We like to start the Festival with a movie a million miles from the grand Galas. Not that we’re against the galas, it’s just there is so much else out there. This year’s obscure movie was a weird treat, and we think our first ever Indian horror.
The dying days of the British Empire in India, Vinayak (Sohum Shah), along with his mother and brother, visit a mysterious old lady in the hills, who his mother feeds and ensures does not wake up. When his brother is injured, Vinayak is left alone to feed the woman and gets sucked in by her as she awakes. Narrowly escaping being consumed by her, he becomes convinced that the woman knows where the treasure is hidden in a local mansion.
Years later, Vinayak returns to Tumbbad with the express purpose of eliciting the information from the old, apparently immortal, woman and taking the treasure for his own. I know, alarm bells are ringing, right? Right. Vinayak rediscovers the old woman, still alive but now very much part of the wildlife. Having extracted the information from her, along with some pretty dire warnings, he does the honourable thing and burns her to the ground. We then follow Vinayak as he scavenges the treasure and sets about building his own estate, complete with apprentice, wife and mistress in the attic.
Needless to say the method of extracting the treasure is suspect and dangerous and, having grown tired with the chore and recruiting his eldest son, things are destined to go very badly indeed. There isn’t a huge amount of subtlety in this movie and it’s all the better for it. The music is PORTENTOUS (and brilliant), the perpetual rain a curse on the land and everything that Vinayak does seems destined to tip him into the abyss. The movie does everything other than writing ‘GREED IS NOT GOOD’ in massive letters on inter-titles, but that is by no means a complaint.
Replete with some wonderfully gooey creature effects, a variety of conniving characters and some spectacularly foreboding cinematography, Tumbbad is a fairly straightforward morality tale, with added demons craving dough dolls in a massive god’s womb.