Made on a modest budget of INR 160 million ($1.96 million), “Kantara” (or ‘Mystical Forest’) has been one of the biggest sleep hits in the world this year. The director-producer and star Rishab Shetty attributes the film’s success to the local flavor.
Released in September, the Kannada film has accumulated a worldwide box office gross of over INR 4 billion (approximately $49 million).
The hyperlocal story, which explores the theme of human-animal conflict, is based on Shetty’s own experiences, his memories and the traditions of his village, he told film producer TG Thyagarajan during an in-conversation session in Goa. They spoke on Friday during the International Film Festival of India about ‘Representing Cultural Diversity and Identitying New Markets’.
“I believe that the more local and rooted a story is, the more universal it is. Emotions transcend language barriers,” says Shetty, who also plays the main character Shiva.
Shetty shot Kantara in his hometown of Kundapura, in Karnataka. He previously directed Kannada films “Ricky” and “Kirik Party” and acted in a number of Kannada language films produced in the South Indian film center nicknamed Sandalwood.
“There is no formula for a successful pan-Indian film. The content must resonate 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,” says Shetty from Bangalore.
Shetty discussed the correlation between budget and box office and was dismissive. “I set the budget based on what the film needs. The viewers don’t care about the budget. They watched the movie because they liked the story.” Word-of-mouth advertising, the cheapest form of marketing, made a major contribution to this.