Made on a modest budget of INR160 million ($1.96 million), “Kantara” (or ‘Mystical Forest’) has been one of the biggest sleeper hits in the world this year. Its director-producer and star Rishab Shetty attributes its success to the film’s local flavor.
Released in September, the Kannada language film has accumulated a worldwide box office gross of more than INR4 billion (around $49 million).
The hyper-local story, exploring the theme of human-animal conflict, draws on Shetty’s own experiences, his memories and the traditions in his village home town he told film producer T. G. Thyagarajan at an in-conversation session in Goa. They were speaking on Friday about ‘Representing Cultural Diversity and Identifying New Markets’ during the International Film Festival of India.
“I believe that the more local and more rooted a story is, the more universal appeal it has. Emotions transcend language barriers,” said Shetty, who also plays the lead character Shiva.
Shetty shot Kantara in his hometown of Kundapura, in Karnataka. He has previously directed Kannada films “Ricky” and “Kirik Party” and acted in a number of Kannada-language films produced in the South Indian filmmaking centre nicknamed Sandalwood.
“There is no formula for a successful pan-India film. The content must connect with the audience. I observe society and try to bring that into my films and because I believe in the rituals I have depicted in my film, the audience believes them too,” said Bangalore-based Shetty.
Discussing the correlation between budget and box office, Shetty was dismissive. “I decide the budget based on what the film needs. The viewers don’t care about the budget. They watched the film because they liked the story.” Word-of-mouth, the cheapest form of marketing contributed greatly.