Kantara’s location was like a holy place: says Rishabh Shetty

Rishabh Shetty
Rishabh Shetty

Kannada movie ‘Kantara’ has been setting the cash registers ringing at the box office in Kerala too. The movie which was made on a budget of Rs 16 crore has raked in more than Rs 300 crore, until now, from theatres across the globe. Interestingly, this is the first time that the Kannada version of a Kannada movie has collected more than Rs 1 crore from a theatre in Kerala. The incredible bond between man and nature and the struggles have impressed the Malayali audience. Rishabh Shetty, who played the lead role in ‘Kantara’ has also directed the movie. In a candid chat, Rishabh, opens up about the movie and his future plans.

Kantara and the Gods

I was born in a coastal hamlet in Karnataka. I grew up watching and believing in the Gods and the ritual dance forms that are similar to the Theyyam in Northern Kerala. The movie narrates the tale of struggles between man and nature. The Gods act as a bridge between man and nature. That is how the Gods came into the narrative.

Gods and me

My family is associated with these rituals. The film is based on an incident that happened in my village around three decades ago. I thought that the rivalry between an ordinary farmer and a forest officer could be shown parallel to the clash between man and nature. I wrote it by merging the legends of the Gods with the real incidents. The filming began after offering special prayers at Dharmasthala Manjunatha Swamy temple and at Kollur Mookambika. The location was like a scary place. Everyone on the set avoided eating meat to honour the movie’s plot.

The Climax

I hadn’t initially written what would happen in the last 20 minutes in the climax. I had only written that the hero Shiva becomes an incarnation of Gulikan. The camera team or the fight master didn’t have any idea about what would happen in the climax. Those scenes are accompanied by music. We shot continuously for three days to film those sequences. I didn’t write ‘Kantara’ seeing anyone else in mind. I wrote it so that I could play the lead role.

Pan Indian release

‘Kantara’ was not meant to be a pan-Indian release. However, the film marketed itself to become popular around the country. Kannadigas gave incredible mouth publicity to this movie in the first few days. So, other states started demanding dubbed versions. Vijay Kiragantoor of Hombale Films was really impressed by the movie after watching its final print and insisted that it should be dubbed in Malayalam. They said that Keralites, especially those who live in North Malabar could easily relate to the plot line and the characters. However, we didn’t expect such overwhelming responses. We completed the dubbing works in just two weeks after the Kannada version got released.

Varaha Roopam and the controversy

I wasn’t dismayed by the controversy. I still don’t think there is any point in it. We composed that song, getting inspired by classical music.

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