Kantara (2022, Kannada, Drama, Theatrical)


Audience rating summary : 5.0 


The best movie I have seen so far!, The story, screenplay, acting everything is out of this world. Rishab Shetty has done a wonderful acting. I have no words to describe how good this movie is.
After a long time in the Kannada cinema, folks gave a standing ovation and cheered. I was happy to witness and be a part of it as well. The roar of the deity will continue to haunt your life! Such is the aftereffect of Kantara. The film not only set the bar high for itself, but also succeeded in achieving it. 
The unknown, unexplainable, supernatural exists amidst us, even today. It is up to you to believe it or not. Dakshina Kannada is a realm having rich culture and traditions which have been followed from generation to generation, the most mystical among them being the "Daivaradhana" / "Bootharadhana" / "Kola" / "Darshana." A large portion of the pie of people who have roots in this region strongly believes in this tradition. It could be at an individual level,  a family or a village, or sometimes even a cluster of villages that follow a deity/demigod or, at times, more than one. If something goes wrong in one's life, it is believed to be the curse of demigods. Many families are so intensely loyal that they visit the places where these demigods are worshipped and offer their prayers. And the sites aren't temples. It could be a stone under a big old tree, in the center of a thick forest, or land owned by someone. It's a phenomenon where the line between the natural and supernatural is fragile. Rishab Shetty and team's film Kaantaara falls within this very boundary of a narrative that has an unnatural tone happening in the present day. A familiar tale of land dispute blended with the mystical element makes the film an exciting premise to watch.  
 When firmly rooted within the nativity, it has the highest possibility of becoming universal. The nativity does not cease with the dialect and some cultural traditions; it is also about the behavior and mannerisms of the local inhabitants that show up as characters. Kantara does a phenomenal job of giving us a deeper glimpse of a perfect village setting amidst a forest with distinct good, bad, and ugly characters. Way of life w.r.t lifestyle (cooking, eating, drinking, and hunting), sport, chastity on one end and the other end the feudalism, patriarchy, and greed for power and property are cleverly imbibed. For people who aren't from Dakshina Kannada, it would be a tad tricky to digest the facts; however, the screenplay makes a decent effort to keep it simple and effective.  
Apart from the tiger dance, most of the other traditions are ticked. One should not be disappointed as we have had too much tiger dance featuring in films off-late. Also, the film does not have a timeline for Navaratri. Probably for the first time in a mainstream film, the protagonist participates in Kambala, an extreme sport that draws parallels to Jallikattu and is widely observed in Dakshina Kannada. I wish the narrative had more of the game, but it looks like it is used as a spectacle to be an entry scene for Rishab Shetty. It is a tricky maneuver to pull, but Rishab has achieved it with brilliance. Just some scenes before where we see him as the artist performing the demigod ritual to a reckless village Shiva is an exciting transformation. His character seemed to have shades of that typical antihero which has been a celebration in Indian cinema off-late, but thanks to the writers for the significant relief by moving away from that theme as the movie progresses. The plot twists are predictable, with some uninteresting sequences coming now and then. They are meant to be moments of relief, but after a point, it seems too many of them; you feel they could have been chopped away, which would have made the film sharp and crisp. I understand the entertainment part it provides, but when it hampers the pace of the main narrative, it just does not help. You may buy in a set of audience who have a liking, but you also lose a group that is trying to invest hard in some seriousness of the film. One of my favorite places in the movie is "Kailasa". It comes out as an upscale penthouse and an excellent dwelling for Shiva. Favorite moments from the film, plenty!
Speaking on the performances, Rishab owns the film.  I loved his act in GGVV, where he underplayed Hari against the ferocious Shiva. Maybe somewhere in him, he wanted to play a Shiva, which drove him to the intensity we witness in Kantara? Outstanding performance with several shades and especially the last 20 minutes, you would see hardly any actor who rules the screen with so much confidence and might, far ahead of the on-screen CEO of India role. Many would not have expected Rishab to be of such a caliber, but the variety of roles he plays proves how good an actor he is. It is never easy when you are the director of the film too. It is one of the most challenging sets of hats to wear simultaneously. It was nice to see Kishore play a very prominent role. He plays a good guy who wants to shut down the anti-hero, but most often, the audience will hate him as he is on the other side.  An external eye was needed in a place where everyone had the same belief. Achyut Kumar does a cakewalk by doing what he does at ease. I wish the character had more meat; in the end, he felt like just those several times seen character.  Also, Pramod Shetty's character was lackluster. I wish Saptami Gowda emoted well, she seemed to carry the same expression overall no matter what tone the narrative is traversing through. The veteran actors from Ondu Moteeya Kathe, partners of crime with Shiva, offer humor. I loved the way they made use of the slang "Yabe." 
Technically this should be one of the finest Kannada films. To conceive such an idea visually is not easy.  Setting aside the grandeur, creating such an atmosphere, and getting the right environment, the team has done an awe-inspiring job. Arvind Kashyap is easily the best cinematographer that we have. Having seen his work so closely for a decade, he has shown immense growth in adapting to the technology. It isn't an easy job to get that kind of compelling visual. I have a feeling that Rishab and Arvind work very well together. Ajaneesh Loknath has helped elevate the film with his tremendous background score. The sound team also deserves appreciation. Another thing that will get the audience in awe is the action sequences. Even though it happens in a limited space, it is well choreographed.  
The climax of the film will be the most talked about. The film follows a particular trajectory until the near climax, but the last 20 minutes will ultimately leave you spellbound. It is not because of the stellar VFX or extraordinary visuals or fight sequences, it is only because of the captivating performance that Rishab draws us in. You quickly get goosebumps when Arvind Kashyap captures the emoted Rishab playing the "Daiva" with Ajaneesh's score in the background. This, for me, has been a great cinematic experience, and I can't thank the team enough. The satisfaction that we see in the Daiva or deity, in the end, is the exact feel the audience walks out and just can wait to share his thoughts with others, 
I will not be lying if I say I watched the best Kannada film of this year. Thanks, Hombale for funding this film, Thanks Rishab and team, for making this film.