If a film’s baap is mainstream and ma is experimental, you get the best of both worlds, a balanced movie!”quips Rahi Anil Barve. Sohum Shah, the producer and actor of Rahi’s first feature-length movie, Tumbbad, laughs uproariously at this and adds, “This is a very good line. I am the producer and the baap, Rahi is the mother, who has come up with a fantastic, never-seen-before subject in Indian cinema.”
Sohum then proceeds to tell us how he almost leapt off the seat, when he heard the script and decided to come on board almost immediately, giving a new lease of life to Tumbbad, which had been in the making since 2008. The film released this Friday, October 12.
“The moment I heard the story I was all in for it because the story is very Indian and takes you back to the stories that your grandparents told you in your childhood. At the same time, it was challenging because to bring all the characters and the ambience of those tales on screen was a task. Nothing like this has been made in our country, so I wanted to be a part of this extraordinary experience,” expresses Sohum.
Rahi adds, “I wrote the first draft of the story in 1997. In 2008, the entire storyboarding was ready. And, then we kept on improving the script. This happened right till the end. Tumbbad is the combined effort of Sohum, Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad and Anand Gandhi. When I pitched the idea to different studios, they kept asking for references. This was not something visualised on Indian screens, so it was difficult to convince people.”
The trailer of the movie completely creeps you out, taking you into a dark world, where secrets, skeletons and the tale of a monster, Hastar abound.
The first 30 minutes of the movie are based on two stories. “In 1993, my friend and I were in the jungles of Nagzira (near Bhandara). The story that he narrated was out of the world. I was shaken listening to it. It stayed with me. This story and another story by writer Narayan Dharap became the base of Tumbbad. The first 30 minutes of the film are based on these two stories. Rest is how I imagined Tumbbad and recreated it,” he adds.
The village in the movie, where it rains all through the year, has been recreated in Saswad (one of the nine locations where the film was shot). It’s a tale that spans three generations. “There are three chapters. The first chapter begins in 1920. It’s the story of the child Vinayak and his mother who wants one gold mohur. In the next chapter, Vinayak wants a few more coins and in the last one, which is around India’s Independence, his son wants to loot the bank. It deals with feudalism, imperialism and capitalism — a story of changing India,” explains Rahi.
In short, it’s a tale of greed and morality, with something more sinister hovering above it. Vinayak epitomises all that. “For someone so ruthless, Sohum’s portrayal of Vinayak has given him a heart. The credit goes to him,” says Rahi.
“I look for emotions in any story. That’s how I get under the character’s skin. I saw Vinayak as an anti-hero, like Salim-Javed’s characters were. He is a loner, but he wants acceptance from society. That’s how I envisaged Vinayak,” adds Sohum, who made his acting debut in 2012 with the critically acclaimed film Ship of Theseus. Later, he was seen in Talvar and Simran.
Sohum, who admits to being scared of watching horror movies, found it easy to shoot the horror portions though. Of course, there were a couple of incidents that had spooked him out.
“When we were shooting at the fort, every night people from the crew used to keep a plate served with food at night. Apparently, there were some tales that one needs to keep food for the spirits which populated the area. One day, for some reason, the crew forgot to keep the plate and right after that strange things started happening. Lights went out, technicians ran away, a very spooky atmosphere prevailed on the set. That incident really spooked me out and I told the crew that they should never forget to keep the plate of food out thenceforth,” expresses Sohum.