His intention is to jolt the viewers from passivity and transport them to a land of incessant rain and remorseless greed. “The focus is not on ‘showing’ a rainy village in 1918; it is to drag the viewer from his chair and throw him into that rainy village where he can smell the earth, and experience the events by staying close to the characters,” says Mumbai-based filmmaker Rahi Anil Barve, about his debut feature film Tumbad.
To be produced by Recyclewala Labs, makers of the critically-acclaimed Ship of Theseus, Tumbad (named after a village) is a period horror film, set in the pre-Independence era, on three generations of a Brahmin family in Pune, . “The film revolves around a person’s deepest fear — indifference,” says Barve. It releases later this year.
His award-winning 41-minute Marathi film Manjha was added as an exclusive special feature in the Blu-ray discs of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-sweeping Slumdog Millionaire. “Ever since I remember, I wanted to make films. But I didn’t know how I would go about it. I didn’t pursue college, but started taking odd jobs at the age of 15. I learnt animation for these jobs. When they brought a semblance of financial stability, I started working on my film dream,” he says.
Barve confesses that while working on Manjha seven years ago, his knowledge of the craft was elementary. “I hadn’t even heard the names of directors who are my favourites now. My initial ideas of how to take shots and my approach to visual structure was raw. Pankaj Kumar (cinematographer of Ship of Theseus) taught me how to gather my thoughts through visuals,” he says.
He takes the title from the well-known Marathi novel Tumbad che khot.Barve says, “My film is not based on the novel. SN Pendse was a great writer and a contemporary of my grandfather — poet, composer and freedom fighter Amar Sheikh. After his death, I was looking for an apt title for my film. I first borrowed it as a working title. It has simply stayed on,” he says.
Barve says that the original draft for Tumbad was ready by mid-2007. “My first producer backed out in June 2008. Finally, in the monsoon of 2012, we shot in the rain at age-old locations, where no human had ventured for at least a 100 years. For me, Tumbad’s locations, the feel of its stuffy air, and the lonely rainy atmosphere that defies the feeling of time’s passage is as central as its characters,” says Barve.
The film has almost no dialogues and has been shot with constant physical movement and few cuts. “In these four years, I had ample time to research the cultural milieu of British India in ’20s, the economy, people, houses and vehicles of that time,” says Barve. He also had opportunities to obsess over minute details, such as the decay of wood over 1,500-3,000 years or the paper that went in British currency notes in the period.
Barve’s next venture is a mythological thriller set in ancient India, titled Rakta-Bramhand, followed by his third film, Ashwalinga — a period-based risque musical comedy.