BY ANUJ RADIA

Beyond The Clouds (BTC) – promises a lot. Primarily, it is a film which features two Oscar-nominated (and winning) names: AR Rahman and Majid Majidi.

Secondly, it is a venture which hopes to give Bollywood two new superstars: Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan.

Thirdly, the film promises to be an uplifting yet poignant tale of two siblings who face a lamentable incident and how they overcome it. Collectively, there is a lot of expectations from the movie.

After a world premiere at BFI’s London Film Festival, the movie has finally released worldwide and Asian Style gives their verdict.

The movie narrates the story of a 19-year-old peddler named Amir (Ishaan Khatter) who, when on the run from the cops, finds his estranged sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan), who in a bid to protect her brother, lands up in jail.

As tragic as the storyline is, Majid Majidi completely overlooks the tragedy and misery of the two siblings.

The themes of hope, love and humanity are at the epicentre of Beyond The Clouds. Through a simple, non-preachy and artistic way, Majidi very tells us what it takes to be human.

There is an interesting parallel to the story. Despite the fact that both Amir and Tara are torn by an unfortunate event, the hope remains consistent in their lives.

Amir, on one hand, finds himself reaching out and helping the family of the man who has ruined his life – the man he hates.

On the other hand, Tara in prison seeks comfort and looks after Chotu – the son of her ailing cell-mate (played by Tannishtha Chatterjee).

What I like about the film is that despite set against the backdrop of the Mumbai slums, that does not veer into becoming a film that highlights the difficult lifestyle of those who reside there. Majidi stays true to the story and concept.

Now, with a Majid Majidi film, you can expect a lot of realism. Every shot that is captured has so much detail. As such, the camera work is par excellence and encapsulates the cityscape of Mumbai very well.

For instance, there is a shot where Amir walks away. One-half shows a well-lit side of Mumbai, where there are tall buildings – a progressive section.

Then the other half, where Amir walks, is dimly lit and completely desolate – untouched or has minimal progression.

Not only does this scene exhibit the harsh reality of India, but it symbolises the main narrative arc of BTC well. It shows how Amir must fight the battle of releasing his sister – alone. It makes the audience sympathise with him.

The powerful story and well-developed characters are effortlessly portrayed by the cast. Ishaan Khatter, to begin with, is a firecracker. It is so hard to believe that BTC is actually his first movie.

Amir is a fierce yet compassionate character and with Ishaan, there is an intensity and innocence in him – both of which are neatly exhibited in the film.

The highlight of Ishaan’s performance is his high emotional outburst after seeing his sister – in a shocked state – being dragged away in prison.

Prior to this, we saw glimpses of Amir crying. But this eruption is just on another level… The intensity is just par excellence for a newcomer.

Malavika Mohanan is like a breath of fresh air. She has a solid screen presence and holds her character very well. The good thing is that she knows how to switch between emotional and light-hearted sequences with such ease.

However, I think with Malavika, she needs to work on her emotional outbursts more. There is definitely intensity in her performance – just that small tuning with her emotional expression will make her into a more effortless actor.

Gautam Ghose as Akshi – the man who destroys Amir and Tara’s lives is good. Initially, he has a very mysterious aura, but as time goes on, his expressions and body language do the talking.

Three-time national award winner GV Sharada has shone vastly in South-Indian cinema and undoubtedly, she is a legend. In BTC, she plays Akshi’s mother. Her presence is solid and without saying a lot, she conveys it all.

In addition to the main cast, all the child artists are equally excellent and enact their roles well – so does Tannishtha Chatterjee in her brief part.

It is quite clear that Beyond The Clouds has a lot of positive aspects and if I’m honest, there are hardly any negative traits. But as one expects, the pace is slow and requires patience – though I can guarantee you will not get bored.

Also, if you are expecting a pulsating or grand AR Rahman background score similar to what he has done in Lagaan or Slumdog Millionaire, then I’m afraid this might disappoint you slightly.

Having said that, one does not necessarily feel the lack of background music consistently throughout the film. The capturing of natural sounds oozes an authentic feel – it is this natural sound which allows the viewer to be drawn into the city.

On the whole, Beyond The Clouds is a film which leaves you in tears, but yet a smile glistens through. It is a work of pure art.

From fantastic performances to a story which connects to a worldwide audience, this Majid Majidi film has humanity as its central focus and makes us realise the true essence of life.

Don’t miss this!

4/5 stars

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