majid majidi

Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi told India-West that he has been “deeply affected” by Satyajit Ray’s cinema. (photo provided)

MUMBAI — When an internationally renowned filmmaker steps in to make a slice-of-life Hindi film, “Beyond The Clouds,” it is time to wonder what made him do it. Majid Majidi is a world-famous and much-honored Iranian filmmaker who has done it all in the last 27 years — features, shorts and documentaries.

Getting a little over five minutes on the phone, we go straight for the basics, since there is an interpreter between us, and Majidi knows only basic English greetings and words.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: What made you attempt a film in Hindi? Are you familiar with the Hindi ethos?

A: I don’t know Hindi. But the cultures of India and Iran are very close, and we have strong links with Urdu and Persian besides Hindi. There are some other reasons as well, including the cinema of Satyajit Ray. I have been deeply affected by his cinema.

Q: Why did you choose this particular subject?

A: It’s a dramatic and realistic world. 70 to 80 scenes have been shot in real locations — the slums in a part of central Mumbai.

Q: How was it shooting at the Worli slum?

A: I became more amazed, because there is so much that is unique — the difficulties they have, and yet they are living there. This is what makes India wonderful, how every layer of society cooperates with each other and among themselves. This is so surprising, because you do not see this anywhere else in the world!

Q: Was it this that inspired you to make a film in India at all?

A: I loved observing what was happening in the story and on location. I was very motivated. The final reason was my producers, who for eight years were after me, encouraging and supporting me.

Q: How did you sign your artistes, the leads in particular?

A: I did not know any of them before, or whether they were known or popular. My assistants chose Ishaan Khattar and Malvika Mohanan from their pictures.

Q: Are you aware how well-known and popular you are in cinema circles in India itself?

A: I was not aware of it before. If you see most of my films, they are about below middle parts of society. These are the people who do not have any opportunity to express their issues, and through this medium, I can do it. I am happy I am known here.

Q: Have you watched Hindi films?

A: Almost never, so far, though I would like to watch some.

Q: With respect to “Beyond The Clouds,” do you think box-office is important?

A: It is, for the producer, but that’s not enough. The film should be good.

Q: Would you like to do more Hindi films now?

A: Yes, but as of now, I have no plans.

Q: Would you like to have your Iranian films released in theatres here?

A: Yes, I would!

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