Verdict: A spine-chilling horror film that does not rely on jump-scares.

Ever since Tumbbad premiered at the 33rd Venice Critics Week (and was the first Indian film to be screened there), many have been eagerly awaiting its theatrical release. Most reviews say that the film has reinvented the horror genre and rightly so. It is very difficult to categorize Tumbbad in a genre as it goes beyond and once you watch the film you’ll know why. Tumbbad releases in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu this week.

What’s Tumbbad About:

The Goddess who supposedly gave birth to the universe had a greedy firstborn called Hastar who wished to control both gold and grains (food). However, the other gods were displeased by his character and wished to destroy him. The mother begged for her child’s life and saved Hastar by banishing him. No human was allowed to worship Hastar, the “god” of greed. Cut to India under the British Raj. The protagonist, Vinayak (Sohum Shah) knows what he wants and that is money. After his father’s death, Vinayak and his mother leave their ancestral home in Tumbbad (Konkan), which has the cursed treasure in the “womb” beneath the now dilapidated wada (castle). Vinayak yearns for the gold so much so he is willing to risk his life in order to retrieve it. In this tale of greed and urges, Vinayak beats his fears in favor of his greed. “Laalchi hai tu,” his grandmother says to which Vinayak responds, “Ek hi toh gunn hai mujhme.

What works:

For such a surreal story, the filmmakers must set a strong backdrop. The British Raj era is shown to the minutest of details. The sets and props become a time machine and you are transported back. The story is told in chapters and the transition from one era to another is smooth, as is the narrative. Tumbbad doesn’t fool around as the film opens to a particularly horrific, and might we add, a gory scene. Vinayak is a greedy, misogynistic, and selfish man, and by no means a hero. But he shows hints of humanity under a couple of circumstances and that’s heartening. Sohum Shah looks fabulous and does a good job at portraying the lead character. The other performances are decent and the story culminates in a satisfactory end. This is certainly a horror film but has shades of surrealism, symbolism, mythology, and fantasy. It all blends well in a concoction that is different from the horror movies you may have watched and yet enjoyable. Kudos to the director Rahi Anil Barve!

What could’ve been better:

If you are not a fan of gore, a couple of scenes will make you bury your face in your hands. At 1 hr 52 mins, the film is crisp. However, there is a lot of scope to develop the characters in more detail. The dubbing of the film seems off in places.

Why you should watch:

Tumbbad is not your run-of-the-mill jump-scare horror film. It takes the subject and dives into it. The lead character’s passion for money overrides his fears and the lengths people go to for money is jaw-dropping. If you like watching horror films, you must book for this one right away.