The cast and crew of the opening film ‘Beyond the Clouds’ that included noted Iranian film director Majid Majidi, executive producer Reza Tashakkori, actors Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan along with producers Shareen Mantri and Kishor Arora of Namah Pictures and business head of Zee Studios, Sujay Kutty.
For Majidi it is a great feeling that his film, shot in India, with an Indian cast and crew was selected as the opening film for the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). He said, and Reza translated, “I am very happy that the film had its first release in India and that I go to watch the screening with an Indian audience.” He also went on to say that with Beyond the Clouds his dream of making a film in India has come true and that he has always been influenced by Satyajit Ray.
He thus chose an exceptional team that included Anil Mehta, Vishal Bhardwaj and A R Rahman who gave direction to his vision. Talking about why he chose newcomers like Ishaan and Malavika to work in his film he said: “I choose my heroes from among people so as to convey the real feeling. I welcome new faces.” He also mentioned that most of the decisions on casting professional actors are based on the kind of project he is working on.
Beyond the Clouds is a continuity of Majidi’s films that are based deeply on human values, family and friendship. It is the first film for Ishaan, and Malavika’s fourth after having acted in 3 Malayalam films earlier; both the actors expressed that it was an interesting and enduring learning experience.
When asked what made him choose this film, Ishaan said, “There wasn’t much of a decision; opportunities like these seldom come by.” Being a huge fan of cinema and having been a delegate at IFFI earlier, he says it was an honour to be offered the role in the film.
Ishaan speaking about working with Majidi said that the director’s strong leadership qualities makes a person want to give his best while working with him. “He commands seniority but there’s a lot to learn. Everyone worked in unison to satisfy Majidi’s vision.”
Malavika who has been a film student and has written essays on Majidi and his films says that not in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine acting in one of Majidi’s films. She said: “Of course there was pressure to perform as not all get such a precious opportunity. Besides, Majidi brings out the best in an actor.” She further shared that working for her role was emotionally taxing: “At the end of the shoot when I would go back to my room, I would realise that I didn’t know I could perform like this. He creates that headspace for you to perform like he wants you to.”
Speaking about the character of his female protagonist Tara who has to live and compromise because of situations as compared to other characters of women empowerment we see today, Majidi explained that in a populated country like India it is very common for women and children to face social problems. “While I wanted to showcase this, I also wanted to show hope and Tara is a representative of those women in society who sacrifice much because of a situation. At the same time my heroine fights for life, which is positive. All I do is try to depict reality that people experience,” he said.
Talking about how he creates masterpieces by defining characters and stories that have a universal appeal, Majidi said that unless he has clarity of a character he doesn’t start work on his script. “I need to be close to the subject and feel the character first.”
While Majidi in collaboration with Namah Pictures and Zee Studios has already started shooting his next film in India, he expressed great happiness that the younger generation appreciates his films which he says is a heavy responsibility as a film director.