Tumbbad was made during a period of 6 years, says actor-producer Sohum Shah, and that was only after he came on board director Rahi Anil Barve's period horror project set during the pre-independence era. The indie concept of a man who loses only to himself went on floor several times and was picked by different production houses before each one backed out.
A maverick producer, Sohum, who was an outsider in the industry and was taking a risk with Tumbbad, showed faith in the story and rest as they say is history. Tumbbad not only surprised every one with its slow-burn narrative, it scared the living daylights out of some-- exactly what it was supposed to do.
Sohum also stars in the film as Vinayak Rao and confesses that it was not easy for him as an actor to stay loyal to the film's character. It is a surprise then that he pulls off the role with such conviction. "I had to sacrifice a lot during the six years that Tumbbad was realised. I had to leave many projects and in between that I had to undergo physical transformation for other films as well. It was not easy sailing. It was particularly difficult to hold on to the psychology of my character in Tumbbad, and work still to maintain that consistency. I have done a lot of hard work that people don't see on-screen but now when the film has been received well, I am elated at being a part of this journey."
It was difficult but at the same time I was in love with the concept of Tumbbad. I used to think, at this point, what better film could I have made, as an actor, as a producer? I was sold by the story of Tumbbad and was convinced that if we make a good film and put in all our effort, it will reach the audience, no matter what."
Tumbbad is a treat in details. The film is set before India was liberated and the markets, house, castle and people had to belong to the era, to reflect authenticity of the times it was set in. Creating an atmosphere of the 1900s is what Tumbbad achieves with incredible mastery. "We put in a lot of effort in getting the art right. We created a set for the scenes where we show the womb of the goddess in the film. The market was a set too. Even the locks were special, belonging to the period. We put in a lot of hard work in costumes and production design. Add to the fact that there was no reference point for all this! Tumbbad was entirely new and an unseen film, which in itself was difficult to achieve, but we did it eventually."
Rahi had prepared a storyboard of 600 pages and he used to brief everyone based on that. It was easier for us to understand his vision based on the storyboard, which can also be seen on-screen."
Shooting a film is a task, but promoting it and generating an enthusiasm among people, who may want to see it, is also primary for filmmakers. Nerves are sure to set their way in. About this Sohum says, "When the film had completed principal photography, we were shaking with anxiety. the film was finally complete after six years but another battle was to be won. We were nervous about getting the distributors on board, getting the audience to somehow see it.
"But we had faith in Tumbbad and luckily we did not have to struggle so much in that case. Anand L Rai came in the project and got us Eros. Anand's team, combined with Eros, took care of everything related to the release once the film was complete. Sure, it had no known faces. The producer, director, actor, everyone was new, but we got love from the audience because we had put in so much effort and that is the true reward."
Uncertainty was the hand that Sohum and his team was dealt with, but tenacity sailed them through the tough times. "I used to get frustrated because I had not planned that I will make a film in 6 years. We had planned a release date of April 2013 but it released in October 2018. But I suppose everyone has to fight their demons, their fears. Life teaches you that all that happens is for a cause. Looking back, I also feel that if it had released in 2013-14, it would not have got the response it has now. Netflix and other sites has made edgier content more appealing to audience. Things luckily changed in favour of Tumbbad and I have made my peace with it."
Tumbbad is in the running for Best Film at the upcoming Reel Movie Awards 2019 where it will compete against Raazi, Badhaai Ho, Stree and AndhaDhun. Sohum admits that the recognition feels special to him. "Our efforts feel validated by the fact that our film has received such notice. I feel proud of the crew and each and everyone of them who have given their precious time to the film. I am delighted at receiving the nomination."
Tumbbad is atmospheric and horror brought to life in each frame. Courtesy of the sustained effort of the technical crew, the masterpiece of a film, Tumbbad, also has nominees in Best Director (Rahi Anil Barve), Best Cinematography (Pankaj Kumar), Best Background Score (Jesper Kyd), Best Editing (Sanyukta Kaza), Best Production Design (Nitin Zihani Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav), Best Costume (Smriti Chauhan and Sachin Lovalekar) and Best Sound (Kunal Sharma) categories at the Reel Movie Awards 2019.
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