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Music Teacher

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Music Teacher Movie Poster Image
Heartfelt Indian romance with songs and puzzling resolution.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Looks at powerful negative force of regret and the inability to move forward after mistakes are made. Promotes: finding resolution, steadfastly pursuing goals, being realistic about "perfection," and the importance of family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Leading character, who is loyal, caring, generous, and talented, must overcome regret, anger, and past mistakes in order begin to lead an enriching life. In this particular area of Northern India, traditional male-female roles prevail. Men call the shots and women are subservient. In two instances, women try to change the custom.

Violence

One strong slap. An elderly man dies; at his funeral his body is burned on pyre.

Sex

Kissing. Couple is seen in bed after lovemaking.

Language
Consumerism

A few T-shirt logos.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking; one character gets tipsy and awakens with a hangover. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Music Teacher is a drama/love story, with music, from India. Using English subtitles translated from Hindi, the film is set in Shimla City, a provincial, family-oriented community in the Himalayan foothills, far from India's heavily-populated cities. Centering on regret, closing old doors, and opening new ones, the movie tells the tale of a music teacher who has given up on success and love because of missteps he made years earlier. It integrates current-day events with flashbacks from a young romance. Though the themes are mature, there's little worrisome material. One man slaps another. An elderly man dies quietly on screen; his funeral shows his burning funeral pyre. A couple kisses and is seen together in bed. There's social drinking; one man is tipsy, then hungover. Characters smoke cigarettes. While there is not much appeal for most kids, the movie is okay for teens.

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What's the story?

Still hurting from a heartrending breakup eight years earlier, Beni Madhav Singh (Manav Kaul) is barely existing when MUSIC TEACHER opens. Both his passion for music and his drive for success have long been on hold. Beni lives with his mom (Neena Gupta) and sister (Niharika Lyra Dutt) in the hills of Shimla City. He supports his family with income from teaching music and singing in local venues. When he hears that his great love, Jyotsna (Amita Bagchi), a former music student who is now a famous singer in Mumbai, is coming to town for a one-night concert, Beni is shattered. It's only another, and the latest, reason for him to experience the powerful regret that undermines his life. Flashbacks of the beginning, middle, and ending of his early relationship deepen his pain. A tentative, budding relationship with a lonely but attractive neighbor is a casualty of Beni's unease at the prospect of seeing Jyotsna again. On the night of concert, though he fights the desire to see her, Beni is compelled to the wings of the concert stage where Jyotsna sees him, mid-song, and their meeting is inevitable.

Is it any good?

Though beautifully filmed and brimming with the vibrancy of Indian culture and music, the brooding hero's regrets and anger become tiresome -- a little on-camera self pity goes a long way. The filmmakers' notions about the importance of letting go of old hurts, of not being too quick to give up one's driving passion, and to find closure where none has existed, are sound, if not original.

In Music Teacher, however, the balance is off -- depressing wins out over what should, at heart, be romantic. And it's not the performances. The actors are uniformly solid. Kaul is particularly good, and Amrita Bagchi is talented, gorgeous, and charismatic. Himachal Pradesh, India is a location that American audiences have probably not seen before, and it's stunning. The film also serves to remind that even though male-female relationships have evolved, especially in progressive, cosmopolitan places, in some corners of the world men still drive the women's stories.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that films set in other countries and/or cultures enrich our understanding of the world. How familiar were you with India, especially the more rural sections? In addition to showing natural beauty of the area, the customs and music of its citizens, what does Music Teacher reveal about the commonality of human emotions?

  • What is the meaning of the term "patriarchal society?" Think about the women in this movie. What decisions did the they make and which decisions were made for them? At the conclusion of the film, how was Jyotsna trying to assert her independence? 

  • Poet John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'it might have been.'" How does this story confirm Whittier's notion?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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