Disciple, The: Chaitanya Tamhane’s Superb Tale of Indian Musician, Torn between Tradition and Modernity–Movie Gems of 2020

It’s been a banner year for Indian cinema. Unfortunately, many good Indian (and Pakistani)  features will fall under the radar due to the decreased exposure in major film festivals, and the unwillingness of distributors to take risks at these times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two-time Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity,” “Roma”) serves as an executive producer of The Disciple, a powerful Marathi drama directed, written, and edited by Chaitanya Tamhane.

The Disciple
The Disciple 2020 poster.jpg

Film poster

The movie played in the main at the 77th Venice Film Fest, becoming the first Indian film since Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001)  had competed at the Biennale.

At Venice, the film won FIPRESCI International Critics Prize presented by the International Federation of Film Critics and the Best Screenplay award. It was also screened at the 2020 Toronto Film Fest, where it earned the Amplify Voices Award.

The Disciple, which is handled by New Europe Film Sale, seeks U.S. distribution

Sharad Nerulkar (well played by real-life musician Aditya Modak) has devoted his life to become Indian classical music vocalist, following the traditions and disciplines of his old masters, his guru, and his father.

However, as years go by, Sharad begins to wonder and doubt whether it’s possible for him to achieve excellence (perfection) in a tradition that’s becoming outdated in a world that’s increasingly globalized.

Visually impressive, The Disciple, a follow-up to Tamhane’s 2014 acclaimed feature debut, Court, is marked by an elegant style, and signaled the arrival of a major direct0r from that region.

In addition to Aditya Modak, the ensemble includes Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave, Deepika Bhide Bhagwat, and Kiran Yadnyopavit.

Aditya Modak as Sharad Nerulkar
Arun Dravid as Guruji
Sumitra Bhave as voice of Maai
Deepika Bhide Bhagwat
Kiran Yadnyopavit
Abhishek Kale
Neela Khedar
Makarand Mukund
Kristy Banerjee
Prasad Canavese

Directed, written by Chaitanya Tamhane
Produced by Vivek Gomber
Music by Aneesh Pradhan
Cinematography Michał Sobociński
Edited by Chaitanya Tamhane

Production company: Zoo Entertainment

Country India; in Marathi, Hindi and Bengali languages

Running time: 127 Minutes