India is a land of stories. Wonder why they can’t be translated into films: Majid Majidi

Before leaving IFFI, Goa, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi talks about the responsibility to support innovation and young talent

Written by Alaka Sahani | Updated: November 22, 2017 11:35 am
48th International Film Festival of India A still from Beyond The Clouds

THE discussion on Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds, which opened the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), had already exceeded the allotted time on Tuesday and the participants for the next session were waiting at the Kala Academy, Goa. Instead of posing for the photo-op before wrapping up the session, the Iranian writer-director chose to share his concern regarding the need to support the young talent of India, and cinematic innovations made by them.

“During my meeting with Ms Irani (Smriti Irani, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting) this morning, I mentioned that the young generation and new talent should be supported. She said the government would like to do that and we have a body like the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) for the same purpose,” Majidi said.

Beyond the Clouds is the first film by Majidi to be made in India, who is much-loved by the Indian viewers for his stories of human relationships and values. “In a country like India, where cinema is an industry, the young generation does not always have the chance to innovate in order to express themselves. That could be because of the shadow of the industry. Based on my personal experience, I can say that we found brilliant talent in India. We should create a situation where they can express themselves, and bring about a change in cinema. I am not against Bollywood; they have their way of making movies and continue to do so,” he said.

The Iranian master urged the media to highlight the work of the younger generation and make it a mission to introduce them. “It is a pity if they can’t be seen or discovered,” he said, adding, “India is a land of stories. I am wondering why they can’t be translated into films.”

For long, Majidi had harboured the dreams of making a movie based in India. That came true with Beyond the Clouds. Set in Mumbai, it explores the relationship between a brother and sister, played by Ishaan Khatter (Amir) and Malavika Mohanan (Tara). Their life plunges into despair when Tara lands in jail while trying to protect Amir.

Commenting on his tendency to pick underprivileged characters, he said, “I choose my heroes from common people. To convey their feelings, I often work with newcomers.” That apart, Majidi says that the kind of sets he shoots in are not suitable to cope with the attention a popular “star” would draw. He cited the example of shooting with Deepika Padukone for a day in Mumbai (at Mahalaxmi’s Dhobi Ghat) and the crowd it attracted.

His Oscar-nominated movie Children of Heaven is about a young brother and sister in search of a lost pair of shoes; The Colour of Paradise is about a boy whose father is shamed by his blindness; and Baran is a moving love story between Afghan refugees in Tehran. While Beyond the Clouds is Khatter’s first film, Mohanan has acted in three Malayalam movies earlier.

Khatter, who was recently announced as the lead actor of Karan Johar-produced Dhadak, said: “I’m lucky to be offered a project like this. Doing it was not a calculated move, it was rather an instinctive decision, I would not like to limit myself as an actor and I am happy to explore different opportunities.” Mohanan called the movie a very “precious” experience though there was a self-created pressure on her to deliver what Majidi wants.

Some believed that with Beyond The Clouds, Majidi has made a departure from his signature style of making subtle statements and used “Bollywood tools” like melodrama. The director said that the film is a continuation of his exploration of “human values”. “It’s the story of a brother and sister. Even in adverse circumstances, they experience something they have never experienced before — living with a family. Amir is going to experience that with a family that belongs his enemy’s. While still lodged in a prison, Tara, who did not have the chance to give her affection to her brother, gets a chance to do so with Chhotu,” says Majidi.

The film started as an exploration of the Mumbai city. With its cinematographer Anil Mehta, Majidi tried to explore the fabric of the city. “I can’t write unless I have clarity about my subject,” he said. Apart from Mehta, another important member of his team is AR Rahman, who composed the film’s music. “The greatest quality Rahman has is that he is very flexible. If you don’t like a score and want something different, he is open to that. Through mutual respect, we can achieve the best results,” said Majidi, who has worked with Rahman in Muhammad: The Messenger of God (2015). A lover of Satyajit Ray’s work, Majidi is already working on his next, also set in India.

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  1. M
    Nov 22, 2017 at 9:37 pm
    India needs non Indians to translate the stories which were meant for wisdom. Long subjugation has dwindled their mental growth which had a toll on their level of consciousness. All this has left many with hate, hate and hate which shows up when they open their mouth (this even evident on this page)! Many considers straight forward passion for doing something good is also communal. Such are the rascals history of subjugation has produced! See if same event is to take place, Chinese and Indians would see it differently making different meaning/use out of it.
    1. L
      Nov 22, 2017 at 7:44 pm
      Ba$tard chaddis are making India a neo-fascist land where only whims and fancies of cow worshipers can be implemented. Hopefully these s will be thrown out soon before things get irreparable.
      1. M
        Nov 22, 2017 at 9:41 pm
        You are another story India in last 70 years has produced! This also need to be casted on stone for generations to learn from!
      2. Garg Romesh
        Nov 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm
        PAKISTAN, CHINA AND MANY OTHER COUNTIES ARE ALSO LAND OF STORIES. Why not try to write about those people and their culture.
        1. B
          Nov 22, 2017 at 2:27 pm
          Only stories can be told in India... not the truth. Even an iota of truth which makes a upper cast3 unhappy will be banned, while unrealistic Minority dalit bashing is encouraged in the name of art-movies... what great hypocrite masses.... Earth is round is not against your mythology?
          1. H
            Nov 22, 2017 at 7:17 pm
            P!ss off
          2. M
            Nov 22, 2017 at 9:39 pm
            Only spiritual democracy gives useful stories.