Review Hindi

Tumbbad review: Deliciously morbid and fascinatingly metaphorical

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 12 Oct 2018 / Rated: A / 01hr 44min

Suparna Thombare

Director Rahi Anil Barve creates a visually rich fantastical film that blends the horror, period drama and fantasy genres. 

Greed is a bottomless pit. And the greed of Tumbbad protagonist Vinayak (Soham Shah) makes him lower himself deep into the earth's womb, quite literally, to collect gold coins from the langoti (loin cloth) of Hastar, first-born son of the Goddess of Plenty. Hastar was barred from being worshipped as he unfairly acquired the world's wealth. But while he has all the world's riches, he has been hungry for centuries.

The story follows three generations of a Brahmin family in Maharashtra beginning in 1918 and leading up to India's independence in 1947. While the goddess protected Hastar in her womb and saved him from death on the condition that a temple is never built in his name, the people of Tumbbad worship him.

Incessant rain, darkness inside and out, and greed drive this folklorish horror period drama.

A few minutes in and the cries and wails from Vinayak's old great-grandmother, a chained monster who is revealed in a nail-biting and hair-raising scene soon after, will fill your heart with fear from the word go. They must feed her while she sleeps. A glimpse at her cringeworthy feet and nails is enough to set the stage for darker truths that are revealed through creatively constructed sequences.

Vinayak's greed for the treasure drives him back to the same village 15 years after he and his mother (Jyoti Malshe) were forced to flee from there.

Pankaj Kumar's cinematography, creating momentous scenes through smokey lighting and constant movement, drive the narrative and support the meticulous production design by Nitin Zihani Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav.

The red womb, an endless pit, the hazy rainy outdoor shots, a woman soaking wet in a red sari, a flour-covered young boy and the cringe-worthy monsters create evocative images you will take with you when you leave the theatre.

The beautiful cinematography contrasts the constant looming danger of the screenplay brilliantly.

This is a well-written film (screenplay by Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Anand Gandhi and Barve), executed with brilliance by director Barve, creative-director Gandhi and co-director Prasad.

Apart from being a visual treat, there are several metaphors that add depth to this fantastical film.

Generations of privileged individuals have been feeding the demon or evil by offering him human-shaped flour dolls (could be read as innocent or powerless people in society) and stealing the riches to fulfil their endless greed.

There are many layers and you are bound to continue making new discoveries about the meaning and intent of certain characters and scenes even days after you watch this film.

The makers also explore themes of toxic masculinity where women are either objects of sex or confined to house work.

Tumbbad is an important film because a layered genre film of this quality is a rarity — one with a fascinating tale that is deliciously morbid and deeply metaphorical at the same time.

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