Chaitanya Tamhane’s ‘The Disciple’ Creates a Buzz at Venice

Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple opens to positive reviews at the ongoing Venice International Film Festival.

2 min read
Filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane, producer Vivek Gomber and the team of <i>The Disciple </i>at the Venice International Film Festival.

Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple which premieres at the ongoing 77th Venice International Film Festival is receiving positive reviews. Produced by Vivek Gomber, Tamhane’s Marathi film is about a classical musician's struggle to balance his career dreams and life in contemporary Mumbai. The Disciple is the first Indian competition entry at the Venice Film Festival since Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, which won the Golden Lion in 2001.

Tamhane earlier helmed Court, which premiered at the 71st Venice International Film Festival in 2014, and won the Best Film in the Horizons category and the Luigi De Laurentiis award for the director. Featuring actors Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave and Kiran Yadnyopavit, The Disciple also has Alfonso Cuaron on board as executive producer.

Here’s a short synopsis of The Disciple as shared by the Venice Biennale:

Sharad Nerulkar has devoted himself to becoming an Indian classical vocalist, a lifelong quest in which few succeed. Initiated into this centuries-old tradition by his father, he follows his dream with sincerity and discipline, committing himself entirely to his artistic journey. As he strives to attain the highest level of his craft, Sharad traces his way through the hallowed mysteries and rituals of past musical legends. But as the years pass, Sharad will be forced to negotiate between the complex realities of life in contemporary Mumbai and his chosen path, leading him to find his true voice in music and in life.

Here’s a look at the international trailer of The Disciple which dropped on 4 September:

A review in the The Variety calls The Disciple “a nuanced look at a determined Hindustani musician”. The reviewer Jay Weissberg also mentions, “As he did with Court, Tamhane patiently constructs his characters out of small details, relying on his audience to pick up on small changes and muted shifts of tone that signal the passage of time and Sharad’s interior journey. It’s hard to imagine the film succeeding so well without lead actor Modak’s quiet concentration (not to mention vocal skills), capturing his character’s all-consuming hunger while generally projecting a never-dull placidity.”

Giving the film 3 stars out of 5, Xan Brooks of The Guardian writes, “You don’t have to be familiar with the intricacies of Hindustani music to appreciate Tamhane’s heartfelt, melancholy drama although I’d hazard a guess that it helps.” He ends his review by saying, “I wish that I enjoyed The Disciple as much as I admired it. The film is a labour of love insofar as it feels overthought and overburdened, with all the rough edges planed down.”

IndieWire terms The Disciple as a “brilliant look at a passionate musician in a world that moves too fast for him”. Critic Eric Kohn writes, “In Tamhane’s dreamy, transcendent character study, the undulating raga melodies serve as a transformative portal to self-discovery that places the audiences in the confines of its entrancing power.”

Going by the buzz online, The Disciple seems to be one of the favourites in the main competition at the Venice Film Festival this year.

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