Court director Chaitanya Tamhane’s second feature The Disciple has been selected for the Venice Film Festival’s prestigious competition section, the organisers announced today. The Marathi-language The Disciple, which is set in the world of Hindustani classical music in Mumbai, will compete with 17 other titles, including films by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Amos Gitai, Majid Majidi, Gianfranco Rosi and Chloe Zhao.

Also selected for Venice is Soni director Ivan Ayr’s Milestone. The film will be screened in the Orrizonti (Horizons) section. The Venice festival will be held between September 2-12.

Thirty-three-year-old Tamhane’s acclaimed debut Court (2014), which examined the inequities of the Indian judicial system, was also premiered at Venice. The Disciple, written and directed by Tamhane and produced by Vivek Gomber’s Zoo Entertainment, stars Hindustani classical singer Aditya Modak in the lead role. Tabla maestro Aneesh Pradhan has worked on the music design, while Naren Chandavarkar has produced and pre-mixed the music.

According to an official synopsis, “Sharad Nerulkar has devoted himself to becoming an Indian classical vocalist, a lifelong quest in which few succeed. Initiated into this centuries-old tradition by his father, he follows his dream with sincerity and discipline, committing himself entirely to his artistic journey. As he strives to attain the highest level of his craft, Sharad traces his way through the hallowed mysteries and rituals of past musical legends. But as the years pass, Sharad will be forced to negotiate between the complex realities of life in contemporary Mumbai and his chosen path, leading him to find his true voice in music and in life.”

Tamhane said in a press release, “This is an important milestone for not just for us but also for the Indian independent cinema movement. The Disciple has been a true labour of love, and collectively we have poured every ounce of energy, effort, and love into it over the last four years. It has been a beautiful collaboration and I’m thankful to all of the film’s extremely dedicated actors and the entire crew. I am relieved and happy that it has found such a great start for its journey even in these tough times.”

Vivek Gomber, who had also produced Court, said in a press statement, “This is a historic moment for the Indian film fraternity as it’s been a while since we had a film competing for the Golden Lion. I hope this puts a global spotlight on our Indian film fraternity and makes it easier for new voices in our country to get a chance to follow their paths and dreams.”

Ivan Ayr’s Milestone is his second feature after Soni, which explored sexual violence in Delhi through the characters of two policewomen. Soni was also premiered at Venice in 2018.

According to the official synopsis for Milestone, “Workaholic veteran truck driver, Ghalib, must determine an appropriate compensation for the kin of his late wife. As Ghalib grapples with this thought, an existential threat begins to overwhelm him when he is asked to train a young new driver.” The film, which is in both Hindi and Punjabi, stars Suvinder Vicky and Lakshvir Saran.

Ayr said in a statement, “I am very happy about the selection and very grateful to Venice for inviting my second film as well. I congratulate my cast and crew, the most incredible and beautiful group of people I could ever imagine working with.”

Milestone (2020).

The opening title at Venice is Daniele Luchetti’s Italian-language Lacci. The event will be held in collaboration with the Toronto, New York and Telluride festivals. According to a joint statement by the festival directors, “This year, we’ve moved away from competing with our colleagues at autumn festivals and commit instead to collaboration. We are sharing ideas and information. We are offering our festivals as a united platform for the best cinema we can find…. In a crisis, films can transport us. They can enchant, inform, provoke and heal.”

The productions in the non-competitive sections include Abel Ferrara’s Sportin’ Life, Alex Gibney’s Crazy, Not Insane, Luca Guadagnino’s Salvatore – Shoemaker of Dreams, and Alice Rohrwacher’s Omelia Contadina. Hopper/Welles, a documentary created out of recently discovered footage of a meeting in 1970 between Orson Welles and Dennis Hopper, will also be shown out of competition. More titles will be added to the line-up in the coming weeks.

The jury is headed by Cate Blanchett and includes British director Joanna Hogg, Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu and French actor Ludivine Sagnier. The Disciple will compete for the Golden Lion for Best Film, Silver Lion for Best Director, and Award for Best Screenplay, among others.