Banners: Sohum Shah Films, Colour Yellow Productions
Producers: Sohum Shah, Aanand L Rai, Mukesh Shah, Amita Shah
Director: Rahi Anil Barve
Co-director: Adesh Prasad
Cast: Sohum Shah, Jyoti Malshe, Dhundhiraj Prabhakar Jogalekar, Anita Date, Deepak Damle, Ronjini Chakraborty, Mohd. Samad
Writers: Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Rahi Anil Barve, Anand Gandhi
Music: Ajay-Atul, Jesper Kyd
There are some films that you see and some that you experience. No amount of writing about it will be able to tell you what the film is and what you can expect from it. Tumbbad is one such film. And what is more challenging is slotting the film into a genre. It is a period fantasy horror drama, with a message added in. So many things packed into one film and things could have gone wrong in a big way! But Tumbbad manages to tick most of the boxes.
The film starts with Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” And this is the premise on which the entire film is based. We are introduced to an old folktale about the Goddess of Plenty. She is the mother of the universe and it is through her womb that all the Gods were born. But her favourite is her first born, Hastar. The Goddess has an unending source of food and wealth that Hastar wants all for himself. He manages to get hold of the wealth, but before he can lay his hands on the food, the other Gods try to destroy him. His mother saves him, but on condition that there would be no temple for him on earth. But humans are known to challenge the status quo and a certain family in Tumbbad builds a temple for Hastar, unleashing a chain of unfortunate and evil events.
Sarkar is the last survivor of this family. And in his service is a widow. She works for him and takes care of his great grandmother in her house, all in the hope that Sarkar would give her gold coins. She has two sons, Vinayak and Sadashiv. Vinayak is a greedy young boy and all he wants is to find the hidden treasure in Sarkar’s house. But things take a turn when Sarkar dies of old age and Sadashiv, in a freak accident. Vinayak’s mother decides to leave Tumbbad for good, abandoning the old woman to die. But Vinayak has no intention of letting go of the wealth and despite promising his mother that he would never come back, makes the trip after 15 years.
This journey to Tumbbad starts of a cycle of events that leads Vinayak to prosperity and success, but at the same time unleashes a curse of loss and despair. How does Vinayak deal with all of this? Who is Hastar and what role does he play in Vinayak’s life? Is there an end to the chaos? This is what rest of the film explores.
What makes Tumbbad a treat is the writing and the music. The film unfolds like an engaging novel. Every page you turn, there is something interesting happening. There is not a single frame that you would want to take your eyes off. The camera work is impeccable. Most of the film is shot in the monsoon, but the torrential rains add to the drama in every scene. The film traverses through 1918 to post Independence. As the story moves ahead, so do all the background elements. The British Raj, the Independence movement, the post freedom era… all this is presented subtly yet effectively through production design and costumes. The musical score and songs, as well as the background score weave into the narrative effortlessly. But the biggest mention here must be for the visual effects and prosthetic makeup. They manage to give you the chills when needed.
This film is definitely not for the weak hearted - some of the scenes are not just grotesque, but disturbing. The pace of the movie, especially in the beginning, may seem too slow, but Tumbbad progresses like a novel, and as you turn each page, the pace of the narrative accelerates.
Performance-wise, Sohum Shah as Vinayak is the driving force. Jyoti Malshe, who plays his mother, Anita Date, his wife, and Mohd Samad, who plays his young son, along with a great supporting cast manage to bring alive on screen a story that you would not want to miss.
Verdict: Don’t miss this experience called Tumbbad!