Conflicts between man and nature have always provided enough fodder for our filmmakers to dole out one film after the other. Rishab Shetty’s Kantara, though dealing with the same concept, strives to be original and wins at it by staying rooted and realistic.
Even in his previous films, Ricky and Sa.Hi.Pra Shaale, Rishab expressed his flair for telling stories of the coastal belt of Karnataka. With Kantara, he further goes deep into the woods to talk about safeguarding forests even while delivering a compelling revenge-action drama with a blend of crime and divinity.
Kantara is set in a fictional village of Dakshina Kannada, and begins in the 18th century when a king exchanges a piece of land with his people and moves on to find peace and happiness. Centuries later, the same land becomes a threat to the tribals of that area., but they believe their demigods, doubling up as their guardians, protect the village. The story shifts to the 90s, and we see the face-off between villagers who dwell in the forests, and the forest officer who wants to clear any encroachment in the area.
Shiva (Rishab Shetty) lives a carefree life with his friends, and is often at loggerheads with forest officer Murali (Kishore), who just wants to uphold the law of the land. We also have a politician Devendra Suttur (Achyuth Kumar), whose misdeeds become his identity. But there is a bigger evil at work, and Kantara is about Shiva’s struggle to bring justice to the people of the village.
The film ends with an outstanding climax, which is definitely the USP of Kantara. There are multiple viewpoints in Kantara, and it is all wonderfully brought together by Rishab, who has written and directed the film too.
Rishab is only getting better with each film, and the backing of Hombale Films has allowed the filmmaker to make the movie more realistic. Even though it runs on the familiar territory of human-nature conflict, the chapters of Bhoota kola and Kambala make it unique. Every frame of the film is beautiful. DOP Aravind Kashyap lights up Kantara in vivid shades, and with able support from art director Dharani Gange Putra, gives Kantara a rather natural look.
Kantara also explores some serious issues like caste discrimination. While there is no separate comedy track, there are enough quirks in some of the characters to add to the fun quotient. The film brings in crisp narration, and extra credit should be given to the well-orchestrated action sequences.
Composer Ajaneesh Loknath is marvellous in Kantara. While his folk melodies are soothing, the background score accentuates the narrative of Kantara.
Rishab, the actor, is outstanding as Shiva, and breathes life into this rather unconventional character. He has undergone a mass and intense transformation for the role, and the effects are evident. Rishab’s performance in the nail-biting climax will definitely make the audience cheer and applaud for him. Sapthami Gowda as forest guard Leela, who is also Shiva’s love interest, delivers a decent performance in Kantara. Kishore and Achyuth too give powerful performances, and it is a joy to watch the former’s intense ego clashes with Shiva. Manasi Sudhir, Pramod Shetty and Prakash Thuminad too are decent with their acts.
With Kantara, Rishab once again creates magic, both as a director and an actor, and delivers an entertainer with a strong social message, and an even stronger final act.
Director: Rishab Shetty
Cast: Rishab Shetty, Sapthami Gowda, Kishore, Achyuth Kumar
Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars
(This story originally appeared on Cinema Express)