Not many people get the phrase – “Be your own kind of beautiful”. Because what does ‘your own kind’ even mean? Well, that’s what Tumbbad exactly is. It’s an original and it is fascinatingly beautiful.
Appeared to be a horror genre from the trailer, this film is not horror, but is scary in parts. It’s a story about generations of greed and its repercussions. It’s a tale of treasure hunting and its rewards.
Vinayak is a young boy when he is forced to leave Tumbbad to never return. His curiosity or greed is suppressed by his mother, only to multiply ten folds when he grows up into a man (amazing Soham Shah) who is finding it difficult to make the ends meet. This struggle is something that his Brahmin male ego cannot handle very well. Here, begins a journey of his return.
This film offers you as many metaphors as you may find. But the thing you won’t miss to appreciate and be distracted by at the same time, is the world that is painted for you. From unventilated houses of Tumbbad, (the village where it never stops to rain) to red, sticky looking floor and walls of a well deep inside Earth’s womb. You do not want to skip a single frame despite being terrified in that very scene.
Vinayak returns to Tumbbad and enters the house he lived in. And we enter a world with distinctive locks on the doors, overgrown weed, roots, spider webs and dust in the finest detail is nothing less than immersive.
But this world isn’t very bright. Both literally and metaphorically. It is dull, dimly lit and sometimes pitch dark. Only as many as few times you may spot sunshine in a scene. Which is more than any light you see in the life of Vinayak. In the first half you mostly see him from a distance. You rarely walk with him until you know what he knows. It is expected of you to be curious and judge him as a bystander. Whereas in the later half he is often shot in closeups, which brings you closer to how he feels. Now, the director probably expects you to understand him or find yourself in his greedy smirks, lustful laughter and helpless cries.
In a particular scene where Vinayak talks to his son and tells him things he has never said before. The camera is zoomed in and you can clearly look at both their faces lit by a lantern. In this weak moment Vinayak misses his mother and weeps. But as soon as we tend to empathise with him, camera zooms out into an aerial view and distances us from him. With camera, our feeling towards him change from empathy to pity or perhaps indifference.
There have been so many stories about hidden treasure in this culture. Tumbbad is unlike them all and that is what brings it out of the genre game. The film talks about greed but is absolutely not a lecture on moralism. Sure it very evidently comments on the kind of life that Vinayak leads. A world full of lust and luxury, yet so hollow. Just like the well he enters.