Tumbbad

wogma rating: Catch on TV/online for sure (?)

quick review:

A meaty story and a gory film which deviates from the typical possessed body horror storyline. Chills the spine as a horror film about supernatural phenomenon should even though I am not convinced horror films should be made at all.

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Director: Rahi Anil Barve
Running time: 120 minutes
Genres: Horror
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The first 20-25 minutes of the film are terrifying. The background score or the lack thereof, the camerawork including the brilliant lighting, and of course the intrigue in the story - all contribute to the creepy-crawly feeling under your skin. Your heart is in your mouth and you want the protagonists to leave the scene and run away. Almost as much as you want to leave the theater.

Even though Tumbbad is a well-conceived, well-executed film - for a horror non-buff like me too, I still don’t ‘get’ why horror films are made.

The film settles down a bit after that which is a relief. Also, there is some character development going on, though not engaging but it gives you a peek into the nature of greed that human beings are capable of. The quieter part of the films also context being given in terms of the times that the film is set in – pre-independent India. Even though these are superficial disclosures and don’t provide any great insight, they keep you with the film.

The more relevant part of the story, the actual interaction with the demon and the people it effects are the most intriguingly done. Even though the CGI isn’t the best, it is enough to be repulsive, as is the intention. The performances are not off-the-mark either. While I wonder why any child should have to experience the trauma and spend the energy required to do such films, the child artistes have done a wonderful job. In comparison, the adults seem to just about do.

The story fortunately has enough going on for us to not expect too much from the actors. The gradual reveal of the demon’s story is the most engaging. The pace is just right. It surely helps that the story itself is not your standard, human possessed by a supernatural being, the only solution to which is black magic of sorts.

Even though Tumbbad is a well-conceived, well-executed film - for a horror non-buff like me too, I still don’t ‘get’ why horror films are made. What is it that makes people enjoy that creepy crawl under the skin?

- meeta, a part of the audience

25 reviewers(?) - 18 yays 5 so-so 2 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...But again, technically speaking, Tumbbad — which begins in 1918 and ends a little after Independence — isn’t exactly a “horror” movie.... full review

Thumbs up, by Tushar P. Joshi, Bollywood Life : ...Tumbbad is perhaps this year's most visually-stunning experience. Watch it if you love a good folk-story with a twisted end.... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...Not since the 1977 Italian film Suspiria, directed by Dario Argento (father of Asia Argento), have I felt engulfed and trapped by bloody red like I did while watching Tumbbad.... full review

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Film Companion : ...If you think cinema is predominantly a visual medium then don't miss Tumbbad. It creates images of darkness and despair with the ripe immediacy of tree laden with fruits. Fruits that you may perhaps never taste again.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Sohum Shah, who is also one of the producers of the film, has outdone himself in his gritty portrayal of a man driven by greed. His character is well aware of his frailty but is powerless to overcome it.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...The joy of watching Tumbbad comes from the fact that Barve and his co-writers offer no answers, making this a delightfully intriguing film.... full review

Thumbs up, by Raja Sen, Hindustan Times : ...Remember the scene in the classic comedy Pyaar Kiye Jaa where Mahmood narrates a horror film to Om Prakash? The story wasn’t much but the sound effects were spectacular. Tumbbad is a bit like that — which really isn’t a bad thing. Barve is a director with vision and a voice, and his film will undoubtedly spawn a cult of admirers. And, ideally, imitators. If there’s one thing Tumbbad has to say, it is that all gods need believers.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...By the time it ends, you feel like you’ve seen something of scale, something both lofty and grand, as well as curdled and frightening. Clearly, debutant director Barve has a distinct voice. Tumbbad is a gorgeous looking, intriguing morality tale which both entrances and repulses: it’s not something I will forget.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Tumbbad is one magnificent looking film. A dark fusion of horror, fantasy, drama and thriller – the story of Tumbbad is surely to haunt your thoughts even after you leave the cinema hall. A treat for the lovers of this genre.... full review

