Films,  Reviews

Tumbbad: A fable of greed

Gloomy grey skies, incessant dreary downpours and an eerie emptiness that echoes through the length of the film. An abandoned waada enveloped in green moss, antique locks which creak and resound in a lonely house, flickering lanterns which are at the mercy of the wind. A lady with a shaved head in a red saree, drenched to the bone hurries home to cook a meal before her sleepy mother-in-law wakes up. You feel a creepy chill down your spine, as you watch each protagonist step into a world unknown to you.

What lies behind locked doors, buried deep within the earth’s womb? What is the secret that generations have guarded fiercely? Why can’t you turn away even when you have been warned never to go back? The lure of gold. Greed. A monster that needs to be fed to the point of no return.

When one of the readers on my blog insisted that I watch Tumbbad, I was confused. It wasn’t a word I was familiar with, and I presumed it was a Marathi film. But no. This is a Hindi film, and Tumbbad, as I discovered, is the name of a real town in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. But that is where reality ends.

The film is based on a short story by Marathi writer Narayan Dharap. “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” It is with this Mahatma Gandhi quote that Tumbbad opens. It is an allegorical fable which spans over three generations, right from pre-independence until after 1947.

The film is a delicious serve of mythology and takes a deep look into human behaviour. The treatment of the film is very unusual, and it is difficult to slot it into one genre. The sets and the cinematography are exemplary, as is the attention to detail. Apparently the creators waited for four monsoons to get the rain scenes and the grey cloud frames right. It will make your heart miss a beat as you step into a red throbbing womb. Each of the characters is crafted well. Sohum Shah (who plays the main lead) and Mohammad Samad (who plays his son) do a magnificent job of displaying their baser instincts.

I watched Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad’s Tumbbad with absolutely no clue of what I was getting into. Had I been told it was a horror film I might not have not have bothered to watch it at all. But I am so glad I wasn’t prejudiced. Watch it to get sucked into a whirlpool of mysterious dread. It is completely worth the watch. It is currently available on Amazon Prime.

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