Few years back, Mahesh Bhatt exclaimed, “Thirst for cinema should be persistent.” Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad is a passionate ode to the resilience and hunger for Cinema. Rahi puts the stakes upright with a sense of familiarity, in a rare case, usually horror films are mounted on an unfamiliar element – based on works of Narayan Dharap. It is about allegory and metaphor: an allegory of destructive nature-about unleashing the inner demons and a metaphor for Mother Nature, a well stands as a symbol for a womb. With Tumbbad, Rahi mounts a familiar notion with a mythological story of Goddess and demon – without any supernatural force acting upon or being cursed, it’s universe faces the curse of greed.
Set from Pre-Independent to Post-Independent India over generations, Vinayak (Sohum Shah) churns out gold coins from a well in a village named Tumbbad in Western Maharashtra. With an ancient mythological backdrop, there’s a hidden treasure and an unbelievably courageous yet greedy anti-hero. Vinayak is all about an anti-hero, whose after the hidden treasure unleashing the demons; here, demons lies in variety ranging from greed for treasure (Vinayak), ancient scriptures and even power (British). Tumbbad is work of style over substance, yet the substance never dilutes – intact, the simplistic nature delivers spikes. Its substance is morality which has an intelligent Screenplay (Rahi Barve, Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Anand Gandhi) which follows a greedy pursuit of a human. It entices about how greed can be malicious and how a surreal illusion can be poured out on celluloid, a definitive insane piece of work which dwells in psyche as well as visual.Rahi Anil Barve’s haunting demon unleashing narrative spikes interest with its simple substance, an amalgamation of folktale mounted with an extraordinary production scale where horror lies in details. Tumbbad slowly reveals its frames where grey couldn’t be distinguished between the atmosphere and the characters. It’s a dark alley whose corridors are low lit prominently juggling in shadows and half lit faces. An immersive subjective experience where yellow-tint, gore red and grey shade magnifies the intensity of a rich built-up. Cinematographer Pankaj Kumar (Haider, Daddy) explores Tumbbad in a visually frames which intensify the affect, more than anything, it disturbs while dwelling in the dark. Kunal Sharma’s Sound Design adds another element, which makes it more intriguing. Detailed Production Design by Nitin Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav transports us in pre-independence era and a womb without a glitch. It’s an atmospheric piece, with gloomy atmospheric curse by incessant rains and heritage reigns. Sohum Shah plays Vinayak, who soaks within incessant rains wrenching into a cold blooded opportunist. Sohum’s eyes speak volumes of need and greed, especially in partially lit frames where Rahi Anil Barve is on-the-edge of introspecting the establishment of an anti-hero. His arresting performance is equally matched by Mohd Samad (Mintu from Haraamkhor), who is despised upon an emotional guilt. While characters become rich, there’s ugliness in the richness – Rahi Anil Barve extracts the monstrosity from the characters as well as the demons.
At times, Tumbbad becomes overwhelming especially with Jesper Kyd’s background score and an unexpected production scale. For ardent followers of horror, Tumbbad doesn’t exactly belong to horror – its reign lies with a distinctive voice from usual offerings in Indian Cinema. Within the characters, there’s resilience for greed – and Tumbbad is a resilient piece of work by Rahi Anil Barve whose decade long vision has finally unleashed on celluloid. There must be flaws, but Rahi Anil Barve achieves what he sets out which beguiles without a hindrance for 113-minutes.
Release: 12 October, 2018
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