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Majid Majidi: Cross-cultural collaborations are very important for political and economic growth

Ahead of his film Beyond the Clouds’ release, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi talks about the importance of cross cultural collaborations between Asian countries.

world cinema Updated: Apr 19, 2018 17:53 IST
Samarth Goyal
Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
Majid Majidi,Beyond The Clouds,Bollywood
Filmmaker Majid Majidi thinks portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionare was humiliating. (Amal Ks/HT PHoto)

Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi is quite vocal on how the Western filmmakers see India, and only focus on poverty in the country. The 59-year-old is in the country to promote his upcoming film, Beyond the Clouds, starring Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan. In various interviews, during the course of his stay, Majidi hasn’t shied away from slamming either American or European filmmakers for their myopic view about Asian countries, nor has he minced his words while talking about Bollywood becoming a more money-driven industry. In a chat with HT, Majidi — best known for his films such as Children of Heaven (1997) and The Father (1996) — talks about his film, Western filmmakers and the importance of cross-cultural collaborations between Asian countries. Excerpts:

In your recent interviews you have said that you did not like the way India was portrayed in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionare, and you said it was a very humiliating. How have you made sure that your film, Beyond the Clouds, does not get stereotyped as a film on poverty and is much more than that?
People coming from America or Europe see things from a higher angle and look downwards, and that’s why they can only see poverty in the first look. They just touch the surface. They can’t go beyond the surface, and try and see the values. I believe that there’s a lot that West can learn from here. There are some values here they don’t have it in the West. People living on streets, they are a family and they stay together despite all the hardships. I don’t think West has that concept. That’s what I try to explore — the human aspect of it all, if you will. West doesn’t have the vision to see the human aspects. They have [a] more formalistic way to see [the situation].

You’ve said that Beyond The Clouds will portray Mumbai the way it has never been shown. How did you make sure that you achieved that?
When I said you haven’t seen Mumbai (the way it has been portrayed in other films) it was not the shape or other physical aspects. In my films, I use locations like characters. They are there to narrate the story. For example, we have shot in Dhobi Ghat. Now the point to shoot there was not to use it as some sort of tourist attraction, or to show it off from a tourist perspective. But it adds to the script, takes over the narrative and tells the story. So, I meant to say that the locations will tell the story ... not that I have shot in some locations which you never saw in any of the films.

How difficult was it for you to shoot in real locations, like the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai? Was casting new faces — Ishaan and Malavika — a strategy to avoid getting mobbed?
For me, I always try to see if an actor can fit the character as per my script. If that happens, then they can be a star, and I will still work with them. Having said that, one of the reasons why I went ahead with Ishaan and Malavika was the fact that we were going to shoot in such locations. But it was not the only reason, and It wouldn’t have been that big a deal if some star was shooting for the same. It is important for me that the actor matches the character. It was difficult to shoot (in real locations). We shot with the local real people, without using extras, to get the flavour and setting.

How do you feel about cross cultural collaborations between Asian countries, and how do you see this trend evolving?
Frequent cultural collaborations are very important. It is something that happened in Europe years ago, and those collaborations made them very strong. It has been lacking in our continent sadly. Our continent has more sources — both academically and culturally. So, our stories will be even stronger. And cross cultural collaborations will not only improve the film industries, they will also contribute massively to the political and economic growth of the countries here, and therefore they are very important.

Interact with the author on Twitter/@sammysamarth

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 17:43 IST