Weekly Classics: Baran
The trailer of the film can be viewed here.
Baran is another brilliant film by Iranian director Majid Majidi. It features a simple story of a young Iranian boy, Lateef, who falls in love with a girl, Baran (also Rahmat), who hails from an Afghan family that had sought refuge in Iran following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the setting up of a repressive regime in the country. However, the political undertones in the film remain eclipsed by the more human themes of love and relationships.
Lateef works at a construction site, where Baran (as Rahmat) and many other labourers also work for measly wages. He is responsible for making tea for the workers and for cooking their meals. He also does the grocery shopping, rather regretting the chore as the shopkeeper has ‘confiscated’ his ID card for identification and verification purposes. He jokes around with everyone, especially with his workmates, who he usually ends up annoying. He also gets into frequent arguments and fights with them over petty issues.
Baran is a young girl who must bear the breadwinning responsibilities for her family following her father’s accident. So she goes out to work in her father’s place, disguised as a boy, Rahmat, at the same construction site where he had met his accident. After a few mishaps, the jobs of Rahmat and Lateef are swapped and the latter has to now assist the site’s foreman while the former must look after the kitchen, meals, tea and grocery shopping. Lateef resents this change immensely and retaliates by threatening Rahmat (Baran) with ‘dire consequences’.
But one day in the construction site’s kitchen, Lateef overhears a girl singing and combing her long hair. Based on his prior knowledge that only Rahmat (Baran) uses the kitchen, he quickly concludes that Rahmat is in fact a girl disguised as a boy. One would assume that Lateef would have spread the news far and wide but he doesn’t. In fact, he falls deeply in love with Baran. This event changes him completely, his belligerent nature is now devoted to protecting Rahmat’s true identity from everyone else.
Like Majidi’s other films, The Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven, the beauty of Baran is embedded in simple moments that occur in the characters’ lives. For example, the moment in the film where Lateef discovers that Rahmat is a girl, a sudden gust of wind blows dust into his eyes and as he tries to blink away the dirt, he notices something strange in the kitchen, like an apparition. He lets go of the cement sack he was carrying, moves nearer and peeks into the kitchen, hidden by the cloth that separates the kitchen from the courtyard and the rest of the construction site. What he sees in the room beyond the kitchen is a turning point for him. Rahmat was in fact a girl and a beautiful, rather charming one too. From that moment onwards, Lateef begins to ensure that no harm came to Baran. One day, as Baran is apprehended by the inspectors who keep visiting the construction site to ensure that illegal workers are not being hired, Lateef intervenes in his usual clumsy manner and ends up in prison for managing to save Baran from deportation.
The characterisation in the film can be considered somewhat clichéd. The male protagonist is a clumsy young fellow who lives rough in an unsophisticated environment. He gets into regular fights but has his moments of kindness. Similarly, Baran is a quiet, young girl who has to shoulder the breadwinning responsibility after her father’s accident. Yet she is unsuited to the heavy work done at the construction site, while Lateef can carry heavy objects up and down the uneasy, difficult stairs. Similarly, Lateef is unsuited to the kitchen work he had done prior to Baran’s arrival. He makes terrible tea but Baran gets many praises for doing the same job. The kitchen is in a mess under Lateef’s control but properly set and decorated when Baran takes over from him. These details show how conventional the two main characters are.
But despite such conventionalities, their relationship remains poignant. Lateef’s clumsiness and goofy jokes are endearing, while Baran’s eyes are expressive to the point that we barely realise how she never utters a single word throughout the film. Feelings are expressed through eyes and gestures. There are moments where they can barely sustain eye contact for more than a few seconds, signifying shyness and probably hesitation. Moreover, both seem acutely aware of their divergent social standings.
The remarkable bit about Majidi’s work is that his films focus on moments we would normally overlook as we go through our daily, hectic lives. It’s as if he wants the viewers to reconnect with such moments, even if it is through a different person, a fictional character realistic enough to be someone you and I may know.
The author is a Multimedia Producer at Dawn.com