'Kantara' got released in Telugu today. Brought to the Telugu States by Allu Aravind's Geetha Arts, the film is taking decent openings in cities like Hyderabad.
The film begins with a prologue sort of intro wherein we see a blessed king living in 1847 giving large tracts of his forest land to the dwellers at the behest of a Godly entity. Sometime in the 1970s, a descendant of the king tries to dispute the donation, only to meet with untimely tragedy.
Cut to 1990, a feudal lord Devendra (Achyuth Kumar) is full of poisonous thinking. A gutsy youngster named Shiva (Rishab Shetty, the film's hero) works for him. Meanwhile, a forest range officer Murali (Kishore) wants to secure the forest land for the government. The rest of the film is about how Shiva saves the forest land for dwellers with divine intervention playing a stupendous role.
Since this is a Kannada movie dubbed into Telugu, almost all actors are unfamiliar to the Telugu audience. Rishab Shetty, too, is just getting to be known in the Telugu States, thanks to the enormous hype around 'Kantara'. The thrill of watching an unknown actor deliver a rousing performance can't be put into words. Rishab, who is also the film's director and writer, is outstanding in the pre-climax and climax portions. His acting is superlative, to say the least.
Achyuth Kumar as Devendra is delightful in the second half. Manasi Sudhir as the male lead's mother, Sapthami Gowda as his girlfriend, and Pramod Shetty as Sudhakar are adequate.
Costume designer Pragathi Shetty made a deep study in coming up with costumes for the folk portions. Music director B Ajaneesh Loknath's composition for 'Varaha Roopam Daiva Va Rishtam' is world-class. His BGM matches the ambition of Hombale Films, the makers of 'KGF' and 'Salaar' who produced the movie. Arvind S. Kashyap's cinematography is an asset.
This is the kind of film that works even if someone told you the entire story. That's because the treatment is more important than plot when it comes to spectacle films like 'KGF' and performative films like 'Kantara'.
The film has spawned conversations around folk rituals and traditions. As per a Netizen, the Bhuta worship in the form of Bhuta Kola depicted in the film is celebrated in the Tululand, in places such as Mangalore, Udupi, Kundapura. No Telugu must have heard of the tradition, yet the way 'Kantara' makes us understand what is going on the screen is praiseworthy.
The sensibilities of the film go way beyond 'Rangasthalam', a film that was more in the commercial space and whose plot points bear a couple of resemblances. The film's fans are describing the film in various terms but none captures the experience more than this term: 'transcendental'.
There are surely some minuses. After the first 30 minutes, 'Kantara' does bore to an extent. The film achieves greatness in the last 30 minutes again.
'Kantara' is a performative film with a knockout acting output from Rishab Shetty. Watch it!