Ace filmmaker Majid Majidi is not only a well-known name in Iran but has also earned global fame. His films Children of Heaven, The Color of Paradise, Baran, The Song of Sparrows, The Willow Tree, among others, are all outstanding. So when news of him directing a Hindi film — Beyond The Clouds — did the rounds in India last year, it created a lot of buzz not just here but internationally too.
The film, produced by Shareen Mantri Kedia and Kishor Arora, under their production house Namah Pictures and Zee Studios International, narrates a heart-warming tale of a brother and sister, and how they find happiness in separation and turbulent times. The film’s star cast Ishaan Khatter (brother of Shahid Kapoor) and Malavika Mohanan, has also generated a lot of interest.
Shareen says that after watching Children of Heaven, she wanted to work with the filmmaker. “I do watch a lot of world cinema and I came across Children of Heaven. After watching it, I felt a desire to work with the filmmaker. We thought, ‘Why not bring him to India and make a film in our language because Iran and India are so close and have cultural similarities. Mr Majidi too wanted to make a film in India. But he made us wait for sometime because he was shooting another film and then finally he agreed to do it,” says the young producer.
Working with Majid Majidi
Explaining her collaboration with Majidi, she calls it ‘beautiful’. “By just being around him on the set I learnt a lot, both professionally and personally. Apart from being an amazing human being, the way he works with actors, gets the detailing done for every scene and makes it as real as possible is commendable,” says the producer who has previously produced The Legend of Michael Mishra.
But what was her biggest lesson as a producer and she replies, “The fact that I enjoyed the process. We just could feel the energy on the set as Mr Majid was so surreal and amazing. I hope, we go through similar experiences on every set of ours. I have come to realise that the energy is the most important thing while filming because the entire crew has to be together and happy. We connected so well and were happy and there was no politics. We were like one big family.”
Challenges as a producer
But did the language throw a challenge? To which she says that there were three-four translators on the set. “Once you actually start working, things start flowing. It required guts on his part to make a film in India without knowing the language. When I think of it that if I have do something like this, I won’t be able to do it. But Mr Majidi handled it so smoothly. I think the right thing to do is to get good translators,” she says.
Is it a festival film?
The film has already travelled to different international film festivals including the 61st London International Film Festival, 22nd Busan International Film Festival, 14th Dubai International Film Festival, 5th International Bosphorus Film Festival, 29th Palm Springs International Film Festival and was also the opening film at the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). But will that affect the theatrical release of the film on April 20 as people might perceive it as a festival film?
“I do not agree because it’s a first-of-its-kind film in India. I cannot compare it to other films. I will not call it either an art or a commercial film,” she says, adding, “It will connect emotionally across the world because it’s about human emotions and values like all his (Mr Majidi’s) other films. It’s got a universal theme. Ishaan and Malvika have done a great job with their performances. I think the film will connect with the audience.”
Backing of big production house
The film is being backed by Zee Studios International, who are also co-producers of the film. But the involvement of big studios can change the dynamics of business as the focus is more on box-office collections.
“I have to say that Zee had a similar vision as us and they have been walking with us hand-in-hand. We have all gone ahead with the filmmakers’ vision. Because of Zee International Studios, the film is getting a worldwide release. It’s releasing in 34 territories including Iran, Dubai, the USA, Canada, the UK and others, so they are doing their best. It’s been a great collaboration because they believe in the film and Mr Majidi,” she adds.
Cinema today practically has no language barriers or boundaries as several Bollywood films like Dangal, Hindi Medium, Bajrangi Bhaijaan have released in China and made more money at the box office. “Beyond the Clouds too is releasing in different countries. That’s why I maintain that it’s a great time for cinema,” says Shareen.
“With the numbers coming in from China it proves that cinema has no language. Today, out of India, you can reach out to the world and an audience who want to watch good films. I think people from across the world are looking at India and our cinema in a very interesting way. It’s a great time and place to be in. We wanted to take Mr Majidi’s film across the world because he is a well-known filmmaker. Content is king and people have started to understand that. There are some good films made and they are travelling,” says the young producer who is also producing Majidi’s next project and a Marathi film, which she says also has an interesting subject.