Kantara: Mythological Protector Story
Star Cast: Rishab Shetty, Kishore Kumar, Achyuth Kumar, Sapthami Gowda, Pramod Shetty, Prakash Tuminadu, Manasi Sudhir, Shanil Guru, Deepak, Roy Panaje Explain Kantara
Music Composed by Ajaneesh Loknath
Produced by Vijay Kiragandur
Directed by Rishab Shetty
What Kantara’s story is?
An artist from the Bhoota Kola (Spirit Play) family is questioned at a performance if Panjurli exists. To prove that God exists, the artist decides to end his life. (He submits himself proactively to God). He doesn’t pass the mantle to his son but then all of it happens. These visuals leave him with nightmares. Explain Kantara
Let’s pause here … Why should a God show proof of existence? Panjurli or Varaha, doesn’t want to kill or torture as everyone is his son. But if forced, out of compulsion takes a decision and for that too, does penance. Remember this.
Now, the cousin Guruva (Swaraj Sheety) of the hero Shiva takes over the mantle of the performer and the director here restricts one performer per family and festival while in reality, two or three, or at times five perform at the festival. The cousin tries to lead a life, that is closer to God and almost like a Sadhu. He always tries to advise Shiva that his path of “free will” is too dangerous. He asks him to open his eyes to the Natural Order and not be tamed by “Desire”. Here, the director goes down the path that K Raghavendra Rao took in Annamayya  / Sri Manjunatha  – a non-believer “free-will” ed rebel turns into a “true believer”. Shiva starts to challenge everything in his sight and lead a life opposite to what his father led. Trying to question everything and unable to find an answer, does what pleases him than what is necessary. We all feel like Rangasthalam‘s  inspired story, starts from here. The politics of the land start with a landlord or the richest man trying to find the leader of the youth and making him accept that he is a supporter and not an opposition. Who becomes the leader of the youth in the village or tribal villages – Shiva (Rishab Shetty). Panjurli is upset with this decision of Shiva and the nightmares increase as he keeps hunting for wild boars. Director here tried to state that even those who believe in God, try to search for existence and accept what they see and what is necessary for them in their perspective but not the “between the lines”. Shiva to escape the nightmares starts to submit himself to vices and Devendra, more and more. He even helps the landlord in his illegal affair.
Later, Varaha cleanses him with the help of his cousin for Guliga Daiva to help the villagers fight Devendra.
How can this simple-looking premise work?
The writer and director try to tell in a rooted fashion. Almost as if we are watching a documentary about the lives of villagers from Tulunadu. He does that by setting up a village and bringing grounded characters into the plot. But then gives everything a deeper undercurrent theme from mythology to follow.
“Man who lives his life of desires can only overcome those desires” – Shiva.
“Manchivadi la kanapade mrugam” – Devendra
“Mrugam anukuni manam vetaduthunna daivam” – Wild Boar or Panjurli or Varaha
“Namme valla nammakanni kincha parachakunda gouravam isthune mee alochana cheppocchu” – Forest Officer
“Duty aa manam aa anukune samayam vasthe rendu korukunna nyayam edo marchipoku. Oka Dani kosam inko dantlo anyayanni support cheyyaku ” – Heroine character
“Mogudu ledani nirlakshayam chesthe aame kopanni tattukoleru aame avesham tho tiragabadithe chaavu tappadu” – Mother aka Mother Nature.
“Tene pusina Kaththi ninnu ayina champuthundhi tappa ninnu kapadadu” – Village businessman who is against Shiva.
After all these basic level details that are incorporated in the film let’s discuss them even more deeply.
Indian Mythology, whether you believe it to be true or false, deals with purification and reformation more than black-and-white stories, in a simplistic form. If Devathas are to be categorized as “do-gooders” and white – there is Devendra who can put the greatest of asuras to shame. Even Asuras have “Bali” Chakravarthy and Vibhishana to show they can be “good” or “nice” people. Every village or tribal land tends to have a “Kshetrapala” or “Protector of the land” and using them or their origin stories as references many films have been made in India. In a way, Kamal Haasan’s “Thevar Magan”  uses such a protector theory without a purification angle. In a love story like “Vaidehi Kathirunthal” , we can see Vijaykanth being equated to a village protector to stop abductors from withholding love couple. Dhanush’s Karnan  uses parallels to the “Village Protector” story in the screenplay. Kantara , is a new edition to such films and it is overtly loud in its message.
The loudness is not just about “Bhoota Kola” artist shouting as if calling someone – which is actually telling that the god has arrived an announcement, but it also delivers the message, “Nature belongs to everyone and all are equal”, in similar on the face fashion. The major problem lies in the comedy track and “romance” track as well. Even the villain looks generic, and the ego clash looks somewhat silly after a point, being prolonged without any consequences. Shiva’s aversion towards taking up his father’s place, when he desires it inside, his fear needed to have a more defining direction. In the scene, when “Panjurli” appears to him and his “father” calls for him, he almost seems like giving into them but then fears giving into it. Why? What is the reason, he doesn’t care about his single mother as much as his landlord, “Devendra”.
If you go into mythology, “Varaha-murthy” marries Bhoo-devi and promises to her that whenever there will be a problem, he would protect her from it. Here, Panjurli comes along with Guliga Daiva. Panjurli is Varaha and Guliga Daiva is a form of Shiva. Rishab Shetty made his father parallel to Varaha-murthy and mother – nature, which is being neglected, and Devendra, the Asura, who wants to occupy it. Hence, Shiva has to become Guliga Daiva and become the protector that Panjurli wants him to be – fulfilling his destiny. Then he unites with his father and leaves behind another “protector“. While being fulfilled, he or God asks everyone to stay united and leaves behind the protector, just in case. In theory, the movie seems to be something more like the material that Shyam Benegal kind of director touched in Anurgraham . But in execution, Rishab Shetty decides to keep the origin story of Shiva – The protector as the normal hero who escapes from his duties learning about his purpose, just like any other commercial film with a divine twist. As the unique portions have worked, the movie seems to have worked overall but the adult humor and hero forcing himself on the heroine, more than required time spent on wild boar hunting, the ego clash that turns out to be inconsequential at all levels brings the movie down, consistently.
Yes, every movie will have portions that work and that don’t but here the major core of the story – “Kshetrapala” siding the evil – almost becoming Narakasura, Mahishasura himself, portions drag out too much. Heroine and mother characters get completely sidelined as if they are only there to cook, sleep or cry and carry forward the gene. There could have been tension between the lovers and their quarrel gave the Forest Officer more power to put Shiva in trouble. There could have been Shiva or Devendra constantly being conscious about hiding their illegal activities and ensuing ego clashes actually breaking or widening the cracks to expose them. In a filmy twist, the “Evil decides to burn it all one day” and suddenly, the “cleansed hero turns into a Godly savior“. Had this been incorporated into the ego clash, Forest Officer suddenly becoming friend could have been more organic. Even half-conscious Shiva suddenly waking up kind of filmy touches in a film that tries to be grounded in reality yet being a fantasy, could have been avoided or organically developed. There is a style and flare in Rishab’s vision that helped him make this movie, watchable. In a game of chess, you might regret your moves or think back and be proud, but on the whole, it leaves an experience with you whether you lose it or win it. Kantara is one such movie whether you love it or hate it, the movie manages to talk to you with all its flaws almost like a human telling you the story.