Thumbs up, by UDITA JHUNJHUNWALA, Live Mint : ...What the film forsakes in the acting department (with irregular performances), it more than compensates for with visual richness, artistry, imagination and genre-loyalty.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Tumbbad premiered at the prestigious critics' week at Venice film fest earlier this year. It opens locally this Friday to vastly expand your choices in Indian theatres. Yup, worth taking that call.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...What doesn’t kill you, makes you more resilient. And if you survive the version of Beelzebub in this film, you surely have the liver for heart-pounding horror.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rajeev Masand, News18.com : ...If you have an appetite for the experimental, give this film a chance. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Vats, News18.com : ...But that doesn’t take away Tumbbad’s achievements. The narrative, however unassuming, has been beautifully woven for celluloid. The film is intriguing, sometimes even absurd, but you’ll glide through its 104-minute duration. Tumbbad’s biggest success is that it doesn’t confine to any popular genre. It offers something new and that’s enough. ​... full review

Thumbs up, by Manisha Lakhe, Now Running.com : ...In a village that seems to be doomed by the gods, there is one family that lives unafraid. A family that knows the secret hidden inside the womb of the goddess. The brilliant scary, horrifying film is based on a couple of stories written by Marathi writer Narayan Dharap who in turn was inspired by Stephen King. The writing is practically flawless, the music is haunting and the performances jaw-dropping good. Brilliant watch.... full review

Thumbs up, by SHILPA JAMKHANDIKAR, Reuters : ...That takes away from some of the richness of the material, but “Tumbbad” is still a winner in many ways. Sohum Shah is wonderful as Vinayak, the man who is dealing with demons both within and on the outside. But the true star here is Barve, who takes what could have been a regular horror film and elevates it to another level.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...Barve and his team of collaborators leave much to interpretation, but Tumbbad, derived from the works of Marathi pulp horror writer Narayan Dharap (he is known for his Stephen King adaptations in Marathi), is a thrilling cinematic experience just as a horror film. For film lovers, the genre-bending is gratifying. It has been a while since a horror film spoke so eloquently about something as primal as greed and remained true to its Indian (Marathi) setting.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rachit Gupta, Times of India : ...Tumbbad is a moody and atmospheric film. Some viewers may find the film a little too deep and disturbing, but fans of Hollywood horror films will be reminded of memorable movies in the genre like Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Eraserhead (1977). This one is genuinely scary.... full review

So-So, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...The trick maybe is to digest Tumbbad as a dark bedtime story narrated by an orthodox Brahmin father to his kids every night. The morality and broadness of this universe is his, but the wild texture and density of details aren’t. Rather, these are a child’s way of vividly processing what is essentially a cautionary tale. They fill the boxes with their own brand of colour – one that embraces design over depth. Nature over feeling. Children, after all, are the key to Tumbbad. They are the heroes…until they grow up.... full review

So-So, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...The ensemble cast lends gravitas to the essay with striking performances while the camerawork by Pankaj Kumar, editing by Sanyukta Kaza, makeup, prosthetics, and VFX lends otherworldly grandeur to a very local idea. While the creative team behind this effort have fashioned a majestic visual orifice that has the potential to draw you in deep, the lack of a meaty story and undefined purpose leaves you untouched. This is a film that has the power to leave you stunned by the sheer artistry of its imagery, but the lack of bite in the telling disallows any tangible affect!... full review

So-So, by Sreehari Nair, Rediff : ...The parable of Tumbbad is out to de-humanise Vinayak Rao, but Sohum Shah preserves his humanity.... full review

So-So, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...As the film progresses the explanatory begins to replace the enigmatic while you long for the shadowy, invisible demons of the mind lurking in the moody frames at the start of the film.... full review

So-So, by Karan Bali, Upper Stall : ...Finally though, for all its incredible making, its the story that fails to engage as well as it should and that is the film’s big let down. What’s that they say? Ah yes, content is king after all.... full review

Thumbs down, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, TUMBBAD rests on a unique concept but the disjointed narrative spoils the show. It’ll be a challenge for this film to impress the masses and hence struggle to do good business at the box office.... full review

Thumbs down, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...Sohum Shah aims for authenticity in his make-up et al. but otherwise gives a performance studded with limitations. Anita Date as his wife and the young boy who plays his son make a mark. But like the rest of the performers, the film does not.... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Horror-style violence through the film
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A woman giving a man a hand job. Prostitution. One scene with making out.
  • Concept: People seeking a treasure under the control of a demon.
  • General Look and Feel: Very well shot. Keeps the spook on through most of the film.

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Tumbbad - Cast, crew, links

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120 minutes
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