Beyond The Clouds Review

Ishaan Khattar brings his character Aamir to life in his debut film “Beyond The Clouds” by Oscar-nominated Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi. (Zee Studios/Twitter photo)

Zee Studios & Namah Pictures present “Beyond The Clouds”

Producers: Zee Studios & Namah Pictures

Directed by: Majid Majidi

Written by: Majid Majidi, Mehran Kashani & Vishal Bhardwaj

Music: A.R. Rahman

Starring: Ishaan Khattar, Malvika Mohanan, Gautam Ghose, G.V. Sharada,Dhwani Rajesh, Amruta Santosh Thakur, Shivam Pujari, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Shashank Shende and others

We have heard so much hype about this writer-director. But when we watch “Beyond The Clouds,” I think first and foremost of two possibilities. One is that he is out of his depth making a film in India. The second is that, alternatively, he is holding himself back for whatever reason or reasons. Of course, it could be both. For what we take away as we leave the movie hall is an average film, made by a filmmaker who is trying to show India in the same light as the arty international brigade – a city of scum, slums and strugglers living in shabby tenements, without a voice to express and impress upon society.

How many films like this have we watched in recent decades? Not just “Salaam Bombay” or “Slumdog Millionaire” but even desi ones of all languages, some dubbed in Hindi. In the past, perhaps, India and even Mumbai, were something like this, a place where a skyscraper could be next to a slum (here we see a bridge full of traffic, under which lies a slum neighborhood). Never mind the use of locations that are passed off as Mumbai but are clearly not so – we grant that cinematic license.

But hello, India is much more now. It has made its impact in every way in the world, and the least we can do, especially the misguided Indian producers, is to stop looking at our own country uni-dimensionally. Come on, Mr. Majidi and team, if you had shown the nicer yet real side (and there is one, you know, if not more than one) of the Indian poor, we would have still digested this latest ‘expose’ of Mumbai’s underbelly. But pray, which city and country do not have slimy and sordid underbellies of poverty, crime, violence and drugs?

In brief, the story is about Aamir (Ishaan Khattar), who peddles drugs for a living. Due to an involved chain of circumstances that need to be watched in the movie-hall, his sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan) attacks a would-be rapist Akshi (Gautam Ghose) and is thrust into jail. Akshi is gravely injured, and Tara (why and how she gets into jail is not revealed, as the attempted rape happens in a lonely place!) will be charged with murder if Akshi dies.

The obvious result: Aamir must make sure Akshi lives to give evidence.

The human touch is provided by Akshi’s family members, and another inmate of the jail (Tannishtha Chaterjee) who is in for murdering her husband). Yes, Majidi and writers take the nice way out with a happy ending, but the whole exercise is done-to-death because we are not watching anything new, enlightening or even deep.

Ishaan Khattar brings Aamir to life, showing himself as a worthy addition to our list of young actors. But stardom, as of now and despite the forthcoming “Dhadak,” seems a far cry despite a truly bright performance for a first-timer. It will need time and lots of work. As of now, the X-factor is missing, or not yet developed.

Malvika is good, ditto Gautam Ghose as Akshi and G.V. Sharada as his wife. The technical side is alright, as is Rahman’s background score.

But the film was a bit of a damp squib for me. Maybe I expected too much. Making Hindi cinema, after all, has never been a piece of cake.

Rating: **1/2 at best

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