The age-old tale of an artist’s melancholic plight is shown in a full, realistic and emotionally raw view during the Marathi drama The Disciple. Written and directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, the story is an in-depth look at modern life and the battle with mediocrity, displaying the reality of what it can truly mean to chase dreams and dedicate yourself to a craft that’s seemingly being left behind as the years go by. The film, at its core, is a slow burn that tackles the inner journey of self-discovery and acceptance. A Mumbai vocalist tries to prove himself, preserve tradition and attempts to surpass his father; however, circumstance, talent and reality forces him to question his life path. The movie has a complex narrative, but with its cast of powerful actors and evident dedication for music, it’s hard not to be enthralled and leave with a newfound appreciation for classical singing after watching this film.
Over the course of two hours, viewers witness the fragmented life of vocalist Sharad Nerulkar’s (Aditya Modak), seeing him go from dedicated youth to disillusioned middle-aged man. Tamhane’s script focuses less on heavy action but instead shines a lens on the man’s evolution, influences and internal battles. From childhood flashbacks, intercuts with an idol reality show and a devoted relationship, bordering on mythical with his guru (Arun Dravid), there are so many facets working in tandem, making the screenplay feel rich and meaningful. Similarly, the acting from both Modak and Dravid is pointed and understated, perfectly complimenting the realism and quiet intensity brought by the script and cinematography of the movie.
However, despite how deep the messaging of the narrative goes, the picture feels as if it’s missing something. There’s a distinct sense of being an outsider when watching the feature. Sharad’s relationships are never fully explored and deep emotional dives are never really rounded off. His love for music isn’t captured, nor is the dynamic with his mentor unpacked. At points, the work lags, keeping its audience at arm’s length and holding them in place when they get too close to uncovering the protagonist’s emotions.
Despite its narrative faults, the performers, musical compositions and dynamic camera work make The Disciple a meaningful watch for anyone interested in the candid human experience. It’s a powerful flick and feels as though it is simply the surface to a deeper and more impactful story.
The Disciple is released on Netflix on 30th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Disciple here: