. Gold rings and hearts of gold inside with a downpour outside are used for both tracks.


That Majidi is on unfamiliar terrain is clear as Mumbaikars will wonder how Holi and the monsoons can happen at the same time. Somebody should also tell Majidi that the Tamil word for grandmother is ‘Pati’, not ‘Pathi’.


But where you see the hand of Majidi is in the statements he makes through children. There’s a child in every situation, even one standing outside the door in a red-light area when clients are being serviced inside. 


Also in classic Majidi style, after all the coughing, dying and despair, like the father cycling home with a pair of shoes in Children Of Heaven, there’s hope lurking around the corner. There’s integrity in the gritty.


Ishaan Khattar who makes his debut as Aamir has a likeable screen presence. What’s welcome is that he doesn’t act like a seasoned actor. He’s easy but raw in places and that’s what one wants from a new kid on the block. Malavika Mohanan looks like Sakshi Tanwar at times and is acceptable as Tara. Veteran filmmaker Gautam Ghose cast as Akshi doesn’t have much to do on the hospital bed but conveys regret and gratitude through his eyes.


Vishal Bhardwaj’s dialogues in Hindi are basic and ordinary.


AR Rahman is a disappointment as there’s nothing fresh or vibrant about his score.


Verdict: For a film that’ll find maximum applause in the West and at film festivals, Beyond The Clouds gets a 3* rating.


Direction: 4/5

Story: 3.5/5

Screenplay: 3/5

Dialogues: 2/5

Music: 2/5


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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