Director Chatainya Tamhane won the best screenplay award for his Marathi-language feature The Disciple at the Venice Film Festival that saw Chinese-American filmmaker Chloe Zhao bagging the top prize of the coveted Golden Lion for her drama Nomadland .
The win at the 2020 closing ceremony comes just a day after Tamhane's film received the prestigious FIPRESCI award, given by international film critics.
The winners of the main competition were announced by the festival jury during the ceremony, held on Saturday and live-streamed globally. Headed by two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, the jury also included directors Joanna Hogg, Christian Petzold and Veronika Franz, novelist Nicola Lagioia and actors Ludivine Sagnier and Matt Dillon.
Tamhane, a wunderkind filmmaker, became the first director from India to compete in the main category of a European film festival after Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding" in Venice in 2001. "The Disciple" looks at the world of classical musicians on the fringes of success. It follows Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak), an Indian classical vocalist trying to achieve purity in his work as he has been raised on the stories of his father and guru about the masters of the past.
The film had its premiere at the Biennale last week and received glowing reviews from the critics. "Writing ‘The Disciple’ was by far the most challenging and painful endeavour I have ever undertaken. This honour means a lot to me and it will encourage me to keep pushing my own boundaries even further. "I want to dedicate this award to all the musicians, researchers, authors, and historians who helped open the doors to the incredible world of Indian classical music for me," Tamhane said in a statement.
Producer Vivek Gomber hailed the movie's win at Venice as an "incredible feat". "I am really grateful to the jury and very proud of Chaitanya. It’s the hardest and the loneliest job, but the final script was also what convinced me to back the film," he added.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron serves as an executive producer on the movie. "The Disciple" is the second feature film of 33-year-old Tamhane after his much-acclaimed 2014 movie "Court" , which was also selected in the Orizzonti (Horizons) category at Venice. Tamhane had won the Orizzonti Award and the Luigi De Laurentiis for the movie.
Zhao's "Nomadland" featured Oscar winner Frances McDormand in her career's best performance. She stars as the modern-day Nomad, Fern, who sets off on the road to explore a life outside of conventional society after the 2008 economic collapse. The film, which was Zhao's follow-up to her 2017 critical hit "The Rider" , went into the festival as one of the main contenders for the top prize.
The win makes Zhao the first female filmmaker to take the top prize at the festival since Sofia Coppola triumphed with "Somewhere" in 2010, and the first woman of colour to lift the trophy following Mira Nair's win for "Monsoon Wedding" in 2001. Mexican director Michel Franco's thriller "New Order" and historic drama "Wife of a Spy" by Japan's Kiyoshi Kurosawa won Silver Lions for Grand Jury Prize and best director, respectively.
The best actress trophy went to British star Vanessa Kirby for her compelling turn as a grieving mother in Hungarian filmmaker Kornel Mundruczo's "Pieces of a Woman" . Italian star Pierfrancesco Favino took best actor for Claudio Noce’s true-life terrorist thriller "Padrenostro". "Dear Comrades" , a black-and-white recreation of a 1962 Soviet massacre of striking factory workers, directed by Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky, took the Special Jury prize.