Kantara, the Kannada movie by Rishab Shetty, has caught the nation and even foreign shores by storm. I saw the movie a few weeks ago, but the aftermath still lingers, for the experience was so powerful. I call it an experience because of the splendid manner in which the story was told and, of course, the plot itself.
No spoilers ahead
Lord Panjurli, the Varaha Moorthy, and His Ugra swaroopam, Guliga, are the protecting deities of the fictional village in 'Kantara'. A ruling king in the 18th century comes across the stone deity, Guliga, while on a journey to seek peace in his life. He finds inexplicable happiness at the feet of Guliga and wishes to take the stone deity to his palace. As an exchange, Lord Panjurli asks the king to give away the land to the resident villagers. Decades later, the descendants of the king contest this ordain and want to usurp the land from the villagers.
As a young lad, Shiva-the hero of the story, witnesses his father disappear into the forest after a bhoota kola performance, leaving him with several unanswered questions. The bhoota kola is an annual ritual in which the performer (only the descendants of a particular family carry out the kola dance) does a traditional dance, donning a distinctive appearance. Legend has it that, during the performance, Lord Panjurli possesses the performer, who then becomes an oracle to settle local disputes and deliver justice.
Kaval deivams are not an alien concept for the southern states of India. Every village is a treasure trove of stories about rituals that appease the presiding deity, a set of rules peculiar to the locals because the said deity has ordained it, and traditions followed by generations to upkeep dharma.
Growing up, Shiva remains conflicted about the presence of supernatural power and suffers from nightmares- which are divine messages from Lord Panjurli that he fails to understand. On the outside, he is boorish, disregards rules, and seeks justice through physical power. Shiva is afraid of facing his internal demons and refuses to continue the tradition of being a kola performer when he comes of age. Eventually, he sees the divinity (within him) and walks on the path destined for him.
When humans forget dharma and fall prey to selfish needs and excessive greed, the result is always calamity. The divine corrects the wrong in many subtle ways, but when adharma crosses a limit, He appears on earth to set things right. Although this is a time-old message, Kantara underlines it in a layered manner without being preachy about it. It is unabashedly raw and glorifies every cultural aspect. It is a story of dharma, but it is also Shiva's internal journey from ignorance to truth. As an audience, we have so many takeaways. The divine is shining within us, but it takes courage to walk the path of righteousness and the grace of a higher power to see that divinity.
Secondly, what a splendid music score! It uplifts and takes storytelling to another level. The background music leads you inside and takes you along the story. You are no longer a spectator on the sidelines but experience the scenes as they unfold. The climax is astounding and leaves you with goosebumps and tears.
Please leave your comments if you have watched the movie. If you haven't yet, I urge you to do so.
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