The International Film Festival of India, held in January 1995 in Bombay (India’s “Bollywood”), was in an uproar. For the first time, despite a treasury of native erotic art and literature, an Indian erotic film had been made by Mani Kaul, the aesthete among Indian filmmakers, and could be seen at the festival. Only one screening was allowed for the Erotic Tales program - Wet, The Dutch Master, and The Cloud Door - and, sure enough, the police had to be called out to prevent a riot at the doors of the Sterling cinema. IFFI director Malti Sahai resolved the dilemma by scheduling an extra press screening for The Cloud Door at the Little Theatre in the Tata Institute on Nariman Point. After the press screening, Indian Television interviewed co-producer Lalitha Krishna and actress Anu Arya Aggarwal, who had placed her career on the line by exposing a breast in the production. A taboo had been broken. Or had it? Two year later, the Indian distributor of the Erotic Tales was still trying to clear the films at the government censor board.
Mani Kaul drew upon three literary sources for The Cloud Door: Bhasa’s Sanskrit play Avimaraka (5th-7th century), Mohammed Jayasi’s Sufi epic love poem Padmavat (13th century), and the anonymous writer of the Erotic Indian Tales Suksapiti. Indians know well the story of the parrot Hermani leading Ratnasan to the bed-chamber of the Princess Kurangi, but they have yet to see it on the local screen.
Locarno wrestled München for the right of “first festival night” (München won), and both the New York Film Festival and the Robert Flaherty Seminar selected The Cloud Door for presentation - such invitations are high praise for any director.
In an ancient castle in Rajasthan the King overhears the parrot in its cage whispering erotic descriptions to his young daughter Princess Kurangi. Enraged, he pulls out a knife and attacks the cage. Kurangi defends the bird by arguing that its speech is all learnt. Young women descend into the waters of a pool. Kurangi clutches the green parrot with its long tail against her bosom. Her clothes fall on the steps as she enters the waters with the parrot. The bird suddenly spreads its wings and flies off travelling over the mountain top to a far place.
The parrot has been captured by a bird catcher. When Ratnasen passes by its cage, he is startled to hear the parrot speak his love's name: "Kurangi"
If Ratnasen would free the parrot from his sleepy master, it would be willing to show him the way to the palace and lead him through the secret passages to Kurangi's chamber. The two reach the palace and the bird flies off to tell Kurangi of her lover's approach. Ratnasen scales the tower to finally reach her chamber in the clouds and spend a night of' love. THE CLOUD DOOR has been adapted from three sources: Bhasa's Sanskrit play " Aimaraka "(5th-7th century) Malik Mohammed Jayasi's Sufi epic love poem " Padmavat " (13th century) and the erotic Indian tales "Suksaptiti" (writer unknown).
In an ancient Indian castle in Rajasthan the King incidentally overhears the parrot in its cage whispering erotic tales to the King’s young daughter Princess Kurangi. Enraged, the king pulls out a knife and attacks the parrot. Kurangi defends the bird by insisting that his stories are just idle talk. The parrot’s life is spared. Young women are standing at the edge of a pool. Kurangi presses her green parrot to her chest. While she descends into the pool her clothes fall off, the bird spreads his wings and flies off over the mountain to a faraway place.
Eventually the parrot is captured by a bird catcher. When young Ratnasen passes by its cage, he is startled to hear the parrot speak his love's name: "Kurangi"
The parrot and Ratnasen make a deal. If Ratnasen frees the parrot, the parrot would show him the way to the palace and lead him through the secret passages to Kurangi's chamber. The two embark on an adventurous journey, reach the palace and the bird flies off to tell Kurangi of her lover's approach. Ratnasen scales the tower to finally reach her chamber in the clouds. They spend the night making love.
Heaven’s Door borrows popular themes from the mythology of India and its vast literary canon. The story has been adapted from three sources: From Bhasa's Sanskrit play "Aimaraka" (5th-7th centuries) Malik Mohammed Jayasi's Sufi epic love poem "Padmavat" (13th century) and from an erotic Indian tale called "Suksaptiti" (writer unknown).
Anu Arya Aggarwal, Murad Ali
Usted Zio Foriduddin Dagar
Ronald Gräbe, WDR
35mm; colour; 1:1,85