Kannada cinema is proud of its own RRR: Raj, Rishab and Rakshit Shetty. If you compare them to cricket, Raj is an unpredictable batsman who can create surprises, while Rakshit is a grafter who takes his time to come up with unique projects. Rishab is like a busy customer at the kink, always looking for opportunities and always experimenting, with a keen eye for quality.
With “Kantara” Rishab puts on the director’s hat again. It is the first time that he plays a leading role in his film. The 39-year-old knows how to make people curious about his project. And more importantly, his latest film is backed by Hombale Films, a master of film promotion, the KGF fame.
Like his previous hit Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shaale, Kantara also addresses a social theme. The fast-paced trailer shows a man-versus-nature conflict. It’s a film rooted in the crib. Rishab seems to have found the right cast for his dark tale, with the dependable Kishore and Achyuth Kumar returning in a familiar cast following 2014’s classic “Ulidavaru Kandante.”
A week before the film’s release on September 30, Rishab spoke to him show time about the film. Excerpts:
Wasn’t it exhausting to act in a physically demanding role and direct it at the same time?
The physical transformation wasn’t much of a challenge for me as I wasn’t aiming to get a six pack look. I had to be fit and it wasn’t difficult as I’m trained in wrestling and judo. I play Shiva, a rebellious man. I had to be tough and tough as I had to be part of the Kambala buffalo race. You need a lot of stamina as people get tired after two to three rounds. I rode the buffalo for 36 laps. To prepare, I did mixed martial arts and kickboxing.
They are seen performing the Bhootha Kola. How did you master folk art?
It’s a very spiritual process. It is performed by a particular community on the Karnataka coast. I spoke to members of this community and they guided me. Bhootha Kola is part of my identity. Even people from this region who go abroad to work come back every year to experience it.
To get fully in the zone, I stopped eating non-veg food for a month prior to the shoot. We treated the location as “devara sthana”, a temple, and didn’t cook any meat there. Eventually I got an answer as to why I made this film. Maybe it was my fault to feel this positive energy and to be a part of my culture. Thanks to some divine energy, we were able to finish the night shoot despite some damaging incidents and fear of snakes. Raj B Shetty choreographed the kola part growing up with it. During my performance I forgot everything and went into a trance. It’s like I was cast for the role.
You seem to be a meticulous director who gets projects done in no time.
We shot Kantara in 96 days. The season was very important for me because otherwise we would have had to wait a year. As soon as I have an idea, I start right away. Working with me can be stressful during the prep period. During the writing process I need help with the dialogues. For the dialogues I work closely with Abhijit Mahesh and Raj. Once I know I have a top-notch team, I don’t hesitate to develop as a filmmaker.
“Ricky” was intense and delved into Naxalism. “SHPS” was light-hearted, yet touched on the language issue. “Kantara” seems dark and also has a message.
If I don’t switch genres, I get bored. A conscious attempt is made to reflect on social issues.
‘Kantara’ is not dubbed in other languages…
Not every film can be released on a pan-Indian scale. Now filmmakers are using the trend to generate revenue. This is a film rooted in Kannada culture. So I will tell it on Kannada and publish it with subtitles. That’s what Malayalam films do. I am not Yash or Allu Arjun to strive for success across India. It costs Rs 10 crore to release a film in Hindi. Who do you bet on? I haven’t reached that level.