One of the recorded lectures of Maai, also known as Sindhubai Jadhav said that, “ Indian Classical music is considered to be an eternal quest. To attain it, one needs to surrender and sacrifice.” The film narrates the story of Sharad Nerulkar, a vocalist who has devoted his life to understanding and practicing classical music. He is dedicated, consistent in his ‘riyas’ yet, success is hard to achieve. He is hasty, and in hustle to gain the recognition he thinks he deserves. Perhaps, that’s where he lacks. This story is a beaming depiction of a musician who struggles but never quits in life.
Written and directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, the drama slowly engulfs viewers into the everyday life of Sharad. His dedication towards his Guruji, his rehearsals before the show, the bike rides where he seeks peace through Maai’s lectures and so forth. With the camera silently existing in every scene of the film, the emotional connect grows stronger. Although for most people, the film might demand patience and attentiveness but it is empathetic to everyone’s life. We all have our own share of problems and hurdles yet we push ourselves towards a better tomorrow, just like the protagonist.
For most part of the film, his character appears to be tense, occupied in his internal thoughts to reach that point in his career where he is appreciated by people. In this process of conquering the world of classical music, Sharad loses grip on life and continues to make failed attempts until he becomes annoyed and moves on. This quest makes him invest not just his man hours but also his spiritual beliefs. In due course, we see his character getting lost in a loop of rehearsals and attempts to keep a healthy mind which certainly does him no good. In several instances, he juxtaposes his life- him watching a TV show called Fame India, his performance along with Guruji and his friends, his experience with the internet to name a few are those instances.
One of the most engaging scenes in the film is the one with bike rides. The slow motion shots through late night empty streets of Mumbai illustrates not just Sharad’s mental state but also life in general for Mumbaikars. A day full of hustle-bustle halts briefly at night only to resume again early morning. Repeated time and over in the film, these scenes are filled in with Maai’s recorded lectures and the subtle Sitar playing throughout. They seem to draw viewers into a bubble which is an escape from reality but also the one that is weighed down due to existing problems.
Divided in three phases of Sharad’s life, the narration is a smooth yet delicate transition from youth to adulthood. The guy in his twenties, begins his career with zeal to thrive to the top. Sure he is persistent but is simply reluctant to explore. His singlehood, unrecognition, and annoyance from monotony turns him into a man in his 40’s. Towards the end, Sharad Nehrulkar becomes a family man with new ventures who took one step further from his otherwise dull career as a vocalist.
With mindful setup of tones and tints reflecting different moods of the film along with musical symphonies makes this film an insightful watch. The singular narrative of Sharad’s psyche shows him at his most vulnerable as well as favorable sides. No doubt the film is demanding nevertheless is a thoughtful, and an entertaining watch to not only enjoy and cherish Indian classical music but also find some glimpse of yourself through the life of Sharad.