'If Kantara has reached out to such a wide audience, it is God's hand guiding me through my work.'
'Why should I allow myself to feel proud about it?'
Talking to Rishab Shetty, you would never guess this is the writer-director-actor behind the Kannada blockbuster, Kantara./em>.
Gentle and soft spoken, Rishab tells Subhash K Jha, "When I decided to make Kantara, I was not thinking of how far it would reach. It was just something I needed to do. I have grown up in Keradi, the coastal village of Karnataka where the film is set."
"This idea of the Daiva was with me from childhood. The buffalo race (Kambala) are things that are within me, I just had to dig onto my own imagination. Writing the film was not difficult at all. This idea brings together all of society and erases social inequality. I wanted to explore the close relationship between Man and Nature."
Rishab feels there isn't enough cultural and ethnic pride among film-makers.
"We should make more films that bring out unknown facets of our tradition and culture. Instead of cultivating pride in being Hindu, some film-makers are busy ridiculing our culture and religion."
Success was never the criteria for making Kantara for Rishab.
"I had a story to tell. Since it was about a culture that is characteristic of coastal Karnataka, it had to be in the Kannada language. We had no idea of making it pan-India and all that. It was only after the release that we thought of dubbing it into Hindi and other languages. The entire dubbing and release was done in two weeks," he says.
Shooting the film in Keradi was not difficult.
"The Kambala race was shot on land owned by my family. The entire region was familiar to me," he explains.
But shooting the two Bhoota Kola dances was tough.
"I knew about the dance, but performing it on camera was another thing," he says.
"The heavy costume and makeup made me very uncomfortable. But once I started to shoot, it was as if the Gods had taken over. I remember I was fasting while shooting as I wanted to maintain that purity within me that I needed to project the passionate devotion while dancing. Dancing was tough without almost any food or water. But once I got into it, I was like a man possessed."
The screams reaching out to divinity during the dance are chilling.
Rishab admits they were hard to perform: "Those are not just ordinary screams. They convey more than pain and protest. They are the sounds reaching out to divinity. I had to work really hard on getting it right. Even the slightest slip up would have offended the worshippers."
The family man with two children is not allowing the Kantara success to go to his head.
"I am the same person I was before Kantara. I have starred in films and directed quite a few. If Kantara has reached out to such a wide audience, it is God's hand guiding me through my work. Why should I allow myself to feel proud about it?"