Rahat Mahajan’s attempt to craft an epic film in The Cloud Messenger requires being able to understand the lore that inspired it. This Indian love story set in the foothills of Himalaya has a lot to admire. There’s not only the careful framing of the beauty of this region, but also the presence of the gods look hauntingly beautiful. It gives the film a very etheric look when they finally manifest.
This adaptation of the Indian poem Ramayana concerns two youths who’ve been reincarnated time and time again; their attempts to flee has often been meted from an overlord who doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.
In their latest incarnation, Jaivardhan (Ritvik Tyagi) is the odd man out at a prestigious boarding school. He believes his teachers don’t like him. With no surprise, a former instructor offers the lad a chance to get closer to the new girl, and life isn’t as bad. The way he quickly connects with Tarini (Ahalya Shetty) is sweet, if not sudden. When she’s willing to tell him about her waking nightmares, that’s when the plot gets interesting!
Just where these spirits enter the mortal realm is a thorough line of sight. As for why these two are targeted, having Cliff’s notes by your side is helpful.
To witness these deities presented in all their glory shows just how involved they are in this classic romance. As for who the evil ruler is (he reincarnated along with the others), I lost track. Unfortunately, The Cloud Messenger’s very long runtime will not be for everyone. I really wanted to fast-forward to the juicer bits, and in the back of mind, I was hoping for some lighter Bollywood moments to keep me engaged. I wasn’t expecting them to break into song and dance like in Moulin Rouge. Although that romance in that film is a different tale, it too was set in the romantic world of India. Mahajan’s concept uses a lot of universal tropes, and it’s tough to say if everything presented is unique to his culture.
Thankfully, the last act is worth it. I mostly enjoyed the film for the visual tour de force haunting dreamlike quality in the cinematography rather than the story. Had the pace been trimmed, it would’ve helped the pacing issues, but overall, it’s still worth investigating for anyone who loves the mythology from the Indian subcontinent.
3½ Stars out of 5
The Cloud Messenger Movie Trailer
This movie played at the Los Angles Pacific Asian Film Festival (May 4 to May 13, 2023)