The Path of the Artist

The Disciple is a poignant tribute to the world of Indian classical music and its forgotten practitioners

Jai Arjun Singh Published Jul 2, 2021 17:26:17 IST
The Path of the Artist A still from the Marathi film, The Disciple

CHAITANYA Tamhane’s The Disciple (Netflix)could just as well havebeen titled ‘discipline’.This is the quality that Sharad (Aditya Modak)has to organize his life around, and we witness both his patience and frustrations as he comes to terms with the possibility that he might never find a proper foothold in the world he loves. Is he good enough, as a singer or as a student?

Slow-paced as this Marathi film may seem,it becomes a hypnotic experience as you become invested in the central character and his journey. The narrative moves around in time, giving us glimpses of Sharad’s childhood and the present day,where he tries to draw succour from audio recordings of talks by along-deceased teacher named Maai (voiced by Sumitra Bhave).

Tamhane’s long takes and almost-static shots—characteristic of his earlier feature Court—work wonderfully for this subject matter. In the musical performances, the camera sometimes moves only very slightly forward, as if mindful of intruding on the performers’ space.

The Disciple is driven by its attention to detail and its many little vignettes—the mildly chastened look on Sharad’s face when his guru tells him, mid-performance and in front of a seated audience, “No,you aren’t listening”,or the slow escalation to hostility when the mother of one of his students asks that her boy be allowed to take time off to perform with a ‘fusion’ band. It is a story about the relationship between art and artists,as well as a lament for things that have come to be seen as elitist,outdated or both.


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