I Knew That We Had Something Special On Our Hands: Sohum Shah On Tumbbad

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After getting a positive response from the audience, the critics and ace filmmakers Sohum Shah the actor-producer of Tumbbad shares his experience in brief.

Named after a village in the interiors of Maharashtra, Tumbbad is a film of treasure hunt and an allegory for the consequences of endless greed.

When asked Sohum on how did he become a part of this 6-year long journey which made is one of the visually stunning films made in Bollywood, he shared, “When Rahi Anil Barve brought me the script, I was immediately on board. He had even created a print-book with reference images of what the film would look like. It was a very relatable and rooted Indian story; the kind our nanis and dadis would tell us when we were kids. The idea was to make a small film quickly, but the film kept evolving and growing bigger. Every time someone came up with an idea that could improve the film, it would get added. Most films get made in three stages—writing, filming, and editing. In our case, we lost count of the stages”

One of the biggest changes was what Hastar, the disgraced demon God looked like. Initially, due to budget constraints, the monster was created using prosthetics and the space he inhabits was a cave. “We tried twice to get the prosthetics right but it just didn’t work. Somewhere along the way, someone suggested that the cave should be changed to a red womb. We eventually used VFX to create Hastar and the womb.”

The ‘do what’s right for the film, regardless of the budget’ ethos meant that an expensive scene depicting Vinayak (played by Sohum) and his son walking through the Independence Day celebration in a marketplace got left behind on the editing floor; a crew of 200 people would wait for the rains because the film’s director and cinematographer thought it should always be raining in Tumbbad, and also wanted the right lighting; and, from the motorcycle to the marketplace, the production team meticulously recreated the early 1900s.

Six years of single-minded focus gave Sohum a film that continues to be in theatres almost two months after it’s pan-India theatrical release. Tumbbad is the first Indian film to open at the prestigious Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week.

Sohum was so focused on getting Tumbbad made that he even refused acting jobs, which had been the main reason for him to come to Mumbai. “I was emotionally and creatively so invested in this film that I passed up quite a few acting opportunities. I only did Talvar and Simran during this period because Tumbbad remained my top priority.”

For his sophomore effort, Ship of Theseus, Sohum won the National Award for Best Feature Film. It was a bittersweet win for him because his father had just passed away before the awards were announced. He wished he was present to see him win the honour.

While his most ambitious film Tumbbad continues to wow audiences on one of the online streaming platforms, he is back to his first love, acting, and 2019 is already sounding extremely busy for the actor.

Talking about his upcoming projects Sohum shared, “I am currently shooting for a series for a popular online streaming platform. There is also Baatuni, a comedy that Adesh (Prasad, Tumbbad’s co-director and writer) is directing and I am producing. There are two more very interesting films that are being discussed but I can’t reveal yet,”