Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple won the Best Screenplay award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival (September 2-12) on Saturday. The Marathi-language movie, about the personal and professional experiences of a Hindustani classical singer, was among 18 titles in the competition section.
The Disciple has been produced by Vivek Gomber’s company Zoo Entertainment. Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Gravity and Roma, is the executive producer.
The Disciple was in the running for the festival’s highest prize, the Golden Lion. That was won by Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand.
The jury was headed by Cate Blanchett and included the directors Joanna Hogg, Christian Petzold and Veronika Franz, novelist Nicola Lagioia and actors Ludivine Sagnier and Matt Dillon.
Two Indians have previously won the Golden Lion at Venice: Satyajit Ray for Aparajito in 1957 and Mira Nair for Monsoon Wedding in 2001.
On Friday, The Disciple won the Fipresci award, given by the International Federation of Film Critics. The movie’s cast includes classical musicians, including lead actor Aditya Modak. The music design is by Aneesh Pradhan.
In a previous interview with Scroll.in, 33-year-old Tamhane described the journey of the lead character: “He’s a young vocalist, raised and introduced to music by his father. He has grown up on stories of the past, these secrets, modern-day myths and masters, purist concepts of music, and how one should live their life in accordance with them. But it’s also an emotional film. It is universal despite being set in the world of Indian classical music.”
Chloe Zhao’s third feature Nomadland was widely tipped to win the Golden Lion. The synopsis: “Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.”
The other winners in the competition section included Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa as Best Director for Wife of a Spy. The Grand Jury Prize went to Michel Franco for New Order.
Pierfrancesco Favino won the Best Actor award for Padrenostro. The Best Actress prize went to Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman.
The Orizzonti (Horizons) section included the Indian entry Meel Patthar, directed by Ivan Ayr. Iranian director Amhad Bahrami’s The Wasteland was named Best Feature in this section. Filipino director Lav Diaz win Best Director for Genus Pan. Pietro Castellitto won in the Best Screenplay category for I Predatori. Yahya Mahayni was named Best Actor for The Man Who Sold His Skin. The Best Actress award went to Khansa Batma for Zanka Contact.
The Lion of the Future award, given to the most promising filmmaker, went to Ana Rocha De Sousa for Listen. The Portuguese director also won the Special Jury Prize for her film, in which an immigrant couple in Great Britain attempts to prevent social services from taking away their deaf child.
The Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor went to Rouhollah Zamani for the Iranian feature Korshid.
The festival was held this year amidst extraordinary health protocols necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Fewer films were selected, face masks were mandatory for screenings, and the capacity at theatres was cut down by half.