LFF REVIEW: ‘The Disciple’ Explores the Importance of Musical Culture

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Disciple wants you to look back at your own traditions and disciplines

Chaitanya Tamhane has followed up his festival darling and debut Court (2014) with an equally compelling and rich film in The Disciple. As masterfully composed as the music itself, The Disciple follows the character of Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak) who has dedicated his life to Indian classical music. Supporting an older mentor who’s had a lasting legacy and career, Sharad’s passion is clearly devoted to the art of Indian classical music.

Scenes with Sharad alone in his room, show the practice and dedication that go into this skill; accompanied by following scenes of audiences in admiration of the craft that these musicians have. Whilst it’s not achieving mainstream success with riches and wealth, the music is more a signifier of comfort in expressing someone’s culture and own heritage. There’s a clear disconnect between this music and Western media when Sharad seeks to profit and capitalise of his own talents. Whilst the story seems set on advancing Sharad from rags to riches like many musical talents of the past, Tamhane is making a clear distinction between the art of music and the capitalisation of it. Sharad’s story is accompanied by a talented female singer he grows attached to, competing on an Indian musical reality show. Her first performance is that of similar music to Sharad’s, she feels authentic in traditional Indian clothing and a plain face of the everyday watcher. Yet over time, her talent becomes noticed and the influence of producers slowly turn her into a generic, pop artist. She’s gained money, influence and an audience but lost her identity along the way, something that seems to be the main moral point in The Disciple.

Whilst Sharad stays conflicted in his own drive, mixing his passion for the music with the promised stardom that he has seen elsewhere. It’s clear that the passion is the driving force and your pure love towards something – is what remains with Sharad. The Disciple wants you to look back at your own traditions and disciplines, respecting the elders that paved the way and never forgetting where these things came from. Sharad’s story is one of origins – one that doesn’t feel nostalgic for the past, but inherits that history and culture is to stay that way, not be modernised to fit a certain agenda. Sharad’s motivation is clear, but The Disciple makes a solid point in noting that it’s improbably to expect exact excellence when it comes to achieving something, you have to sacrifice something to save another.

Sharad’s story is one of thousands, of someone with pure talent that believes hope can lead the way to a successful life in terms of wealth. But overall everyone’s in the same boat when it comes to civilians of the Third World. Whilst Sharad sits on public transport with his family at the end, a musician busks through the carriage – another talented individual unable to profit on it. Proving that Sharad is one of many in this cycle of music and culture – talent supposedly wasted when viewed through fame and fortune.

Header Image Courtesy of Zoo Entertainment.

Dir: Chaitanya Tamhane

Prod: Vivek Gomber, Alfonso Cuarón, Rakesh Mehra

Cast:  Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave