A pancharatna (superlative) ghoulish fable in the Indian horror genre that is truly original and Indian in its ethos. TUMBBAD is a path breaker in Indian horror tales that blends the mythology found in the tales of Panchatantra with the pulp horror works of Marathi writer Narayan Dharap with the haunting philosophy “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed,” shared by Mahatma Gandhi.
Opening with the above quote, director Rahi Anil Barve and co director Adesh Prasad’s first feature TUMBBAD starring Sohum Shah, Mohammad Samad & Jyoti Malshe is a testimony of changing times when banners like Eros, Colour Yellow, actor and co producer Sohum Shah and Anand Gandhi (SHIP OF THESEUS) get together for a genre bending battle of the good v/s evil that is atmospheric in its imaginative leap and laced with goose bumps.
Writers Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Rahi Anil Barve & Anand Gandhi create a mysterious world of a cursed rain drenched village TUMBBAD, somewhere near the city Pune in Maharashtra. It’s circa 19th century, the British are ruling India. Young Vinayak (Dhundiraj Prabhakar Jogalekar) son of a widowed mother (Jyoti Malshe) has a family heritage. The widowed mother is looking after an ailing old man – the grandfather of Vinayak while his chained-up grandmother is possessed and rotting. Vinayak comes to know about a hidden treasure believed to be hidden inside Mother Earth’s womb (where the evil greedy Hastar – son of the mother earth is locked). Hastar wanted all – Mother Earth’s wealth and food, he got the wealth but when he tried to steal all the food, faced retaliation and got trapped in the womb (the story of Hastar is narrated at the beginning). Vinayak’s mother feeds the possessed grandmother who is only scared of Hastar. In an incident, Vinayak loses his younger brother and almost falls prey to the hunger of the possessed grandmother but gets saved. The old man in the household has expired and a gold mudra (coin) is the proud collection of Vinayak’s mother. But Vinayak is possessed by the desire to find that treasure and gain all the riches. Having lost her younger son and lucky that Vinayak is still alive, Vinayak’s mother forces Vinayak to swear that he will never return to Tumbbad and forget about the treasure. Without divulging much detail, we conclude by saying that Vinayak grows up (played by Sohum Shah) nursing that desire to find the treasure and what follows is a cryptically surreal maze of desire, need and greed with haunting and creepy layers that enthralls in its philosophical motives that comes with metaphors and scares you to hell whenever the ‘real’ evil encounters with the protagonist and the viewer. The married Vinayak passes the legacy to his teenage son Pandurang (Mohammad Samad), like a family business and Pandurang is greedier than his father depicting a classic simile of times where greed is on rise with growing times and era.
TUMBBAD is a technical marvel, the eye rolling; popping and mystical production design by Nitin Zihani Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav is vibrant, oozy and rustically creepy. The portions where Vinayak begins his search for the treasure and goes deep within is captivating and haunting to the hilt. The best part comes during the climax which is the hallmark of a superior/great horror flick, the VFX done by Sean Wheelan and Filmgate Films in Sweden and the CG creation of Hastar are spine chilling. DOP Pankaj Kumar's breathtaking cinematography in that smoky dark mood gives the movie its required shade right from the first frame and it never deviates in maintaining that mystic feeling. Jesper Kyd's score is stimulating while Kunal Sharma’s sound is apt. Smriti Chauhan & Sachin Lovalekar’s costumes are realistic, Serina Mendonca Texeira & Shrikant Desai’s make up deserve special mention, prosthetics and special effects make up by Dirty Hands, Studio Hash is outstanding. Action by Parvez Shaikh is fantastic.
Sohum Shah excels as the greedy villager who only thinks about money, how to get it and how to spend it, his greed is what makes him scary. TUMBBAD is uniquely rare and the reason why it’s a path breaker is being ‘fearless’ in exploring the fear of the unknown also from the unconventional zones, there is a demon but the trait and mindset of the protagonist is equally scary as well. Sohum Shah as an actor gives justice to the demands and does a commendable job.
Anita Date as Vinayak’s caring loving wife is very natural. Raghav as Vinayak friend has its moments. Jyoti Malshe as the young Vinayak’s mother is studious. Dhundhiraj Prabhakar Jogalekar as the young Vinayak is fantastic. Ronjini Chakraborty as Vinayak’s mistress is marvelous and Mohd. Samad as the teenage son of Vinayak is brilliant.
On the flipside, the movie may not be ideal for those looking for a standard product in the horror genre and not for those who have a very weak heart.
It’s certain that this fear of the unknown TUMBBAD, opens the gate for true blue Indian horrors, stories with Indian ethos and folklore dipped in haunting resonance of fear within and outside with a humanitarian message.
When did we had this unique experience in a horror flick, picture this – A striking image of flour on the face of a Brahmin boy in the beginning during the pre independence era ( in search of treasure) and the image of flour on the face of workers working in a mill during the end reels in the post independence era ( hard work a must for fulfilling basic needs) haunts and probes in its cinematic expression on one hand and sends shivers down your spine in another scene when the ‘hungry’ for ages Haster comes out from the womb for his flour (food) and releases those gold coins.. for the greedy Vinayak.