Tumbbad is all about imagery. It is an experience that enhances your senses, one in particular - the visual imagery in the film is hauntingly vivid. Hues of red, orange, black, green, blue paint the canvas in shades that leave an indelible impression on your mind. Like the canvas it paints, Tumbbad also has a mysterious folklore that forms a major part of its narrative.
What's it about
Like a child tucked in bed, yearning to hear a good bed time story, you are pulled into the tale of a strange deity buried in the womb of an old house in the early 1918s, and has access to worldly treasures. Directors, Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad, waste no time to create this eerie atmosphere from the very first scene. Set in Tumbbad the story pulls you in with its strange plotline that goes beyond logic and reasoning. Instead, once you suspend the want to question what you are witnessing, you are in for a rich reward. Sohum Shah plays the protagonist and we witness Tumbbad through his eyes. The story time travels from the time he's a child right to his old age, when India about to be independent of the British rule. Tumbbad's haveli and the well, which has access to gold and wealth, becomes the centre of the film's plot. As we enter the second half of the film, the pace picks up, with Sohum's character wondering if life is all about accumulating material needs or is there more to it than just amassing wealth.
Like I said Tumbadd is a visually arresting experience. Perhaps the best this year. The camera work, the background score, the location, costumes - everything is in sync to ensure we are trapped in this mystical world. A lot of detailing has gone into ensuring we time travel to that era and the Marathi culture becomes the forefront of the story-telling. Everyone loves a good horror story and Tumbbad promises more than just blood and gore. If you dig in deep, the subject that the film deals with is human greed - the never-ending desire to want more, to accumulate and stock up wealth that might not necessarily quench the human thirst for material needs. Performances are first rate, especially Sohum, who becomes this character grappling with balancing his life between living the riches Tumbbad has provided and ensuring he has a normal family life. Cinematography by Pankaj Kumar is outstanding and every frame has a rich feel to it. Production designers, Nitin Zihani Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav, deserve a special mention for bringing Tumbbad alive. There is also a lot of make up, VFX and special effects work that has gone into the making of the film. There are moments that are gory and gruesome to watch, but they all fit in with the genre and mysterious storyline.
For the faint-hearted, Tumbbad might be an unsettling experience. It's hard to put the film in a box or label it with a genre and that isn't really a bad thing. It's folklore with a horror twist and enough drama to keep you engrossed. We wish there was more backdrop to the story of the deity and the history of Tumbbad.
What to do
Tumbbad is perhaps this year's most visually-stunning experience. Watch it if you love a good folk-story with a twisted end.
PS - Don't watch the film after a heavy meal!
4.0 out of 5
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