All gods need be­liev­ers

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - My India My Vote - RAJA SEN

The rain never stops in Tumb­bad. It is an ac­cursed land, with a tem­ple to an ac­cursed god. This god has gold, so the tem­ple ex­ists, its curse wil­fully borne by those who brave the un-drought, seek­ing the damned riches.

Di­rected by Rahi Anil Barve and shot by the in­cred­i­ble Pankaj Kumar, Tumb­bad is vis­ually star­tling. It feels like a Pan­chatantra tale nar­rated by a drunk un­cle, a sim­ple moral fa­ble — about golden eggs and golden geese — with bits that get un­der the skin. It isn’t scary nor cre­ates a sub­stan­tial myth, but has de­li­cious gothic de­tails.

I loved the locks. Gates are closed with in­tri­cate dun­geon-style locks, great big de­vices with jagged bear-trap edges, locks that could kill you if you opened them wrong. We see the fortress through a time­lapse se­quence that re­mains ex­clu­sively, op­pres­sively over­cast, rain trick­ling down the front-fac­ing spikes of the gate, like an iron maiden left ajar. It is a world few would brave. Barve’s de­but is rem­i­nis­cent of the trippy stylings of film­maker Tarsem Singh. Like Singh, Barve gives us much to gape at. The earth at the tem­ple’s core has the tex­ture of a melt­ing red can­dle, su­perbly con­trast­ing the gleam­ing gold coins. The ver­mil­lion vil­lain looks like Ras­car Ca­pac from the Tintin story The Seven Crys­tal Balls. The at­mo­spher­ics are so thick I wish the film didn’t have a back­ground score. The char­ac­ters are less imag­i­na­tive than the vi­su­als. Based on the sto­ries of Marathi writer Narayan Dharap, Tumb­bad is about a boy ob­sessed with trea­sure. Grow­ing up, he finds it coin by coin, low­er­ing him­self deeper into the for­bid­den abyss as he, like a sto­ry­teller, mines the myth. The story gets con­cen­tric, as the pro­tag­o­nist (an im­pres­sive So­hum Shah) keeps go­ing back for more. The film stretches from 1913 to 1947, a short story told by a long­winded nar­ra­tor.

Re­mem­ber the com­edy Pyaar Kiye Jaa where Mah­mood nar­rated a hor­ror film to Om Prakash? The story wasn’t much; the sound ef­fects were spec­tac­u­lar. Tumb­bad is a bit like that, which isn’t bad. Barve has gen­uine vi­sion, and his film will spawn a cult of ad­mir­ers. And, ide­ally, im­i­ta­tors. As Tumb­bad shows, all gods need be­liev­ers. (A full ver­sion of this re­view can be found at hin­dus­tan­

A still from Tumb­bad.

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