In my long years covering movies festivals in Europe and elsewhere, I have always observed that the Indian cinema which borders on the supernatural or magical or mystical always grabs the attention of festival programmers. I was not quite surprised to find the recent Venice Film Festival pick Rahi Anil Barve and Adesh Prasad’s Hindi-language Tumbbad for their Critic’s Week. For it borders on the mystic and the mythological, in a kind of magic realism, I think.
The ongoing second edition of the El Gouna Film Festival on Egypt’s Red Sea Coast has also chosen Tumbbad for its main Competition section. The Festival Director, Intishal Al Timimi, has been raving about the movie.
Although the narrative is wee bit confusing, and the basis of the plot not very well explained, the tragedy of a man who went overboard with his quest for riches, more riches and still more riches is unmistakably clear. The Rao family lives in rural India in the late 19th century. Two brothers, Sadashiv and Vinayak, live with their widowed mother in sheer misery, and they have a chained monster, their great-grandmother, who needs to be fed when she is asleep.
Years later, Vinayak (Shah) returns to the temple, that had remained shut for years, and begins his adventures — robbing gold coins from Hastar. The man gets richer over the years, but greed invariably claims its own pound of flesh. Vinayak’s character has been etched with a lot of thought, and we see clearly how his only motive in life is money.
But the question is, are Indian ticket-paying masses enamoured of fairy tales? Because Tumbbad clearly belongs to this genre.