It is difficult to categorise debutant director Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad. The trailer and posters give the impression of a horror movie. And sure, Tumbbad is influenced by the genre, borrows from it generously, but it is not your run-of-the-mill horror. Spoiler: it doesn’t have any ghosts, not the kind that the consumer of Hindi cinema is used to, anyway. The movie is creepy, and a couple of scenes were hard to watch because they were truly repellent.
One might say that Tumbbad is also a thriller, but not your quintessential thriller. It does successfully thrill you though, especially when we see Hastar, the demon-god on screen for the first time doing its deed. Vinayak Rao’s (Sohum Shah) grandmother is quite obnoxious as well.
At the face of it, Tumbbad is a cautionary tale. It says in bold, blood-red colour: DO NOT BE GREEDY. DO NOT LET GREED OVERPOWER YOU. And the wonderful thing about the film is that it does so without coming off as preachy. As far as genres are concerned, Tumbbad is like an onion; there are genres within genres, stories within stories, much like the Hindu epic Mahabharat.
The primary plot of the film revolves around one family which believes in the legend of Hastar, the demon-god. According to the lore narrated by the grandmother of the family, Hastar was banished from the face of the Earth for being greedy. He loved food and gold, the two elements the crux of Tumbbad’s narrative is based upon. The family, through their belief in the legend of Hastar, summon him. And what happens next is dramatic, chaotic and compelling.
Set in the 1900s, Tumbbad has a sense of history about it, thanks to the costumes and the setting of the locations. Cinematographer Pankaj Kumar has done a stand-up job as the visuals are arresting. In fact, at times they are so arresting, that you forget that this is a film that is supposed to fill you with a sense of dread and disgust. A word for also the entire cast of the film, who were all credible in their portrayal of the roles given to them. Leading the pack of course was Sohum Shah, who was absolutely grounded in his portrayal of Vinayak Rao, the materialist man with a soft heart.
As Sohum had earlier told indianexpress.com, Tumbbad “has borrowed elements from history, fantasy, drama, horror and thriller. But it is also its own thing, It’s a new thing. You cannot pin it down or attach any label to it. The film changes its colour like a chameleon.”
What is truly refreshing about Tumbbad is that it tells you as a piece of art that it is okay to try something you have never done before. People are afraid to take risks and to invest money and time in something new, but Tumbbad is hopefully an experiment that works in terms of the box office, because if nothing else, it will serve as another stepping stone and encouragement for filmmakers who want to add a different stroke of colour on to the canvas of Hindi cinema.