The Hindi dubbed Kannada film Kantara is an action thriller based on the living legend of ‘Bhoot kola’ or ‘Daiva kola, wherein the Bhoota means a spirit and kola a play, which makes this film indeed a journey from the supernatural to surreal.. writes Dr. Priyaankaa Mathur.
‘Bhoot Kola’ is an ancient ritual of animist spirit worship, which is held to honor the local deities of Tulu forest tribes, prevalent in Tulu Nadu and Malenadu regions of Karnataka and Karnatapr and Kasargod in Northern Kerala. The ritual is performed in the ‘Yakshagana’ dance style to appease and solicit assistance from the spirits to get answers from the deity, while the dancer is possessed by the Demigods during each ceremony.
Based on the backdrop of 1870 the film begins with the tale of a king who in search of mental peace reaches a Demigod called ‘Bhoota’, who trades forestland for the tribal people in exchange for the King’s happiness and joy. Meanwhile, in the present era, the king’s descendant returns to claim the land during a Bhoot kola ceremony and challenges the villagers and the deity to return to his ancestral land and faces a fatal death. The film is gripping enough from the very first scene till the end, while you tend to ask for more as it unwraps gradually in the second half.
Written and Directed by Rishab Shetty, the film stars him in the leading role as well as ‘Shiva’ the protagonist. Shiva happens to be the son of a kola performer who was engulfed with the spirit while performing the ritual. Shiva undergoes an internal struggle till the point he encounters the spirit himself, who appears to help humanity. The film brings with it a thrill of action with tough action sequences, happy comic and romantic moments, along with an eerie feeling every time the kola is possessed with the spirit of the Demigod bringing a chill down your spine with his loud shrieks.
Kantara brings with it the feel of a rustic Kerala village with an authentic showcase of the traditional customs, costumes, and local village sports of buffalo races, cock fights to temple rituals of Bhoot kola, which involves elaborate makeup, costumes, and gestures, which is a surreal experience to watch.
The film is a perfect blend of art, and mythology along with the contemporary issues of forest conservation, throwing light on the plight of the forest tribes, wherein the Demigods, the forces of the universe, and the police force all ultimately unite to conserve mother nature and its flora and fauna.
Kantara certainly has great potential for a worldwide release and recognition to represent Indian cinematic excellence, with its well-narrated story in a traditional Indian cultural setting, while it conveys a social message. Films like these certainly deserve a National Award and need to be presented at the Oscars and Cannes Film Festival. Highly recommended!
FF Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