Set during the British Raj and divided into four chapters, the central premise of Tumbbad rests on a family secret. A metaphor for man’s greed, the film combines psychology, storytelling, mythology, and morality into a visually potent and sordid combination.
The visuals are rich and remind one of a graphic novel spilling over into film. The notion of evil is stitched into the fabric of every frame, and presents a despondent and dreary world. Hunger, both literal and metaphorical, is utilised to depict a void that is so great it threatens to consume.
Before the film begins, we are introduced to a famous quote: “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need, but not for man’s greed.” The atmospherics of Tumbbad — right from the perennial rain to the dark frames to the sleazy protagonists — tie completely into the film’s logic of depicting man’s moral decline.
While the film does not have a glamorous star cast, each actor does justice to their role. Sohum Shah deserves a special mention for his powerful acting as the anti-hero of the film.
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Another element worth noting is the absence of songs, an inextricable — and usually annoying — part of mainstream Bollywood. There is a single song that is used in different ways at various points throughout the film which acts as a nice touch, and plays into the overall theme of a world ignored and forgotten by the gods.
I feel very proud of Indian cinema in the recent times for churning out truly thought-provoking and experimental stuff.
Yes, Tumbbad is a horror film, but it is also much more than that. Try and watch this one for your next movie night; it’ll be a heady ride.
By Soven Trehan
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