Kantara is a powerful story that not only documents a unique tradition, but also has many other layers that make sense to the contemporary world. Rishab Shetty shines through the script, making and portrayal of Kambala champion Shiva
Kantara – the film that is now the toast of the town – literally translated means mystical forest – India, especially south India is abound with legends, folklores, rituals and celebrations rooted in mystical, spiritual and even history and literature. And, it’s only a few film makers that have been successfully digging into this richness of our culture and tradition in creating powerful content that connects with the masses. Karthik Subbaraj’s ‘Mahaan’ with Vikram and Dhruv Vikram has done it to an extent successfully in recent times, and ofcourse Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyan Selvan’ that gloriously recreated Kalki’s novels.
Kantara is one such powerful story that not only documents a unique tradition of the land, but also has many other layers that make sense to the contemporary world. It is about Shiva, simple, innocent, angry, and at the same time playful – passionate and powerful young man from a tribal family for whom forest is home, protector and provider. He is also the champion of Kambala – the famous bull race of the coastal Karnataka, which continues even today. Rishab Shetty, the writer, director also plays this complex lead character – and perhaps none else could have played the role with such conviction and passion. Rishab calls this his story, the recreation of traditions, beliefs and rituals that he has grown up experiencing by virtue of being from the region and of being from a farming community that used to be part of it all.
Kantara, originally made in Kannada is the story of villagers protecting the right to their land, which has been with them for generations. It is also about nature, tribals and traditions that bind them together. Shiva is always there to fight for the villagers and as the film progresses he realizes the truth of good from the evil, and in his quest to make things right, he connects to his traditions, his father and the Kola. If you hear the word tradition too many times that is because it is the core of the film.
Shiva’s father, a Kola dancer at the annual Bhuta Kola festival dies mysteriously and that is a bone of contention for him, and he refuses to carry on the tradition of painting his face to continue to do it as an elder child. Instead. It’s his brother, who becomes the kola dancer in the place of his father. Bhoot Kola is another important tradition of coastal Karnataka that celebrates spirits and local deities, which the villagers believe protects them in all their troubles.
Despite his mother’s complaints Shiva is happily hunting for his master – the local landlord, chilling with his friends or romancing Leela, his love interest – who is trained to be a forest guard. He picks a fight with the forest officer, who is honest but scorns at the villagers, who he thinks are exploiting government property, and has little regard for their traditions. Evidently, the officer and Shiva do not see eye to eye.
The man of the moment, Rishab Shetty makes the film without a dull moment. By always keeping the hearts racing with action and screenplay, by adding the layer of tradition, and a touch of spirituality that people have always found refuge in for strength and inspiration, and above all by depicting one of the age -old rituals of the land in all its glory, Kantara is modelled into a classic. A big shout out to the performances – especially Sapthami Gowda who managed to stand her stead despite the heavy duty performance of the hero, who redefines commercial cinema. Rishab’s acting is spell binding to say the least and sees many highs reaching a crescendo towards the climax.
Rishab Shetty has created powerful piece of cinema that has today crossed the borders of Karnataka and has gone pan India on its own. He has practiced 36 hours for the bull race, and preparation for the climax is another story all together. The energy he has put into his character shows in all its dimensions in every scene
It’s this demand that has made the team and the producers Vijay Kiragandur of Hombale Films to dub the film into Telugu, Hindi and other languages.
What Works for the Film –
The screenplay that refuses to pause
The background score like none in the recent times by B Ajaneesh Loknath that set our hearts racings. The songs are soulful too and take the narrative forward effectively without appearing out of place.
Cinematographer Arvind Kashyap who has earlier charmed his audience with films like Charlie 777 has given it all to this film – capturing the beauty of nature, the forest in both day light and the shadows of the night, the hunting sequences, and action that is brilliant choreography on its own.
Climax where all the technicians worked as one to leave the audience in a trance.
This is one film that deserves all the accolades it’s getting.