From seeing Yakshaganas (Folk art of Dakshin Kannada) to watching old Kannada movies in theatres in Mumbai along with my parents was not the kind of outing one would expect from a Mumbai-born kid. Yet I was dragged along because my dad loved it and was a major fan of Yakshagana and Raj Kumar, the legendary hero of Kannada movies.
Yakshagaana is a traditional theatre, developed in the Dakshina Kannada region that combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form. In Kannada, we call it Aata (play). Presented from dusk to dawn. Its stories are drawn from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and other epics from ancient Indic traditions. Though I didn’t like it much then, but my understanding of Indian mythology was far superior at that young age, thanks to these Aatas.
The movie Kantara from Hombale Films pushed me back to those nostalgic moments with my dad and was transported to my tiny quaint village, where we still worship our gods in somewhat similar manners.
The movie is picturized in my hometown Kundapura, a scenic coastal region and is themed around elements of local Kannadiga culture. The story revolves around a festival dance performance called the ‘bhoota kola’ where the forest deity interacts with the villagers through the performer. Who would have imagined that exactly this hyper-localness is what would bring it universal relatability?
The first 15 minutes and the last 20 minutes are something that no Oscar-level film can achieve, it literally gives you goosebumps. Some scenes are marvels, like the spirit of the father and the son meeting in the different realm
The story revolves around the battle between man and nature, inspired by a real-life clash between an agriculturist, a forest official and the clandestine role of the landlords, descendants of the former king. The movie is further intertwined with local culture and sacred rituals that the mass audience must have never witnessed.
Audiences who have some awareness of the local Kartanaka region claimed to be under the spell, even days after watching the movie.
The song Varahroopam is simply amazing and is the soul of the movie.
Made on a shoestring budget of just Rs 16 crores, went on to become a global success, raking in a whopping 400 crores and showing no signs of slowing down. Content is the real King.
In an interview with Chetan Bhagat, when Rishab Shetty was asked if he is ready to work in Bollywood. He answered that he would stick to the Kannada film industry only and added, many regional actors/directors when they get fame they fly to Bollywood, but I will stay in my Karmaboomi.
I have become an eternal fan of Rishab Shetty like my dad was of Dr. Rajkumar