Ever read the Panchatantra in your childhood? Aesop’s Fables? The primary source of literature during our infancy, those books were filled with tales of good and evil. If you read one now, I guarantee you, the nostalgia is going to sweep you away. However, once that wanes, the books go back to your cabinet, gathering dust for eternity. The makers of this movie decided that that was a poor repayment to those anecdotes which shaped you into the person you are today. Tumbbad is a sippy cup transformed into a beer can. A mature adaptation of those mythical classics you never knew you needed.
Tumbbad treads the beaten path. At its heart, this is a story of how human greed swallows said human whole. Tell me if this sounds familiar –
- Protagonist is going through hard times.
- Protagonist finds a treasure.
- Protagonist has a brief moment of bliss but it isn’t enough.
- Protagonist goes back for more which ultimately becomes his own undoing.
Simple enough, but you need to do more. This is what the screenwriters have excelled at. Armed with a strong script, Tumbbad manages to add delicious complexity to an uncomplicated fable. Its an amalgamation of supernatural elements, horror and fantasy. There’s no spoon-feeding here. You get what you get on the screen. It’s on you to make heads or tails of the situation. It might take a while for the uninitiated to get used to the absurdity, but rest assured, the pieces do fall into place perfectly.
The cinematography is phenomenal. The movie is a visual treat. It’s something you wouldn’t expect, even from under-appreciated indies. Dimly lit interiors are grain-free. Creepy-ass hut on a hill looks inviting. Rural Pune pre-independence has that rustic-village look you find in remote villages these days. The overall atmosphere and feel go perfectly with the production design (also impeccable). You are not getting castle doors made out of polystyrene – it looks like, and probably is, the real deal.
Tumbbad is as genuine as it gets. Pure storytelling, start to finish. It reinforces the notion that if you want quality, ignore everything mainstream.