Early on in Chaitanaye Tamhane’s The Disciple, someone declares that Indian classical music is “an eternal quest.” Our protagonist, Sharad (Aditya Modak), is on this quest, both wrestling with and fleeing from classical music.

The film is concerned with the duplicitous nature of passionate devotion, how it is both inspiring and exhausting, comforting and draining. The performance scenes are indicative of Sharad’s turbulent relationship to music – the camera zooms in, capturing his various reactions to the song. Sometimes he is buoyed by the singing, floating on the sound of his mentor’s voice and sometimes he is visibly trapped, struggling against the beat.

The leisurely pace of The Disciple is at odds with Sharad’s passion and Tamhane’s careful focus, and as a result becomes a clever examination of how drive and devotion manifest themselves in the normality of day-to-day life.

While the film is largely effective in its quiet exploration of passion and failure, Sharad’s self-imposed isolation often comes at the expense of compelling relationships. There is promise in the dynamic between him and his mentor, but gradually that connection is decentred. There is intrigue in his relationship to his fellow students, and a fascinating shared passion at play with his colleague at the music shop, but the film largely dismisses these connections for Sharad’s internal struggles. Still, Aditya Modak brings a focus and turbulence to his first onscreen role, often seemingly suppressing some kind of tumultuous emotion, straining to break free of the soothing music he sings.

Tamhane’s sophmore outing is a quiet rendering of dedication, failure and success. While it is sometimes too quiet, The Disciple is particularly effective when it locks the viewers in a bubble with Sharad and allows him moments to respond to the music.



CAST: Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave, Deepika Bhide Bhagwat, Kiran Yadnyopavit

DIRECTOR: Chaitanaye Tamhane

WRITER: Chaitanaye Tamhane

SYNOPSIS: Sharad Nerulker is forced to grapple with how successful he has been in the craft he has dedicated his life to.