Film festival diary

Majid Majidi on making ‘Beyond the Clouds’ in India and returning for another movie

The Iranian director’s latest film is set in a Mumbai slum and stars Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan.

Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds will be released in India only in February 2018, but already, the acclaimed Iranian director is planning another movie in the country he says he loves and admires.

“India is a land of stories, how can you not translate it into films?” Majidi said at a press conference at the International Film Festival of India in Panaji on Tuesday. Beyond the Clouds was the opening film at the festival, which runs until November 28. Festival delegates queued up for hours to watch the multi-lingual production, which is being shown in India for the first time after screenings at the London Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival.

Beyond the Clouds features Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan as siblings in a Mumbai slum whose bond is tested when Tara (Mohanan) is arrested for attempted murder. Shot by Anil Mehta and scored by AR Rahman, Beyond the Clouds has been co-produced by Namah Pictures and Zee Studios and will be released in India in February.

It was important for Majidi to recruit an Indian cinematographer for the movie, since he felt that locals would have a better understanding of the locations and situations explored by the movie. “As you must have seen in my films, even my locations have character, and I work on them,” Majidi said. “Even for the lighting of the film, I wanted to give a real feeling.”

There is ample talent in India, which hosts filmmaking industries in several languages, but young and upcoming directors face challenges in their dealings with commerce-minded producers, Majidi observed. “There is a shadow of the industry on young filmmakers, and they may find it difficult to make films,” he said. “We should create space for brilliant young talent, otherwise it will be a dead end.”

Deepika Padukone was initially considered for the role played by Malavika Mohanan, but Majidi foresaw problems in casting a star of Padukone’s wattage.

“I usually choose heroes from among people,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that I am not interested in professional actors. Since I was shooting in Mumbai, it became difficult to organise the sets. When we were auditioning Deepika Padukone, we had a tough time managing the crowds.”

Mohanan, who plays Tara, has previously acted in Malayalam films. “For me, it is brilliant how he [Majidi] makes you perform,” she said. “My role was emotionally very taxing, and it was not easy to get into that headspace. There were days when I didn’t know that I had it in me. For me, that is the magic he does with actors.”

For Ishaan Khatter, agreeing to make his debut in a Majid Majidi movie was a no-brainer. “You seldom have the chance to work with such a filmmaker,” he said. “I am a huge admirer of his work.”

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