Nominated for: In Competition Feature Films
The Violin Player follows a day in the life of a failed Bollywood session violinist whose life revolves around ‘remarkable nothingness’. He catches the attention of a stranger (Adil Hussain) in a train station, who then offers him an opportunity to score his film. What occurs is a truly unexpected journey, both literally as they walk through unknown back alleys of the city, and emotionally as he uncovers some surprising information. This is filmmaker Bauddhayan Mukherji’s second feature film; it is here where he shows a very impressive aptitude for balancing pathos with a lightness that means that the piece doesn’t make you sink into a pit of despair.
Ritwick Chakraborty is the violin player. Chakraborty’s face is a tapestry of emotion, with exceptionally open and raw expressions and he manages to turn a man of very few words into a highly expressive character. He communicates the boredom of his mundane life, the passion he feels while playing the violin, and the fury at his wife all without saying a word. This makes it entirely understandable that he is up for Raindance’s ‘Best Actor’ award.
As one may assume from the title, the soundtrack is primarily that of a violin. The depth and emotion this adds to the piece is incomparable, the soaring notes of the score just drags you along on the emotional rollercoaster that is The Violin Player. It isn’t just violin, though, the soundtrack of everyday life – be it the trains, traffic, or shouting in the streets – only serve to add to the atmosphere Mukherji has created. There is a sense that the world is going on around him, and he is just not going anywhere in his life: the everlasting still in the eye of a storm. This only becomes more apparent with the blackouts the character has, almost as if he is closing his eyes to block everything out so as not to deal with reality.
“Every moment of the film is rich with colour, even the dreariest tasks have a beautiful colour palette”
This feature was highly unusual in its length and story. As it was only a day in the life, it was more of a snapshot than a full-bodied story. It also had the disconcerting feeling of a short, and at only 70 minutes long, it is certainly a short feature. Yet, somehow, it works. Each scene is extended and explored, indeed the opening is an extended shot of the man reading a newspaper while grunting monosyllabic answers to his frustrated wife (Nayani Dixit). Though there are times where the elongated scenes test your concentration and interest, they do manage to stay just inside the realms of intrigue. In large part, this is due to Mukherji’s gift for vibrant cinematography.
Mukherji appeared to take great joy in all of the imagery in each scene. Every moment of the film is rich with colour, even the dreariest tasks – like washing the dishes, or hanging the laundry – have a beautiful colour palette. India is beautifully portrayed, as the vitality and pace of life are fully represented throughout. Attention to detail was obviously paid, with hectic scenes of trains, stations, and roads all shot with precision and vivacity.
Unsurprisingly, it was the violin that stole the show. The stunningly evocative music completely throws you into the emotional storm that Chakraborty’s character is going through. It punctuates the film with the melancholy of a broken man, whose sole desire in life seems to be to play violin. It is a gorgeous tale on how expression and artistic beauty can lead to self-discovery.
Image: Bauddhayan Mukherji