“Beyond The Clouds”… A marvelous Ishaan Khatter is the essential silver lining!
When I watched Majid Majidi’s maiden Indian venture Beyond The Clouds, the instant question I had was, “Why India?” This is not the exotic India that the acclaimed filmmaker wouldn’t find in his homeland. The film is set in Mumbai. And that too a bizarre version of the city where it rains torrentially in the month of March. The question never finds an answer. Instead, Beyond The Cloud just happens to be a somewhat off-putting and patchy take on a universal story. The film also happens to launch two extremely talented newcomers – Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan.
Beyond The Clouds chronicles through the orphaned Amir (Khatter) who thrives on drug peddling and general thuggery in the big, bad city of Mumbai. Oh, what else do the young, uncared, lower-middle-class boys do in the city, anyway? Amir’s bond with his estranged sister Tara (Mohanan) gets cut off by an adversity before it could develop into anything meaningful. She ends up in jail and the young man is left doing things that he would never have imagined.
Now, this is the immediate premise while Majidi and his co-writer (Mehran Kashani) bring in a lot of subtexts into their screenplay which already stands on a shaky foundation. When it comes to contrivances, the writing almost resembles Salim-Javed in parallel cinema mode. It also doesn’t help that Majidi’s directorial touches have the ability to drift our attention. All of it is temporary, including Anil Mehta’s artsy frames – some of which carry distinctive stories in themselves. AR Rahman’s original score suits the film’s temperate mood as does Shajith Koyeri’s life-like sound design. For the rest, Beyond The Clouds fails to get even the basics rights in its narrative construction and characterization of all significant characters. To cite an example, we see Amir visiting Tara in the jail periodically. In absence of concrete communication, we feel zero connection between the duo who are supposedly working towards a cause – which is to prove Tara’s innocence before the court of law. Instead, they prefer harping on a certain plot point which forces the story to develop independently for Tara and Amir. Even in the way Akshi’s (Goutam Ghose) character is designed, the writing never makes us loathe him. He exists in the premise as a peripheral player and before we know it, he becomes a catalyst to the film’s primary twist.
A bunch of ill-conceived characters, thus, makes Beyond The Clouds just as wayward as Amir. He doesn’t know what he actually is, what he wants in life besides temporary monetary returns. He is also not completely insensitive. This description, precisely, sums up the film too. The silver lining in this otherwise choppy film is a dazzling first act by Ishaan Khatter. The actor so belongs to the moody universe that Majidi creates and emerges triumphant with a nuanced, heartfelt performance. Malavika lends vulnerability to the volatile Tara while G.V. Sharada is heartbreaking as paatti. In fact, it is the well-cast ensemble that covers up the film from a lot of its hollowness.
I wouldn’t call Beyond The Clouds a completely soulless fare. The film is also not a worthy entrant in the filmmaker’s stealthy body of work. What is noticeable is the atmosphere that the film sets in successfully along with a burst of overbearing optimism. The sentiment is obvious but with characters (not actors) as flakily penned as the ones in the film, we are left with no option but to leave without having felt any of their emotions.
Rating: ★★ 1/2
P.S.: The film was viewed a while back and there might be possible alterations made by the Censor Board of Film Certification during the advanced stages of evaluation.