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Posted at: Oct 12, 2018, 5:03 PM; last updated: Oct 12, 2018, 5:03 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: TUMBBAD

Quite a treasure, this one

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Film: Tumbbad

  • Cast: Sohum Shah, Mohammad Samad, Anita Date, Deepak Damle, Jyoti Malshe
  • Directors: Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad
Quite a treasure, this one
A still from Tumbbad

Nonika Singh

Tales of greed we all have grown up listening to. Our mythology undeniably is replete with constant reminders of how  obsessive materialism is the biggest undoing of mankind and even divinity for that matter. But when Tumbbad builds a fantasy-laden allegorical visual statement of the same, you are drawn into its vortex. 

Without blinking an eye you are led into a world far removed from any that we witness in modern day. And, just as the hero Vinayak (Sohum Shah) is sucked up in the morass, the director duo holds you captive. 

The narrative alternates between myth and reality, the line fusing in this surreal experience which is magical and horrific at the same time. The myth and the story are set in Tumbbad, a village somewhere in western Maharashtra. The year is 1918. Here lives a pervert old man and his mistress and their two sons. The eldest son is in quest of a hidden treasure that has a link with a mythological fable and his lineage. 

In the initial rushes we are told of a goddess and her firstborn Hastar, whose worship was forbidden because of his rapacity.

How the myth repeats itself in the 20th century… the parable between insatiable human avarice and the demon in the divine is etched with stunning effect. The period setting is equally well drawn and history of those times manifests by way of small things; a gramophone, a motorcycle and finally a car. 

Special effects add to the elements of horror and suspense filling us with dread and anticipation.

Bit by bit the layers of fable unfold, as of Vinayak’s persona whose unquenchable desire is like a vicious cycle. The atmospherics of Tumbbad itself are like a character, breathing on you as heavily as the first rate technology used to lend the fantastical flavour.

Lest you forget, intermittently the film reminds you it’s a fantasy by dividing it into chapters. With the title derived from Shripad Narayan Pendse's Marathi novel, Tumbadche Khot, it unveils chapter wise and you know somewhat what the final denouement would be like and brace for the worst. 

Once again directors surprise you. Presence of Vinayak’s son, who seems to be like the father who in a way was like his own, adds yet another piquant touch to the film as well as elevates it. 

Spanning three generations caught in the trap and abhishaap, if the story is multi-layered, the treatment is rich. 

Peopled with limited characters, expectedly Sohum Shah is the fulcrum. The fact that he retained his look for six long years which is the time it took for the film to be in the production stage speaks volumes for his dedication. The intensity of his involvement with his character shows, without him 

going even a bit overboard as he etches this lust-fuelled man you are as repulsed by as empathetic towards him. The glint in his eye, fear and terror manifest in Shah’s body language and he slips into his part. As do other characters, not a single one out of place or out of sync with the tone and tenor of the film. 

Treasure hunt has been thrilling in many a Hollywood film, but in its home grown Indian avatar it comes imbued with just the right lessons. Just as all our Indian fables end, this one has a moralistic connotation sans sermons. In terms of cinematic language it gives another lesson, opulent alone is not rich. Rather aesthetics is. Watch it to know visual feast is not just grandeur and fables live in us.

nonikasingh@tribunemail.com

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