Language : Kannada
Director : Rishab Shetty
Writers : Rishab Shetty
Cast : Rishab Shetty, Sapthami Gowda, Kishore Kumar G, Achyuth Kumar, Pramod Shetty, Prakash Thuminad, Swaraj Sheety
Genre : Drama
Streaming in Theaters near you.
Slight spoilers ensue: Regarding the nature and ending of the film.
If you’ve followed Rishab Shetty and his interviews, you’ll notice how he repeatedly touches upon the Kannada culture and how he prefers to tell stories that are rooted and highly regional. His idea of ‘regional is more international’ gets a superlative visual translation through his latest directorial venture, Kantara.
Kantara’s story progression is quite similar to those highly adventurous rides in a water theme park. It starts with a bang and then gives you a moment to catch your breath, only to take you through a final spin that’s more frantic than the initial one. Kantara almost instantly absorbs you into its world and people during the initial few minutes. You’re introduced to a demi-god and its prominence among the population there. The ‘Bootha Kola’ and the corresponding rituals are then played out in detail, planting a very strong feeling of mystery and fascination in the minds of the audience. This is world-building at its best and with some riveting artwork and cinematography, Rishab and team take us through a whirlwind of events that has the ‘kola’ and ‘deiva’ at its narrative nucleus.
The basic premise of Kantara is not unknown. It’s a film that runs its main plot around sociological injustices prevalent, and the constant oppression and backstabbing faced by minorities. But Rishab brilliantly, much like his acting, gives it a rooted texture by exploring the beliefs and rituals in the ‘Dakshina Kannada’ region. Kantara also has a ‘man vs nature’ narrative running parallely. While it doesn’t get a satisfying payoff, it does make you ponder over the importance of nature, beyond the usual. In a way, there is a seamless blend of multiple genres in Kantara. There could be a few who might see this as a mystery drama, some might consider this as an action flick, and others might tag it as a socio-drama. The writing needs to be credited for this, and once again it’s Rishab, who runs away with the accolades.
Kantara is not without its flaws though. Shiva (played by Rishab) is a ruffian and someone who behaves opposite to how he’s supposed to, being a part of the kola performer clan. But except for his mother and enemies, every other soul seems to worship him, irrespective of his problematic nature, and as a result, the character transformation never really provides the necessary impact, although the performance more than makes up for it. As already mentioned, this is a ‘socio-political’ subject at heart, and the flow of events is comparable to films that touch upon similar topics, ‘Karnan’ e.g. As a result, the novelty of the script is by far and large dependent on the mythical factors and how they are incorporated; where it scores brownie points.
Rishab Shetty has been a fabulous performer and he pushes himself to greater heights with his portrayal of Shiva. The final 20 minutes is an out-and-out Rishab show where he gets into a trance state and completely gels into the character – truly an invigorating performance. The fact that he was also directing these sequences while performing at a divine level, speaks volumes of his talent and craft. Kishore, Achyuth Kumar, Sapthami Gowda, Manasa, and the rest of the cast also deliver good performances.
One can keep writing about the technical departments of Kantara. I would like to specifically point out three departments. Arvind S Kashyap is already a notable name among cinematographers, and he showcases his skills once again. For a film loaded with night sequences, the frames and lighting are exquisite and set up the right mood for the scenes. Art direction headed by Darani Gangeputra has authentically recreated the village sets from the 90s and in a way adds to the rootedness of the plot. Ajneesh Loknath’s songs are pleasing to hear, but the ‘Varaha Roopam’ song is such a pulsating track and a major catalyst during the climax, and the kola scenes, managing to double up the impact.
Kantara is bound to stay with you for a few days after watching it, purely due to the exhilarating experience it provides towards the last quarter. Both performance and craft-wise, Kantara reserves its best for the last, ensuring it leaves a lasting impact on the viewer.
Verdict : 5/7 stars