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.