Cast: Sohum Shah
Director: Rahi Anil Barve
A man with a chiselled body, tense face and dreamy eyes is looking out of a bus window. He is worried but looks aggressive, as if ready to counter whatever may come. On reaching his stop, he heads straight to a fort that’s been battling bad weather and incessant rain for centuries. In trying to open the old fort’s massive gate, his arched body resembles a bowstring ready to be released. He is about to enter a world of dark tales and uncontainable greed, a world that has Hastar — Mother Nature’s eldest son who is hungry since the beginning of time.
Director Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad, which has more mysteries than people, is a unique combination of horror, drama and folktales. Its lead Vinayak (Sohum Shah) is unapologetically greedy but unbelievably courageous. In the beginning of the 1900s, he had to leave his village where his family — mother and a brother — put up with a woman who is chained and scared of Hastar. One day, after the sudden death of the brother, they leave the village, but Vinayak returns after a couple of decades to find out a treasure that’s hidden somewhere in the old fort of the village.
The film takes a totally different turn once it establishes the basic set-up of lush green fields, tall trees and wet paths. The makers seem to know what they want from Tumbbad — a place with charming beauty and conniving supernatural agencies. They entice, engage and egg you on to the womb of Mother Nature, which is absolving everything inside it.
Cinematographer Pankaj Kumar (Ship of Theseus, Haider, Rangoon, Daddy) creates a world of red monsters, gloomy surroundings and yellow-tinged long shots, taking you straight into the mouth of dangerous creatures. It’s Pankaj who has given Sohum Shah the glorious world he so magnificently operates in.
However, Tumbbad has more pretense than substance. It is divided into three parts which don’t really add anything to the natural progression of Sohum’s Vinayak. His acting conveys the details better. There are also attempts to make Tumbbad look like a social commentary. Scenes written around the Indian independence appear like afterthoughts, merely added to give the film a ‘serious’ feel. Unfortunately, they don’t stick and Tumbbad essentially remains a tale of Vinayak’s pursuits.
In fact, you may soon realise that the central theme is pretty simple and can’t be interpreted in many ways. It’s actually the screenplay’s intelligent execution, thanks to Sohum and Pankaj, that deceptively makes the film look layered.
But that doesn’t take away Tumbbad’s achievements. The narrative, however unassuming, has been beautifully woven for celluloid. The film is intriguing, sometimes even absurd, but you’ll glide through its 104-minute duration. Tumbbad’s biggest success is that it doesn’t confine to any popular genre. It offers something new and that’s enough.
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