Before the release of his debut Bollywood movie, Beyond the Clouds, Iranian director Majid Majidi, talked about his love for Satyajit Ray and the influence he had on his work in a recent interview. The Iranian director has always been fascinated with Ray’s cinematic outlook and how his heroes come from everyday life, something that he feels is missing in Indian cinema today. “Satyajit Ray’s films had an effect on me. (They inspired me) to follow a certain interpretation of life. And (I would like) to influence the younger generation. In ‘Pather Panchali’, there is a respect that he has for his hero, even in the poverty. His heroes come from this class of society and they are trying for life,” Majidi told PTI in an interview.

“Struggling people are my heroes. I am not glorifying poverty, it is bad. (But) I believe that a person has a lot of interior values that we do not see,” he adds. The director says it was a dream come true to set one of his films in India, which he believes, is culturally very close to Iran. “I always wanted to make a film in India as it is a dramatic country with dramatic locations. The streets and the alleys of Bombay are full of stories, something that you can’t find anywhere else. I always wondered why we do not see such kind of stories in Indian cinema. Apart from Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, and Mira Nair, you rarely find these stories in the cinema here.”

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Beyond the Clouds is the story of Amir (Ishaan Khatter), who is on the run from the cops and finds his estranged sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan), who in a bid to protect her brother lands up in jail. Their entire lives have been clouded by despair but then they find hope, unexpectedly.

Majidi wanted an Indian face for his film and found Mohanan perfect for Tara’s role. “Malavika’s face was very important for me because I wanted an Indian face, especially for international audiences to have this immediate impression that she is from India. First, we shot the scenes out of the jail, and then after one month, I told her she has to lose weight. She had to be thin for the portion inside the jail and she worked hard to do that.”

When Majidi first saw the audition footage of Ishaan for Beyond the Clouds, he liked it and thought of meeting him in person. In the first meeting, the director, however, was not very impressed with the aspiring actor. “The first time I met Ishaan, (he) was (wearing) a sporty T-shirt, (had) muscles and was trying to sit in a very macho way. I looked at him and said, ‘Your face is working, but I have a big problem with your body. Tone down your body, reduce the muscles. Next time, he wore a large T-shirt and sat with a hunch.” The film is set to be released in India on April 20.

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