Beyond the Clouds, in Mumbai — review

BEYOND The Clouds is Iranian director Majid Majidi’s Indian offering, now on Netflix. It’s about a poor teenager, Amir (Ishaan Khatter), who is hustling like his life – and it does – depends on his earnings.

Following a drug bust, he ends up at the door of his estranged sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan), who works at an open-air dhobi ghaat.

But Tara is arrested after her boss, Akshi, attacks her and she hits him with a rock in desperate self-defence, landing him in hospital.

If Akshi dies without confessing his part in the criminal act, Tara faces life imprisonment. Amir decides to keep his sister’s attempted rapist alive, so that she can be freed.

And then, Akshi’s mother and two daughters show up, and he is so moved by their poorer-than-him plight that he takes them into his home.

This is Majid’s touch – after his Oscar-nominated Children of Heaven (in 1998), he is known for pulling the heartstrings with real stories, of real people, but in a simple, poetic way.

Of course, the movie is helped by the beautiful scoring by A. R. Rahman. Piano, tablas, and orchestration drive the music for this film in a persistent, rhythmic manner.

Full Moon and the title track are evocative pieces, while a chase sequence with sitar and table adds justice to the thrill of the chase and car-top dancing!

But the cinematography by Anil Mehta is outstanding. You see mudflats and the narrow, bustling alleys of the slums of Mumbai – unvarnished.

So not Bollywood.

The Majid-Rahman-Anil mix makes for an art film that is arresting, yet a little odd.

Why odd? The lack of sheer frustration over the plight Amir and Tara are in is worrisome – why such acceptance?

And then, Amir actually helps the old fart in the bed, and is so kind that he helps everyone else. Okay, the old lady and the kids have nothing to do with the old randy goat’s crime, but still… so much help??

And I just didn’t get the ending. A fatalistic mental shrug?

So, in the end, Beyond the Clouds reminds of Apu, the character in Satyajit Ray’s trilogy.  A reflection of a society that is philosophical and accepting, dreamy even, but not that ambitious.

Without free will, the Law of Karma does not work. That’s what I have to say.

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