Written, directed by and Starring: Rishab Shetty
Produced by Hombale Films
Genre: Thriller (BUT A LOT MORE THAN THAT)
How about this? Don’t read this review (for now, and please do go down and leave a like though). Go watch the film with as little information and context as possible. And then come back and read the review. Don’t watch the trailr or any promotional material, just go f*cking watch the film. But if you still need a little more convincing before watching the film, okay, sure. Here goes nothing.
Well , I will *try to* explain the plot, without giving away much. The story of Kantara starts in the 18th century when a king offers the peasants a piece of land in exchange for happiness and tranquilly. A few decades later, at a Bhoota Kola (a customary dance performed in honour of the local deities), the king's descendent shows up and demands that the tribal people give back their territory. He does, however, pass away tragically.
The forest officer Murali (Kishore) wants to stop the superstitious practises and protect the forest from the people 20 years later. Kaadubettu Shiva, played to perfection by Rishab, is the offspring of a bhoota kola performer who drifts more and further from his roots as he grows older. It is entrusted to his cousin to continue the Bhoota Kola family custom. He is the village troublemaker, starting fights, getting wasted, and showing Leela (a dazzling Sapthami Gowda, who is such a natural) all the love he can muster. He is, however, the adult who is afraid of his mother and who does not think twice about running in to sleep next to her when he is having nightmares. After all, this is the same youngster who ventured into the bush with a torch in search of someone and returned home empty handed. Murali (Kishore), a forest officer, wants to stop the mystical practises and protect the forest from the peasants. Shiva (Rishab Shetty) speaks up for the entire town. Leela (Sapthami Gowda) is hired as a forest guard in the meantime, but she struggles to balance her professional and personal goals.
The writing is strong, and the region's cussword-heavy, sarcasm-and-humour-laced dialogues have surprisingly made it to the final cut. The women are also well-drawn. Leela has an arc; she's the village's hope, but she joins the forest department and has to redraw the lines after the land survey on her first day on the job. She also adores Shiva and wonders aloud why she is being treated so poorly for doing her job. Shiva's mother, Kamala, is the fiery single mother who has raised a son and wonders what will become of him. She's the most obnoxious of the bunch, and everyone is terrified of her. Rishab Shetty has done an amazing job with the tight and engaging script. To be very honest the build up does take its time, but man WHAT A PAYOFF!
You cannot say that this film was made on a mere budget of a mere 15-20 crores. The cinematography, the camera techniques are simply stunning and have to be watched in a big screen. This seems to be a staple with the Production house, Hombale Films. Whatever you may think of KGF and its sequel, one thing you cannot deny is they look absolutely stunning and with a limited budget. This films cinematographer, Mr Arvind Kashyap, deserves all the high praise. Especially the climax of the film, the last 15 minutes will leave you speechless. The combination of Rishab Shetty’s FANTASTIC PERFORMANCE and the stunning camera work will leave you in awe. Also the way the festivals and the Bhoota Kala is captured, is something to marvel at. The Hero’s introduction shot with the bull race was also superbly captured.
(Yes this deserves its separate chapter). The final 15 minutes of the film feature a fantastically choreographed and shot sequence in which Rishab appears to be in his own trance. The Bhoota Kola sequences were choreographed by actor, writer, and director Raj B Shetty, who played Shiva in the last film he and Rishab worked on together, Garuda Gamana Vrushaba Vahana. Kannada cinema can be extremely proud of both the Pili Vesha in Ulidavaru Kandanthe (2014) and the Garuda Gamana and the Bhoota Kola in this film — both have been recreated on screen by those with roots in the region, and so you don't see it as a geography marker or a pop of colour, but as the devotion at its core. Here, something similar happens to the Bhoota Kola. And, like the forest official who does not believe but eventually sees the kola for what it is, fear and awe for the external form quickly give way to love for what is within. For me, the film is about how a man eventually accepts his fate and grows to love those he previously despised, including the forest officer. And how, one day, his heart and mind are full, and he realises he has accomplished his destiny. The final five minutes are extremely moving. The long-lost father and son dance, smiling, and surrender to the forest, which they revere.
When I had initially watched the trailer, I thought of the film as the same-old anti establishment crap we have been seeing for decades, but with the element of folklore added to bring in new audience. I could not be more wrong. I will not give anything away and just say that WATCH THE FILM. The folklore the Bhoota Kola is some beautifully written about and captured that you can see that it is coming genuinely from the heart. The movie shows us about the several generational old practices and traditions maintained till date by many people across the country.
What I did not like though was the depiction of drug usage. Just before the climax scene, there’s a fight sequence, where the Lead hero fights very coolly with some slick action shots. This might influence people that doing drugs is cool. This could perhaps be done with. Written as a character arc that Shiva realizes his ways would have been a better approach in my humble opinion.
1. PLOT :4/5
2. CINEMATOGRAPHY: 5/5
3. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:3/5
5. ENJOYMENT FACTOR:5/5
KEETABI KEEDA RATING: 4.4/5