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Tumbbad Review – A Metaphorical Marvel

Tumbbad (2018)

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Directed By: Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad

Cast: Sohum Shah, Mohammad Samad, Anita Date, Harish Khanna, Ronjini Chakraborty

Language: Hindi

Tumbbad is a fable of morality in which man is consumed by greed. The movie directed by debutant Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad took 6 years in making. A metaphorical marvel, Tumbbad is a visual treat which builds up the horror and jolts you upright with its just conclusion.

Do you remember the fable about a farmer with the golden egg laying hen? Tumbbad also follows similar trajectory but is conjured up with some real horrors. The movie begins in 1918 in a small village called Tumbbad where a widow with her two sons Vinayak and Sadashiv are taking care of a ghoulish old woman. The woman is always kept chained and she only either eats or sleeps. To make her sleep they have to say the words “Sleep, or Hastar will come”. The why and what of this question, Tumbbad doesn’t care to explain explicitly.

Vinayak’s mother (Jyoti Malshe) works under a local lord doing him favors in hope of getting a gold coin. Brought up in poverty, Vinayak turns out greedier and wants more. He is even willing to torture the old woman to find the location of the supposedly great treasure hidden somewhere in the mansion they have inherited. After Sadashiv’s death they both leave Tumbbad only for the grown up Vinayak to come back for the treasure. Vinayak (Sohum shah) marries, becomes rich and has a son Pandurang (Mohammad Samad). Pandurang hilariously grows up to be greedier than Vinayak.

Greed grows exponentially across generations. And like the farmer wanting all the golden eggs at once they hatch a similar plan and all hell breaks loose. The outcome of the event is just and scary and brings to life all the metaphors up to that point.

Talking about the treasure- we are all children of the Goddess of Prosperity and Hastar being her first born is her favorite. Hastar is greedy and due to some turn of events comes to possess all the wealth (infinite) of the world. He gets into a tussle with other Gods and as a punishment the goddess confines him to her womb. Hastar has all the gold but he desires food, a beautiful metaphor that you may have all the wealth in the world but deep down the heart desires only the simple pleasures of life.

Vinayak discovers the womb and Hastar dwelling inside it. I love the fact that the audience at first could mistake Hastar for being the beast when in fact all the time its Vinayak who tortures Hastar. A beautiful metaphor that while people search for the demon outside it always lurks within.

Tumbbad’s brilliance lies in the imagery and the direction. Images like a boy covered in flour or a hag seen only through a hole at the bottom of a door rake up the horror. Directors have not cared to explain stuff explicitly and kept metaphor as the theme of the movie. Tumbbad has painstakingly included a lot of detail in its visual imagery: the womb of the goddess is like a catacomb of flesh and blood; the eerie, haunted haveli in the eerie, haunted, always drenched village bring out a sense of desolation and fear. Watch out for the scene when the father-son duo go for the kill. These visuals are like images out of some painting combining darkness and fire with the blood red.

Set from 1918 to post independence Tumbbad captures the political and cultural aspects of India very well. From a brahmin hoarding wealth and not sharing, to using women only for sex and household chores.

Watch Tumbbad as this is nothing like Indian cinema has ever conjured before. And please share your rating above.

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