Interview | Kantara’s Rishab Shetty reveals the overwhelming reason he has stopped doing theatre visits

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi
Oct 18, 2022 06:48 AM IST

Kannada film Kantara's actor and director Rishab Shetty talks to Hindustan Times about the film and what makes it so successful.

Actor-filmmaker Rishab Shetty, who is currently basking in the phenomenal success of his latest release Kantara, feels the pan-Indian cinema wave will die down soon if we don’t approach it in the right way. Rishab feels the idea of a pan-Indian movie shouldn’t be about making a big-scale film. Instead, he believes it should be about telling region-specific stories that are packaged in a way that it appeals to audiences across the industries. Also read: Kantara box office: Rishab Shetty's film is 6th biggest Kannada movie ever

Rishab Shetty in a still from Kantara. 
Rishab Shetty in a still from Kantara. 

Originally made in Kannada, Kantara has grossed over Rs. 100 crore globally and was dubbed and released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu over the weekend. In Karnataka, the film’s success has surpassed everyone’s expectations which includes Rishab’s own. “In some small villages of Karnataka where single screens are still a big deal, shows were running houseful throughout and theatre owners had to put extra chairs in the halls to accommodate the audience. Some theatre owners told us that they’re seeing old people come to their halls for the first time in 40 years. That’s the kind of response the film has seen, and it’s unbelievable.”

The response has been so surreal that so many elders removed their footwear after a show and prostrated before Rishab during one of his theatre visits. “It was after that day, I stopped doing theatre visits. It was such a heavy feeling to see people fall at my feet. I just couldn’t handle such reactions as I didn’t know how to reciprocate. It made me both emotional and more responsible. It was also a reminder that no matter whether you face success or failure, you should quickly move on and not let it affect you,” he said.

Rishab never anticipated this kind of success. What has stunned him even more is how the film has been received even outside Karnataka. “Initially, we never had plans to dub and release the film in other languages. We thought we will dub the film when it comes on OTT but after seeing the reception for the Kannada version outside Karnataka, distributors contacted us and wanted to dub and release the film.”

Talking about what really made audiences lap up the film even outside Karnataka, Rishab said: “I strongly believe in the line – more regional is more universal. I think what we are doing wrong with the whole pan-Indian cinema dream is that we are trying to make bigger films. What’s the point when I try to make the kind of film that has already been made before in some other industry or in the west? Why will audiences pay money to watch such a film in theatres when they can watch it on OTT? In Kantara, I took elements from my own village and mixed it with a story about the conflict between some patch of land owned by some farmers and the forest department. It’s actually a story of humans versus nature. The differentiating aspect was the use of the mythology which is very region-specific and it worked wonders with the audience.”

Rishab quotes the examples of fellow filmmakers and writers from Kannada industry who are standing apart with their vision to tell region-specific stories. “When people ask me what has led to the transformation of Kannada cinema in a big way in the last decade, I tell them it’s technicians coming from different parts of Karnataka. We have Pawan Kumar who is a Bangalore-based filmmaker. Rakshit (Shetty) comes from Udupi. There’s Ere Gowda who hails from Mandya, and he made a film called Thithi which is a very region-specific story about a funeral. All these technicians are keen on telling stories from the places they come from. Therefore, they have something new to offer to the audience.”

One of the major highlights of the movie has to be Rishab’s Bhoota Kola performance. He describes it as a spiritual experience. “It’s something I’m still figuring out how I pulled it off. I grew up watching these performances from a very young age in my village. When I decided to do it, there was a lot of responsibility. I need to thank Raj (actor-filmmaker Raj B. Shetty) for choreographing the Kola performances in the beginning as well as in the climax of the movie,” Rishab said.

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