The city of Mumbai, India biggest metropolis, has been explored in so many films in different ways. While some films have shown the city at its glorious best, some have brought to fore the darker and grimmer aspect of the city through their films. It is always interesting when a foreign filmmaker tries to portray the city through his eyes. Danny Boyle's Oscar winning film 'Slumdog Millionaire' had left me a little underwhelmed and I thought it could not do justice to the brilliantly written book it was based on. Majid Majidi is one of the most respected filmmakers across the globe and in his ninth film 'Beyond The Clouds', he decided to tell a story rooted in the maximum city of India.
Amir (Ishaan Khatter) and Tara (Malavika Mohanan) are siblings and lead impoverished lives in the ghettos of Mumbai. Amir works for a bunch of drug peddlers and is quite happy with the way his life has turned out to be. Tara, recently separated from her abusive husband, works for Akshi (Gautam Ghose) in Dhobi Ghat. She is upset with Amir for the kind of work he does. As police cracks up on Amir and his gang, Amir reaches Dhobi Ghat and seeks Tara's help in hiding him. Amir is upset with Tara as her erstwhile husband had driven him out of their house. Tara gets into some trouble which sets off a chain of events in the siblings' lives.
Though screenplay, by Majid Majidi and Mehran Kashini, is quite predictable, it is very engaging. Despite being somebody from a foreign land, Majidi gets the milieu right, fleshes out the characters well and with adequate help from Vishal Bhardwaj, who writes the dialogues, gives his character lines that add to the authentic environs of the film. You can foresee easily what is going to happen in the next scene but the way the visuals, performances, A R Rahman's eclectic background score and the dramatic narrative come together, you feel completely immersed in the film. One of the biggest strengths of the film is that it evokes sentiments throughout most of its duration and you empathise or relate to every character in it.
Ishaan Khatter makes a very promising debut. One might just run out of adjectives describing his performance. He is a truly gifted actor. Also, he gets to show off his dancing skills in a wonderfully crafted scene. Malavika Mohanan, who has a few Malayalam films to her credit, brings Tara's vulnerability to the fore wonderfully. She does not get as much screen time as Ishaan but registers a huge mark. Gautam Ghose is very good as Akshi. The actors playing Akshi's family members lend credible support. Shashank Shende is sufficiently menacing as Rahul.
'Beyond The Cloud' is a consistently engaging and a wonderfully immersive film. This is Majid Majidi's first film in Hindi and the director, along with his team, makes sure that he does complete justice to the milieu and the cultural terrain he is exploring with this film. The only drawback is the predictability of the narrative. Watch this film if you are looking for a good visual and emotionally evocative experience.