Beyond The Clouds Movie Review: Ishan Khatter’s Debut is A Masterpiece

Beyond The Clouds Movie Review: Ishan Khatter’s Debut is A Masterpiece

Ishan Khatter, Shahid Kapoor’s brother makes his debut in acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s film set in Mumbai says Subhash K Jha
Beyond The Clouds Movie Review: Ishan Khatter’s Debut is A Masterpiece

Starrng: Ishaan Khatter, Malavika Mohanan

Directed  by: Majidi Majidi

Rating: **** (4 stars)

There came  a time in this cyclonic  tale  of  squalor, despair and redemption  where  I thought I’d simply be  blown away by the shrillness  of  the  drama. Majid Majidi pulls out all stops to  show us the underbelly  of Mumbai, warts moles and all.

The  camera  pans  the  suffocating crowds with easy grace, embracing the  bizarre bazaar  of racketeering and  low-living  with a kind of sighing  interjection that is the opposite of hopelessness. Admittedly cinematographer  Anil Mehta does for Majid Majidi’s Mumbai what Subrata Mitra did to Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali.

Without romanticizing  the  despair he shoots the frames with a beam  of optimism. And  Dhobi Ghat never looked more intriguing. There is a  key scene  of  sexual  violence silhouetted against the flapping white bed sheets  spread out  for  drying. This would have looked laughably put-on were it not for the  director’s propensity to  cut to  the chase while chasing the drama of despair.

Silhouettes  play an important part in bringing alive the  dark mysterious tragedy  of Mumbai’s  underbelly. At one point, Aamir (Ishan Khatter) brings home the  womenfolk of  the man who has ruined his sister’s life and watches them bond through a  bedsheet put up as  a temporary partition. In the shadows we see three feminine  figures dancing laughing bonding.

All these metaphors suggesting love, lyricism and empathy in the midst  of  crime and  deception could have given  the film  an aura of  heavy handedness.  Majidi Majidi uses the shrillest notes  of storytelling  to suggest the bathos of life and the sheer absurdity  of  seeking and miraculously finding compassion in a world denuded of simple kindness.

The  message of  hope and humanism shines  like a beacon of light in the charged electric screenplay written by Mehran Kashani where the drama of the damned is not an affectation but a way of life. Right away  from the  very first  shot showing a run-down hoarding for a cellphone  company, Mumbai’s heartbeat throbs life and breath into every moment that Majid Majidi’s narrative exhales over frames that seem to embrace  life in all its inglorious  colours.

In  the  very first sequence, we see our hero hopping off  a  car  in  a distance across the road. Aamir  is  not  up to any good, he never will be. Or so we think. The quality  of life bequeathed to Aamir and his elder sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan) is such that beauty, harmony, compassion and other luxuries  of a desirable existence are hard to obtain.

And  yet, this  is where the  humanism of Majid Majidi’s  cinema comes into voluptuous play. In spite of the abject seemingly  irredeemable darkness, there is that spark of light igniting the soul.

The film moves through two different narrative zones  after the protagonist, siblings,  are separated by a crime. Aamir finds himself  looking after  and caring for the  family  of  the very man (Gautam  Ghose)who brought on disaster in his life.

In prison, Aamir’s sister Tara learns  a  lesson on two in humanism through her unexpected bonding with a little  boy. I wish Malavika Mohanan playing the pivotal  role  of  Tara had held back a bit. She tends  to let go of her emotional  mojo in almost every sequence, making her character seem  more hysterical than it should be.

Gautam  Ghose  as the man who brings disaster on the protagonists brings to  his complex dark role some shades of unexpected  empathy.

But let’s  not beat around the  bush. It is debutante Ishaan Khatter who stands tall in a film where life dwarfs even the bravest. Ishaan’s Aamir is impetuous  volatile and self-destructive. The character’s redemptive journey  is  undertaken by the debutant actor with an honesty and vigour that  are unmatched by anything we’ve seen  in   a maiden performance.

Yes, a  star is born. Ishan Khatter is  undeniably the  hope of  tomorrow…or is it today?  Director Majid Majidi  places a hefty level of  faith in  Ishaan’s  raw uncorrupted  personality to bring out the ugliness of  Mumbai’s underbelly.

At one  point when Aamir is about to barter  his soul  to the devil I could clearly see the  fear of  doom in his eyes. This is an actor of no ordinary skills. Ishaan Khatter projects vulnerability and hurt in moments when brutality reigns supreme.

The sound design  is  so outstanding I could hear voices in the backdrop discussing mundane matters in  squirts of randomness that come and  go to create  a sense  of uneasy rhythm in the prevalent chaos.  And just when I thought brutality is the  predominant  mood,  on comes A R Rahman’s exquisitely quiet piano interludes in the background ,a little  at a time, reminding us that tenderness is  just around corner even when life sucks out all that is desirable, and life ...well... simply sucks.

Adapting the  higher scales  from the musical notes, Majid Majidi’s symphony on the underbelly of Mumbai plays out  at  an impossibly shrill  pitch without  losing  the core cadence. The director is not alone in  pursuing that pitch-perfect shrillness. Ishaan Khattar knows how that is  done.