Tumbbad Movie Review: Sohum Shah's Fantasy-Horror Film Excels in Its Macabre Visuals and Stunning Story-Telling
Tumbbad Movie Review

You say we can never make world-appealing movies in India? If you think something on the lines of an Avatar or an Avengers Infinity War, then maybe we haven't reached that level of an extensive canvas. But if you are seeking original content that will leave you spellbound and make you want to suggest to a foreign acquaintance of yours, perhaps you might not be looking hard enough. May I suggest this week's one brilliant product, Tumbadd?

Produced by Sohum Shah who is also playing the lead, Tumbbad has been getting rave reviews and rightly so. High on content and being an unusual addition to the genre of fantasy-horror, Tumbbad is a film that will haunt you, not with its scares, but with its theme - Greed. The emotion that will be the bane of humanity if not contained. The problem is, can we?

Set like a graphic novel straight out of a folklore and inspired by Marathi writer Narayan Dharap's stories, Tumbbad, actually the name of the village where all the interesting action is set, is divided into three chapters. Before that, there is that fascinating epilogue. Mother Nature has given birth to the many thousand god's. However, her first-born, Hastaar, in his greed, steals both the gold and the grains in possession of his mother. The other gods curse him to stay forgotten in his mother's womb. However, humans remember him one day and build a temple for him. Ever since then, it hasn't stopped raining in Tumbbad. With such an intriguing backstory told through narration, the movie holds your attention even before the first chapter begins. Tumbbad Live Review: Tiger Shroff Is Spooked, Amused And Can't Wait For The Movie!

The first chapter is set years before we get our Independence. Young Vinayak Rao and his younger brother are illicit children of the old landlord of the village. Their mother still serves him and also takes care of his creepy mother, chained away and cursed for trying to get hold Hastaar's gold hidden somewhere in the mansion. There are some terrific scares here involving the deformed undead granny and her eerily sing-song voice. Greed, of course, runs in their bloodline, and young Vinayak, overcoming the fear of his own death, tries to get the secret of the treasure from his ghoulish grandmother.

However, it takes a few years and another chapter, not to mention a broken promise, for Vinayak (Sohum Shah), now grown up, who returns to Tumbbad to eke the secret out of his still-alive grandmother (even with a tree growing out of her). He finds the treasure, but takes little at a time, returning to the mansion for more later. We never see how he gets the gold and why he takes so less. If we are curious about this, so is his friend and moneylender Raghav (Deepak Damle), equally greedy. It is through Raghav that we find the sinister way that Vinayak gets his treasure, and whose horrific fate leaves us more shocked at the depths that Vinayak can get what he wants more than the horrors that the hiding place has in store.

By the time the third chapter (set years after the previous chapter as India gets its independence) arrives, I was reminded of the story of the farmer and his golden-egg-laying goose. If you have heard of the fable, you know what happens when the farmer, in his greed to get the gold, kills the goose. Only, in this case, the goose happens to be a terrifying god and someone forgot to tell the story to an ailing Vinayak and his competitively greedy young son. Leading to a shocking finale, equipped with a terrific twist, that will leave you transfixed. Even if you get scared easily, you will still keep your eyes open to see how it will end. I guarantee you that! Tumbbad Trailer: Sohum Shah’s Horror Film Looks Refreshingly Freakish – Watch Video!

One thing that surprised me the most about Tumbbad is how tightly the movie is made with no unnecessary distractions and unwanted subplots (editing by Sanyukta Kaza has to be appreciated; something I don't get to do much often). The theme is greed, and the movie depicts how even lust and fear serve this one emotion, instead of overcoming it. Even the feudal system and the pre-Independence setting serve more in building the lead character (who despises the freedom fighters and even admonishes his wife who wants to help them), rather than be a talking point.

If you expect Tumbbad to be an out and out scary movie, like the Raaz series, you would be utterly disappointed. Tumbbad has its scares and the creature design of Hastaar, its unfortunate victims and its visually stunning, visceral resting place (Can Tumbbad be a spiritual prequel to The Descent?) are terrifying and feel made out of a Lovecraftian creation (Guillermo Del Toro would be proud). Full brownie points to Sean Wheelan and Filmgate Films for the excellent effects. Some of the scenes are nauseating and are not for the faint-hearted. But Tumbbad's real terrors don't come from these monstrosities, it comes from its human characters, mainly Vinayak and his shockingly fallible son.

Watch The Trailer of Tumbbad Here -

And what a fascinating character Vinayak is. Driven by greed, he isn't depicted as a villain; just a human whose believable fallacies lead him to a predictable doom. Even the characters of his mother, his son, the wife, the mistress and the devious friend, though worthy additions, end up as reflectors of greed that is leading him by the nose.

Moreover, Vinayak represents the humanity who in drilling out the resources from the womb of Mother Nature (the movie has one, literally), fails to see that by over-doing so, we are inviting our own doom. The metaphors are so seamlessly integrated into the narrative that you will be talking about the film with your friends for long about what you discovered on your own.

I checked the movie's Wikipedia page and was stunned to see the painstaking efforts that Tumbbad's director Rahil Barve (co-directed by Adesh Prasad) took to make the film. Shot over years to get the permanently raining state of Tumbbad, even the locales where the film is shot add that alluring eerie to the film. Special credit should also be given to the art direction (Nitin Zihani Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav) and costume designs (Smriti Chauhan, Sachin Lovalekar). Pankaj Kumar's cinematography adds more pall to the gloomy settings with the right kind of lighting. The background score complements well with the narrative. What's more, despite being a Hindi movie, Tumbbad maintains its Marathi identity in its settings and character and you can credit the set of writers (Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Rahi Anil Barve, Anand Gandhi) for that! And of course, for how the film has turned out!

The Performances

As the vulnerable leading man, Sohum Shah owns the role of Vinayak completely and gives a very compelling performance. Some credit must be given to his layered performance that doesn't make us hate him, rather identify with what drives him, even if we abhor the excess to which his character goes to. Also, want to hail him as a producer for giving two gems to Indian cinema worth taking pride in - Ship of Theseus and Tumbbad.

The film boasts of an incredible supporting cast of Marathi actors who lend believability to the proceedings. Deepak Damle, Jyoti Malshe, Anita Date are all terrific. Dhundiraj Jogalekar and Mohd Samad, the child artistes who play a young Vinayak and Vinayak's son are pros.


- The terrific premise

- The atmospheric horror

- The writing, direction and performances

- Tight narrative

- The VFX


- Not for the weak-hearted

- And yet, not for those who expect a typical Bollywood horror!

Final Thoughts

Blending the elements of fantasy and horror in a nearly perfect combo, Tumbbad is a gripping piece of story-telling. Visually stunning and packed with enough chills, Tumbbad captivates you from the first frame and doesn't let loose its grasp over you till the end. Very highly recommended, if you crave for original content. After all, how many horror movies does India make that turns out to be a haunting affair worth recommending to the world?

Rating:4.5out of 5