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A Master Falters

Saturday, April 21, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Beyond The Clouds
Majid Majidi
Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Malavika Mohanan, Gautam Ghose and others
Rating: * * 1/2

There is a mismatch between expectation and delivery with Majid Majidi’s 'Beyond The Clouds'. Audiences who have seen his accomplished Iranian films expect a masterpiece from him when he makes his first Hindi film. The Iranian auteur is not familiar enough with life in Mumbai, and does not know the language, which results in a strangely disjointed and in most part, superficial film. The first question is why an English title for a Hindi film?

Majidi said in interviews that he finds Bollywood films unreal, but is Mumbai reality only slums, poverty, crime and squalour? Or was Majidi trying to pull off another 'Slumdog Millionaire?' Sell slum tourism to the West. The locations are crowed markets, local trains, the 'dhobi ghaat', a brothel, the slimy mudflats, a filthy prison, a surprisingly efficient municipal hospital; there is a chase sequence through narrow bazaar lanes, and a scene needlessly set during Holi; and, in March when this festival takes place, there is torrential rain? Obviously, something was lost in translation or interpretation.

Amir (Ishaan Khatter) is a teenage drug mule who wants to be a 'bada aadmi.' While on the run from the cops, he reconnects with his sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan). She survived an abusive marriage and accuses Amir of abandoning her, while he believes she did not protect him from her drunken husband.

Their possible reconciliation is interrupted by Tara’s arrest for wounding a molestor, Akshi (Gautam Ghose). Strange that she is thrown behind bars without bail, when it was clearly a case of self-defence. The policeman on duty says that if Akshi dies, Tara will never get out, so Amir looks after not just Akshi, but also his poor, Tamil-speaking brood of mother and two daughters. In prison, Tara becomes the willing carer of a little boy, whose mother (Tannishtha Chattejee in a thankless role) is ill.

A few scenes have warmth and energy, but the plot does not hold, and after a point, the film seems to be going nowhere. Majidi and his cinematographer Anil Mehta give the film an impressive visual quality, though A R Rahman’s score is bland.

Ishaan Khatter is all youthful effusiveness of youth and has the requisite screen presence, but both he and Malavika Mohanan tend to overact, most probably a result of the director’s unfamiliarity with the language. Ultimately, the film disappoints because it has been made by a master like Majidi.

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