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VENICE 2018 International Film Critics’ Week

Rahi Anil Barve • Director

“Vinayak’s story mirrors the transformations that were happening in India”

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- VENICE 2018: We chatted to Rahi Anil Barve, the co-director of the Indian-Swedish title Tumbbad, which opened the International Film Critics’ Week

Rahi Anil Barve  • Director
(© Settimana Internazionale della Critica di Venezia)

Rahi Anil Barve won the Best Film Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2008 with his short film Manjha, which Danny Boyle added as a special feature for the Blu-ray release of his Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Danny Boyle
film profile
]
. Now, Tumbbad [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rahi Anil Barve
film profile
]
, which Anil Barve co-directed with Anand Gandhi, has served as the opening film of the Venice International Film Critics’ Week.

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Cineuropa: The film starts with the story of a legend; is this legend true, or did you fabricate it for the film?
Rahi Anil Barve: I created the legend in 2007. Of course, Indian history, customs, literature and folk tales served as inspirations for Tumbbad. I’d been working on this film since 2007, and it kept on stalling. It was difficult to find finances, and we tried again in 2009, and then I met producer Sohum Shah and everything changed. Most of the producers in India had refused the film because of the subject matter, the budget and the requirements we had. After making a successful short film, such as Manjhi, every stupid young director thinks they will go on to make a feature film. Instead, it was a never-ending struggle. Even after Sohum came on board, it took us six years to complete the film.

What was the problem?
First of all, there were no other films like this one. If you go to studios and financiers, they need to know what the film is like; Tumbbad is very unique, and it was not possible to say, “This movie will look like this other successful movie.” Also, it was set during the British colonial period in India, and most financiers were telling me to make a simple, contemporary film, not a film set in the 1930s and 1940s in India.

The film is split into three parts – what was the thinking here?
The first part deals with Vinayak and his mother, and it’s about feudalism, as India in the 1930s was feudal. The mother only cares about owning one gold coin. The second part is about imperialism, during the period of British rule, so Vinayak wants more. He doesn’t want one coin; he wants many coins. The third part, in 1947, takes place in the newly independent India, as it is slowly turning to capitalism, and here Vinayak’s son doesn’t just want a lot of coins; he wants to rob the bank. He wants all the coins! So Vinayak’s story mirrors the transformations that were happening in India.

You have a Swedish co-production partner, Film i Väst.
Sohum organised the co-production with Sweden, and all of the VFX – whatever they did – are brilliant. That was done there.

Did you go to Sweden?
I didn’t; they would send it all over. The good thing is that for 20 years, I did animations and I did a lot of VFX on international films. I’m a 3D animator myself, and I’ve also worked as a visual artist, so that helped.

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