Tumbbad Movie Review: This superbly crafted film defies all stereotypical genres

“Avarice is the root of all evils” is a proverb that we have all heard and numerous are the stories with that moral etched in our memories. Tumbadd is a very unusually told story that arrives at probably the same message after taking us through the dark and dingy labyrinths full of creepers, cobwebs, old dilapidated houses terrifying creatures and lots of gold.

This period drama /mystery thriller/horror directed by debutant Anil Rahi Bharve is inspired by work of a Marathi writer Narayan Dharap. A very interesting mythological folklore that its based on is that Hastar was the first born of mother of all Gods. He duped the gods to get access to all the Goddess’ treasure but got cursed to be hidden and always craved for food. And he lies buried somewhere in a village called Tumbbad in Maharashtra.

The story opens in a pre independence 19th century village that made a temple for Hastar who was not supposed to be worshipped. And due to wrath of Gods , is now perennially drenched by rains. A very very intriguing plot I must say.

Watch the trailer here:

And then we are introduced to the characters. A mysterious poor woman with two sons, a shrewd old man who is the father of one of the two boys,a terrifying creature-ish old woman who is permanently shackled and locked, a young boy who wants to seek the treasure but is deterred by his mother inspite of their abject poverty for she knows the treasure is cursed.

The young boy Vinayak (Sohum Shah,the subtle and bright actor from Simran) grows up and comes back to the village to find the treasure. And the story goes on to tell us if he finds the gold, what is the curse ,is he able to escape its wrath ,does that make him happy and what happens when he takes his son on the treasure hunt .

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Its the atmospherics that sets apart this psychological drama that uses its period setting to perfection to create that dark, gloomy, dark lit , poverty ridden atmosphere. The mud houses, the constant rain , dark clouds have been used well to create a canvas of constant gloom by cinematographer Pankaj Kumar ( Haider, Rangoon, Daddy ). I think I could easily call him the king of gloom and dark frames. The only difference is that this time , he adds a lurking fear of evil.

Just like when I watched Revenant that made me fearful of the snow and cold, the wet and drenched frames here would make you crave for the sun and the constant darkness would make you glad when you step out into brightness , of light and of life.

There’s a lot of metaphorical interpretation that could be seen in this deft narrative. The people here who get cursed due to the greed basically just sleep and eat, for decades till they attain “ moksh”. Sounds like a boon ,yet its a curse. Courage can get you treasures but greed can lead you to doom.

But beware of the slow pace and lingering frames. There are bit of unsightly scenes that might make u cringe. And the horror is not that typical jerky or spooky horror. Instead there ‘s a constant unease and lurking fear of doom and evil.

Sohum Shah gives a very superb portrayal of the layered character of Vinayak. Sometimes you find him justified, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes grey and sometimes uninterpretable. The rest of the cast give a befitting support.

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The art direction is superb,creating a very authentic pre independence old world in Maharashtra. Screenplay by Mithilesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Rahi Anil Bharve and Anand Gandhi deserves all credits for the intriguing narrative that defies all stereotypical genres.

This movie has a mix of mythological folklore, period setting , mystery thriller, horror and lots of metaphorical meanings some of which they leave unanswered. Watch it for any or all of the above and for a cinema that serves you something different and atypical .

Score 7 on 10

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