I was excited for this film after hearing that AR Rahman has collaborated with Majid Majidi. Although I heard the score for Muhammad Messenger of God, I didn’t watch it. I have always enjoyed the neo-realism in Iranian cinema, and the tension between characters and the situations they get themselves into. Somehow they make it all so entertaining and immensely watchable, accessible yet very realistic.
And also the prospect of someone like Majidi exploring Bombay got me all kinds of hopeful. I was also skeptic that it may go the Slumdog way, read exploitative.
Here are my views on the film:
After first half
Loving the film. Each frame pops out with life. There is so much going on, clutter chaos misery poverty, people desperate to go fighting on in face of every odd. The settings and premise instantly register. There is a spontaneity and it doesn’t feel like it’s made by an outsider. Though Majidi is no stranger to the genre. It is perhaps his unaffecting eye that elevates this tale of the marginalized. Anil Mehta captures Bombay in all its colors and dingy realities. The film might have been just called A Bombay Story.
The lead pair is electric. The dark humor succeeds. Rahman’s score feels lived in with the emotions and the story beats.
After the movie
Majid Majidi has made a throbbing, breathing film. High on drama, and the human condition, it is an unapologetic call to compassion. In Bombay’s ruthless slum and underbelly, characters look for small moments of hope and redemption. Like the little dance Aamir does on the garage cars, or the shadow dance that might be the brightest and most fantasy-laden moment in an otherwise dark film. I didn’t expect it to be this good. I was engrossed in these characters, good or bad, real or fantasy. The birds and the shadows are an exposition I would love to have more of.
Many a memorable shots and sequences in the film but the ones I can recall as most effecting are the sequences in the jail with the Chhotu character, the penultimate/pre finale sequence in the marsh(Flamingos and the very cinematic Thane creek get a master like Majidi to make it immemorial) the stormy night. Every little element plays a part, be it a crayon, or a ring, or a broken toy. There are scenes filled with emotional outbursts aplenty. The cast is great, I loved Goutam Ghose, and how perfectly he fits in the dark comedy arc. Anil Mehta’s camera does wonders to Majidi’s vision, be it the unglamorized day shots of chase sequence through dhobi ghat or the mellow and glorious night shots or the dingy lowlit prison sequences. Ishan Khattar lights up every frame he is in. I can just watch a film with him waking up 100 times in 100 different expressions in 100 different places. He is explosive in scenes that call for it, and quiet in the poetic moments, conveying a world with his eyes. Malavika Mohanan gets the short end of the stick in the sense of lines and scenes, most of the anguish is played through her oppressed character, but she is quite believable as the sister of Aamir, and excels especially towards the climax sequences.
Ultimately, I loved Beyond the Clouds, for its engaging and focused plotline, a refreshing look at Bombay, and a lilting score that knows when to restrain and when to go all out. The film is filled with moments of grave misery. These are doomed lives, and hope is but a shadow play on a wall soon to collapse.