Kantara’s success has been something of a fairy tale. The small Kannada film based on regional folklore and rituals was made on a budget of ₹16 crore. As of today, it is the second-highest-grossing Kannada film of all time and one of the highest-grossing Indian films of 2022. Its star and director Rishab Shetty attributes this success to the film’s packaging, which is deeply rooted in the culture of where he belongs–coastal Karnataka. In a chat with Hindustan Times, Rishab opens up about whether Kantara can be remade and why Hindi film industry is unable to replicate the success of the south right now. (Also Read | Kantara’s Rishab Shetty recalls selling water cans to make ends meet before stardom)
Due to its pan-India success, there have been talks of Kantara being potentially remade or adapted in other languages as well. But Rishab says he can’t ‘imagine’ that happening. “When I write, the background I select is from the world I have seen. If you look at Kantara, it is a simple story. There is a hero, there is a villain, we have romance, and the regular stuff. What is new is the background, the layers, and the packaging. All this comes together to create the film’s feel. This is my village’s story, something I have seen since I was a kid, so I presented it. I always say ‘more regional is more universal’. So, if a filmmaker can find this feel, this culture in their region and present and package the story, then maybe it may work. But it can’t be exactly this,” he says.
When he says more regional is more universal, Rishab implies that by focusing on one’s strengths–your own region and the world you are familiar with–you have a stronger chance to appeal to a wider audience. He says that this approach is something Bollywood filmmakers are forgetting these days. “We make the film for the audience, not for ourselves. We need to keep them and their sentiments in mind. We need to see what their values and way of life are. We were there before we were filmmakers. But now, too much western influence and consumption of Hollywood and other content has led to filmmakers trying to do the same in India. But why are you trying that? People are already getting that in Hollywood, and they are doing it better in terms of quality, storytelling and performances,” says Rishab.
There may be some merit to that argument since very few Hindi films have been successful in 2022. And almost all that have tasted success–Gangubai Kathiawadi, The Kashmir Files, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Brahmastra–have had a strong connect with Indian ethos. Rishab says that after the proliferation of web content, this focus has become even more important in Indian films. “Now, on OTT, you are getting it (western content) on lots of platforms in lots of languages. But what you don’t get over there is my village’s story. That rooted, regional story is something you don’t get anywhere in the world. You are a storyteller and your region has stories. That is what you need to bring to the people,” he advises the filmmakers of today.
Kantara, which also stars Sapthami Gowda, Kishore, and Achyuth Kumar, has earned over ₹325 crore at the box office globally. The dubbed versions, which were released two weeks after the Kannada original, have also done pretty well with the Hindi version alone netting ₹53 crore, making it one of the most cost effective Indian films of the year.