- BOTTOM LINE
Painfully Boring and Pointless
|Platform Netflix||Genre Drama|
What is the Story about?
Beni Madhav Singh (Manav Kaul), a small-town music teacher from Shimla, is wiling his time away, barely meeting ends with the money he earns from his tuitions and retro performances at night-clubs. He’s constantly bitter and regretful about his career decisions. Beni is forever lost in his own world until he realises that his former student Jyotsna Ray (Amrita Bagchi), now a popular Bollywood singer, is returning to the town for a music concert. The mention of Jyotsna triggers a lot of memories from his past, some good and some bad. Beni’s neighbour Geeta (Divya Dutta), who’s parted ways with her husband recently, has a soft spot for the man and his music. What will Beni do next? Will ever get back to his joyous self and move on in life?
Manav Kaul’s performance is the only redeeming factor in the film. He tries hard to instill some sense into the portrayal of an underwhelmingly written lead character and makes use of his body language, minute expressions to convey the ambiguous emotional state of the role. Amrita Bagchi, as Jyotsna, doesn’t have enough scope to pull off a good performance. There’s absolutely no chemistry between the lead actors Manav Kaul and Jyotsna. The two never feel like a couple at any point in the film. Both appear miscast with their roles and the script is too banal to spring any magic.
Indie filmmaker Sarthak Das Gupta, who’d last made The Great Indian Butterfly, wields the megaphone after a 12-year hiatus for Music Teacher. The wait isn’t at all worth it considering its promising cast and crew. A film needn’t always have a great conflict point or a pathbreaking story to click with crowds. However, the writing in Music Teacher is so dull and pointless that you painstakingly wait for the film to end, right after the initial 30 minutes. Even credible lead actors like Manav Kaul, Neena Gupta and Divya Dutta feel wasted. Like the lead character, the film only meanders along, not knowing where to proceed next.
For a film titled after music, the detailing surrounding music is more or less absent. We only keep hearing remixed versions of Kishore and Rafi numbers one after the other, which are actually more pleasing than the film on the whole. Music Teacher is forever obsessed with the confused nature of its protagonist and the relationships he shares with multiple women. The illicit relationship between Beni and the married woman Geeta is portrayed in an absurd manner. The emotions don’t appear genuine at any point of time in the narrative.
The film’s 100-minute length is no saviour because it doesn’t help its depth at all. In fact, the filmmaker could have considered more running time to incorporate back stories to each character and make the film feel somewhat concrete. Films like these only add weight to the discussion that digital releases are rejected feature scripts that are repackaged and glorified for the online medium. One truly wonders how the director managed to convince the cast or the producer to fund the film in the first place.
With Neena Gupta and Divya Dutta’s credentials as performers, one would naturally expect the filmmaker to give them something noteworthy to justify their presence. Sadly, that isn’t the case here. Neena Gupta sleepwalks through the role of the protagonist’s mother, who shares an on-and-off relationship with her son. She’s particularly effective in portraying the turmoil that a parent feels when a child’s career doesn’t pan out the way as desired. More emotional context to her character would’ve truly added value to the film. Divya Dutta’s role, as a divorcee and a woman seeking companionship, feels incomplete at many levels. The actor internalises the void in her character, but there’s only so much she can do amid this mediocrity.
Music and other departments?
Music surprisingly doesn’t play a significant role at all in Music Teacher. Looks like the composer Andrew T Mackay was only hired to throw in a few medleys of the 60s and 70s numbers, an intermittent classical tune here and there. The opportunity to use music to narrate the story of the lead couple is thrown away here.
Cinematographer Kaushik Mondal, although, is passable in showcasing Shimla in its complete natural glory. The visuals work better when they’re outdoors than those shot amid four walls. Sarthak Dasgupta, Gaurav Sharma share writing credits for the film, which is the film’s weakest link. There’s no emotional graph for any character, all they do is to package a sleep-inducing cocktail of a small town love story amid serene visuals and retro music.
Manav Kaul’s performance
Absence of emotional context
Will you recommend it?
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur