The Disciple review round-up: Chaitanya Tamhane’s film is a 'long, lonely quest in music'
Chaitanya Tamhane's The Disciple is the first Indian film to play at the Venice Film Festival since Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding
The first film to play at the Venice Film Festival since Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, The Disciple, directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, sees the hero embarking on a long, lonely quest in music, where red carpets and glamour hold little attraction for him.
The Guardian's Xan Brooks says that while one does not have to be familiar with the intricacies of Hindustani music to appreciate the drama, he wishes he loved the film as much as he admired it. "The film is a labour of love insofar as it feels overthought and overburdened, with all the rough edges planed down."
Eric Kohn of IndieWire writes that The Disciple is the story of an idealistic young performer who "dreams of capturing the magic of a musical traditional that he may lack the talent to achieve himself." The critic adds that Tamhane's "transcendent character study" serves as a portal to self-discovery. Set against a bustling Mumbai backdrop, the film unfolds in slow, melancholic rhythms and follows the character through three distinct eras as he grows older and continues to "internalise his frustration over his professional inertia."
Variety's Jay Weissberg writes that one of the issues for The Disciple is the cinema audience's lack of understanding of the intricacies of Khayal, a traditional Hindustani musical form, that forms the basis of the film. Weissberg states, "the lack of background means most of us will feel ill-equipped to make any kind of judgment on what is an important element of the movie’s DNA." However, the critic adds that the nuanced approach makes the film an engrossing experience, "delicately constructing Sharad’s character in understated tones to create a complex picture of a man’s inner struggle toward the kind of artistic fulfillment few of us will ever experience."
Starring Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave and Kiran Yadnyopavit in pivotal roles, Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter feels that it is the "universal story of a youth who aims for the stars and finds himself with his feet tied to earth." The critic, however, adds that the story suffers from the West's unfamiliarity of Indian classical music, which could lessen its appeal for non-Indian audiences.
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