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Beyond the Clouds Movie Review – By Thoth the thinking movie monk

Spoiler: The first rule of Movie Monks is that, we only review movies that we absolutely love, and believe worthy of word count.

So, I thought…

(I know I’ve see Children of Heaven, which was so beautiful and sweet – that it hurt, but…)

… I didn’t know what to expect or to anticipate, as I sat there waiting for Beyond the Clouds, the first Indian movie directed by famed Iranian movie director Majid Majidi, to begin. But then the movie began.

The plot revolves around Amir, a young teen (orphaned as a child), trying to work his way up from the streets of Mumbai, by selling drugs. The story unravels, when Amir finds himself being pursued by cops and seeks help from Tara,  the estranged young female lead. And the movie takes a turn when Amir wakes up the next day at Tara’s house, only to unexpectedly find the cops taking Tara to jail, for attempted murder. I’m thinking, this sounds interesting enough, right? … Well, the interval arrived soon enough, and that was the only thing I could say with certainty about the movie – “it’s interesting”.

Despite not wanting to judge the movie too early, I’m thinking, the most inescapable flaw of the movie in the first half were its dialogues. They just didn’t feel very “Mumbaiyya”. Kind of felt like an English script being translated into Hindi. I’m thinking, they could have gotten Anurag Kashyap to slang up the lingo more accurately (like Mani Ratnam did with Yuva).

But then the intermission was over and the second half of Beyond the Clouds began.

 

And an hour or so later, the movie ended. And I’m thinking… I was absolutely blown away! Emotionally, intellectually and just as a movie lover! I was blown away – way Beyond the Clouds.

A great movie is usually the culmination of great dialogue, screenplay, acting, direction, production, cinematography, soundtrack etc. However, I’m thinking, despite doing well in all those departments, Beyond the Clouds turns out to be one of those rare movies, which proves true the idea that – Story, and Story alone, is King. The immensely powerful, sad, beautiful and honest-to-life story of Beyond the Clouds, has the strength to reach into your heart and overwhelm any flaw that you may perceive in it. It may leave you with a deep sense of understanding, while giving you so much to think and ponder on. In fact, I’m thinking that the movie’s story is so powerful, that even were it simply narrated to me, with my eyes closed and with A. R. Rahman’s brilliant background score … I’m thinking, I’d be just as moved.

Now, hoping I’ve convinced you to watch the movie with all of the above, let’s move on to breaking this movie down a little more philosophically, or Thothfully – as I would prefer to call it.

A lesson from the story of Yusuf  (OR the philosophy of Beyond the Clouds)

When the movie began with the Quranic phrase “in the name of God”, I’m thinking I was pleasantly surprised. But I had no clue that by movie’s end, I’d be left thinking of an entire Quranic story in itself. You see, the story of the prophet Yusuf/Joseph from the Quran, is of an innocent boy, abandoned as a child. He is then rescued by traders and sold as a slave for his beauty. He is then sent to prison for a crime he wasn’t guilty of. And then he makes peace with prison, by helping the prisoners around him.

I’m thinking, Beyond the Clouds – in essence, is a story about people dealing with abandonment. But it is equally a story about the – figurative or literal – prisons that life puts us in. And it’s about us finding peace in our prisons (maybe even home or family), by helping other prisoners around us. Kind of like birds that find homes to return to, in cages that once held them.

And, I’m thinking, that’s what makes Beyond the Clouds’ story so touching and beautiful. It doesn’t just show you tragedy and despair and hopelessness and the scary side of life. But it shows you the good and heart-touching innocence that can take root from within all of that. And it makes you experience all this, through the stories of truly most memorable characters

Beyond the Clouds made me smile, laugh back tears and feel pure hope. This after making me cringe, gape in horror, cry from the inside, and feel true despair. By the end of it, the movie leaves you with the heartening thought, best articulated and expressed by another character from another movie:

“there’s still some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… And it’s worth fighting for”.

Those beneath the clouds (OR the cast of ‘Beyond the Clouds)

First, I’m thinking, I have to acknowledge the fact that none of the actors in this movie seem like they’ve been given makeup or any deliberate beautification, even if that wasn’t the case… and that just added to the realness of the film for me.  Everything felt natural and raw, while also feeling very cinematic.

Now as for the characters –

To get back to the analogy about prisons and prisoners, Malavika Mohanan plays the female protagonist – Tara, the character in the movie that literally goes to prison. And I must say the actress delivers a notable and genuine performance. Debutante Ishan Khattar plays the male protagonist – Amir, who’s a character that is a prisoner to a life of abandonment. He really shook me up with his performance, delivering some incredibly powerful scenes, perfectly switching between being a goofball drug peddler that loves dancing every chance he gets, to suddenly becoming an unpredictably dangerous goon, to being an emotionally vulnerable boy that thinks he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

Then there’s a character that’s a prisoner to a hospital bed, who can’t speak but has to spend each day, tearfully pondering on his sins. And then there’s his Tamilian family – two poor young girls and an elderly mother, who are prisoners to a hospital where language is a barrier, leaving them cluelessly stranded. All three actresses’ parts were so well-written and portrayed, that I thought after them long after the movie. Last but not least, there’s a child whose brought up in the female penitentiary, who plays with rats and whose mother (played by actress Tannishtha Chatterjee), apart from being an inmate, is also suffering from a life-threatening disease.

Unforgettably memorable scenes from Beyond the Clouds

A young man sleeps beneath a hospital bed of a paralyzed patient. As the bedsheets drape around him, he narrates the story of him surviving as an orphan on the streets.

A Tamilian young girl seeks the help of a Hindi speaking slightly older boy at a hospital. Not knowing each other’s language, instead communicate in the little broken English that they both do know.

And if anything sums up the message of Beyond the Clouds best, it’s this most metaphorically poignant scene from the movie:

A frighteningly loud and scary storm rages outside a prison. The hands of two prisoners stick out the chained doors of the prison. Their hands catch the life-giving rain that awaits them outside, amidst the threats of the thunder. And as they catch the rain, they accept the hope and help that ever comes from Beyond the Clouds.  

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