Eye For Film >> Movies >> Tumbbad (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
The grandmother in this dark horror fable from Rahi Anil Barve (along with co-director Adesh Prasad and creative director Anand Gandhi) makes Red Riding Hood's gran look like a pussycat. She sleeps, chained in the hovel occupied by Vinayak (Dhundiraj Prabhakar Jogalekar, in childhood, voiced by Malhar Pravin Damle) along with his mother (Jyoti Malshe) and brother, and must be fed at a certain hour or she will wake up. Vinyak's mother usually takes care of the duty, but first she has to perform deeds of an even more unsavoury nature with a man who appears to be both Vinayak's grandfather and father.
If his doesn't get home on time, Vinyak doesn't really want to know what might happen but, on the other hand, he would like to know how to get his hand's on the old man's wealth. What occurs will be just the first of the film's chilling encounters with the monstrous, with the creatures allowed to create a sense of tension and fear long before we actually see them in the (less than fresh) flesh.
The film has an elaborate mythological set-up, which tells of an Earth Mother and her greedy baby Hastar, who Vinayak's family have become tied to down the generations, but despite its apparent early openness, the action mostly hinges on the mysterious. A classic and sensible choice, given that everyone knows that unseen, suggested monsters are often rendered more frightening by our own imaginations.
Barve builds the action around the secret of the treasure - once Vinyak discovers it - judiciously drip-feeding in details of how, as an adult (now played by Mitesh Shah - who is also a co-writer - sporting a moustache worthy of Hercule Poirot), he travels back to Tumbbad regularly from Pune arriving home, each time with different amounts of valuable gold coins. The idea of his greed is set up at an early stage in the film and Shah admirably embodies a man who is driven by all his appetites. His friend Raghav (Deepak Damle putting in a winning character turn) soon also finds the lure of Mammon too great, leading - both him and us to discover what Vinyak has been keeping to himself all this time. If we have, ourselves, become greedy to know exactly what the secret is by this point, Barve certainly does not disappoint, drawing on his previous groundwork to present an 'underworld' environment of elaborate and visceral proportions.
Even once we do find out what lies at the bottom of the mansion's well, Barve has some remaining tricks up his sleeve as the ageing Vinyak decides its time for his lame son to take up the family business.
The set-up here is specifically Indian, but the ideas are those that inhabit a thousand and one fairy tales, from the greed that drives the action to the elaborate doors and locks that are often glimpsed, or the monsters that speak in honeyed tongues laced with promises. Although set against the Raj, Barve and his team seem little interested in the action of the day, preferring the ancient threats instead, and it's a pity that the mother/whore ideas that are floating about in the background never quite coalesce as they might. But given that the film is packed with plot, it propels you past so fast you barely notice.
Throughout it all, the camerawork is exquisite. The rain falls constantly on Tumbbad - and Barve and his cinematographer Pankaj Kumar - shoot it from every angle. And when the horror comes, the detail is most certainly in the devil.Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2018
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