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.
Tumbbad is undoubtedly well made, with fine pieces of acting to suit the period it is set it – pre-independence India and later. To me what appeared most relevant about the film was the moral in it: greed and how it destroys a man, a fact that most Indians today can identify with. As The Hollywood Reporter's critic quipped: “Greed sends a man and his son to face down a demon in an Indian horror movie set during the British Raj. Totally fearless and rapaciously greedy, the larger-than-life hero of Tumbbad (played by actor and producer Sohum Shah) literally lowers himself into the womb of Mother Earth to fish for gold coins in the loincloth of the goddess’ bad-boy offspring. Not a movie for the squeamish or claustrophobic, this unusual blend of horror, fantasy and Indian folktales set in the 19th century British Raj recalls a revisited Brothers Grimm, along the lines of Matteo Garrone’s gorily memorable Tale of Tales. Viewers willing to make the imaginative leap into Indian folklore will be rewarded with the foggy atmosphere and turgid emotions of a story full of goose bumps and serious frights”.