By John Sooja,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Slow, sad drama has language, limited kid appeal.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Even if you aren't a superstar, you can still be a teacher and help others. Sometimes the truth isn't as alluring as the narrative.
Positive Role Models
Sharad is a dedicated student and perseveres through setbacks. Despite some dips in confidence, he puts aside relationships and a career to try to reach his dreams. He stands up for his Guruji when he's verbally attacked.
Violence & Scariness
A father tells his son a story about another father beating his son until he sang a song correctly. This father also nailed his children's hair onto the wall so they couldn't go out and play. Another man tells a story of a woman being a "mughal" and a "whore." A man throws a glass of water in another man's face.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
No nudity. Two masturbation scenes show a man from behind pleasing himself to the sounds of internet pornography. A man tells stories of sex workers, "disgraced mistresses," and "kept women."
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Strong language includes "f---er," "f---ing," "s--t," "mughal," "whore," and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcoholic beverages.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Disciple is an Indian Marathi-language drama about a young vocalist who devotes his life to music and learning from his Guruji. Written and directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, shot entirely in Mumbai, and executive produced by Alfonso Cuaron (Roma, Gravity), this film isn't meant for kids. There's no nudity, but a few scenes show a man masturbating to sounds of pornography, and a few stories are told of "mistresses," "whores," and "kept women." Kids may find it incredibly slow and melancholy, with long shots and no cuts. There are also many musical performances throughout that are most often played to their entirety. Some strong language includes: "f---er," "f---ing," "s--t," "whore," "mughal," and "hell." A father tells his son a story about another father beating his son until he sang a song correctly. This father also nailed his children's hair onto the wall so they couldn't go out and play. A man throws a glass of water in another man's face. Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcoholic beverages.
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What's the Story?
In THE DISCIPLE, Sharad (Aditya Modak) is a singer in his early 20s and his friends are finding jobs and getting married. But Sharad is a disciple and he dedicates himself to his Guruji (Arun Dravid) and his music. Trained in an ascetic tradition, Sharad must practice every day, take care of his Guruji (financially and healthwise), and not rush to the end of his tutelage. Guruji even told him that he'd probably have to wait until age 40 to even think about being good enough. How long can Sharad last? Will he become a success? What is success?
Is It Any Good?
There's much to like about this film: the cinematography, the performances, the music, the intimate world-building -- but for many, The Disciple will prove too slow. It's patient filmmaking, dreamy, meditative, and melancholy. Certainly, part of this has to do the with trajectory of the narrative, but because the mood of the film clearly mirrors the narrative, the entire experience, while at times mesmerizing, might be too impenetrable for some viewers.
This is clearly not a film meant for easy consumption nor is it a happy film. It's a contemplation and study of dedication, a clashing of traditional and modern sensibilities, and it's a film that explores internal conflict, futility, bad fortune, and the politics of belief. Ultimately, a lot depends on whether main character Sharad is compelling enough to root for and/or be sad for. Thankfully, he is. Sharad is a kind of modern Willy Loman (Death of a Salesman) figure, despite Sharad being a traditionalist confronting modern realities. While the reason for Sharad's path is his belief and devotion to his craft, the reason for Willy's path is desperation. The Disciple might suggest that these two motivations are related. Either way, devotion and desperation and failure are all deeply human experiences and incredibly fascinating. Many will see themselves in Sharad, for better and for worse.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about music in movies. While The Disciple isn't a musical in the conventional sense, how does the film use music effectively? For example, if music often adds (or increases) emotion to what it accompanies, what emotion do you think this film's music best conveys? Why might this be?
What do you think was the overall lesson this film tries to teach? Was the film successful in teaching this lesson? Or, if you don't think there is a lesson of the film, why might this be?
Do you think Sharad believes the stories he hears about his Guruji's mentor? Do you think Sharad cares? Why? Do you think it matters in general? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: April 30, 2021
- Cast: Aditya Modak, Arun Dravid, Sumitra Bhave, Deepika Bhide Bhagwat
- Director: Chaitanya Tamhane
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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