Rishabh Shetty’s “Kantara,” which means the mystic forest, is an amalgamation of folklore with the story of a village that is protective of its surroundings. A Kannada language drama starring Rishab Shetty, Sapthami Gowda, Kishore, Achyuth Kumar, and Pramod Shetty, “Kantara,” was released in theaters on September 30th, 2022.
What Happens In The ‘Kantara’ Film?
The film begins with a story of a king who goes miles to seek for peace and happiness within his palace but is unable to achieve it. Eventually, he sets out on a pilgrimage to seek the same and comes across a deity in the form of a stone. He drops his weapon and realizes that the deity Panjurli is what he is seeking to attain happiness. As the King requests the villagers to help him take this stone back to his palace, the possessed performer informs him to take along Guliga deity with him with Panjurli deity. He also makes it clear that Panjurli is forgiving but backing out on the exchange terms would mean Guliga’s unforgiving wrath would befall them. The King agrees to these conditions. A century later, a descendant of the King demands the Kola ritual performer possessed by Pangurli deity to return the land to his family and prove that he is a god, not a human. The performer disappears into the forest immediately, but not before he preempts the descendant’s untimely death on the court stairs.
A few decades after the Kola performer’s disappearance, his son Shiva (Rishabh Shetty) emerges as a Kambala athlete who has no interest in following in his father’s footsteps. He drinks alcohol, smokes ganja, hunts wild boars, and lives life the way he wants. He is living with his mother, uncle, and cousin, who has taken over the responsibility of being the Kola performer during every Bhoota Kola festival. Shiva and the entire village are on good terms with the landlord, the current descendent of the King, and he is equally cordial with them. Soon the town is appointed a new forest officer, Muralidhar (Kishore), who is not interested in the beliefs or customs of the villagers. All he cares about is the preservation of the forest and goes miles to stop the locals from cutting down trees and other forms of vegetation. His interests clash with Shiva and the rest of the village. Meanwhile, Shiva’s girlfriend, Leela, also becomes a forest officer, and she is forced to go against her townspeople and follow Murali’s orders. The animosity that escalates between Shiva and Muralidhar heads form the crux of the story.
‘Kantara’ Ending Explained: Why Does Shiva Embrace Guliga?
Shiva’s clashes with forest officer Murali attain its peak when a huge tree in the forest falls on the car driven by Murali, who was heading to arrest Shiva on the tip provided by the landlord’s henchman, Sudhakara (Pramod Shetty). Shiva is on the run as instructed by the landlord but is soon arrested along with his friends. Tragedy soon befalls Shiva, his family, and the village as Guruvan the Kola performer, Shiva’s brother, is murdered by the landlord, Devendra Suttooru (Achyuth Kumar), for just like his father, he believes the villagers and the performer concocted a story to deprive him of the land which belonged to the King, his ancestor. The villagers, at this point, are unaware of the killer. Meanwhile, in the effort to convert the forest into a reserved forest, Murali comes to know that the landlord has illegally taken control of the entire land in his name. Shiva is soon made aware of his brother’s murder, and to get Shiva by his side, the landlord bails him out and feeds him a lie, stating his brother was killed by Murali. Shiva learns of the actual killer of Guruvan from his mentor and heads to the village to inform them. He finds Murali already present there to inform the villagers of the landlord’s misdeeds. Shiva joins hands with Murali to confront the landlord, while the landlord is on his way to kill the villagers, including Shiva and Murali. A severe fight ensues in which Shiva is severely wounded and passes out. Soon, he is possessed by the Guligan deity and attains immense strength. In the trance state, he decapitates the landlord and his henchmen, as the villagers look on to see their village’s chosen Kola performer. The film ends with Shiva accepting his role as the Kola performer possessed by Panjurli for the Bhoota Kola festival and asking Murali and other villagers to maintain the peace in the village intact. Shiva runs off to the forest and seemingly finds his father and disappears into the light.
“Kantara” is filled with visual imagery, which is hard to ignore throughout the film. Just like “Karnan ” and “Tumbbad,” each imagery has a meaning attached to it. The recurring dreams of his father as the Guliga possessed performer is an indication that Shiva should carry forward the practice of a Kola performer for the festival. Shiva also comes across visions of his father while he is awake, who screams a divine sound that shakes him up. While Shiva hunts the boar with his friends, his mother repeatedly yells at him for not doing so, as the deity Panjurli comes from the third incarnation of Vishnu, Varaha. Shiva, though, isn’t interested in performing but is attached to the village, villagers, and customs they follow. At one point, he confronts Murali and informs him that the forest belongs to the deity, and it doesn’t need any protection from anyone.
The folklore is infused so much into the narrative that you can’t separate both till the end. The horror and the supernatural elements come across beautifully, which adds a layer to the storytelling. The makers were inspired by “Tumbbad,” but they have made this film their own. Rooted in nature and culture, the attachment the villagers have with the nature surrounding them is purely to continue the tradition they and their ancestors have been following for years, and while they have no ulterior motive. Writer Rishabh Shetty conveys through various imagery the existence of divine power and the strength of the deity to eradicate everything wrong.
“Kantara” projects nature as the binding force. A force that protects the people who take care of them and the villagers who go miles to take care of them. There is also a narrative that explains how the villagers are dependent on the forest for the vegetation, while Murali is trying to stop the villagers from doing so. This narrative asks questions about why villagers can’t collect produce from the forest when they spend so much of their life protecting it. They are dependent on one another, and that cycle should not be broken.
Varaha Roopam Daiva Va Rishtam song is a perfect addition to the movie, for it talks about how the deity is emotionally attached to the village and the forest, and that the deity would go miles to protect it from evil forces. The song sounds eerily like Thaikuddam Bridge’s Navarasam. The Panjurli possessed performance throughout the film is a piece of art in which the power of the divine shines effectively. Just like the King surrenders to it, as an audience, you would also surrender to the force behind the deity. The divine scream that the Kola performer hurls does not come off as noise but as a sound that is backed by divine power.
There are plenty of reasons why this film must be watched, and that too, on the big screen. The cinematography by Arvind S. Kashyap gives a mystical and spiritual touch to “Kantara.” The use of fire and its elements to showcase it as the only power that takes you on the right path. The screenplay and direction by Rishabh Shetty don’t slow down. Right from the beginning to the end, you will be on a spiritual ride filled with folklore, mythology, and supernatural forces. Thanks to Rishabh Shetty, the underlying theme of the film remains the conservation and protection of forests. Performances of every actor stand out, but Kishore as Murali, the forest officer, and Rishabh Shetty as Shiva steal the show. Rishabh as the performer possessed by Guliga, in the end, is a treat to watch. He embraces the deity with full force and brings out so much power through the performance.
Overall, “Kantara” does not disappoint you at any point of time during its running time of 2 hours 30 minutes. An enthralling experience indeed. “Kantara” is a must-watch.
“Kantara” is running at theaters near you and will soon be available on Amazon Prime Video.