The Daiva roars: How Kantara stormed the North box-office
The Hindi version of Rishab Shetty’s film, released two weeks after its Kannada counterpart, has already minted over Rs 50 crore
Rishab Shetty’s Kantara was recently screened at the Global Investors Meet in Bengaluru. The event was attended by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. Talking about how the film has been a commercial and critical success, Piyush Goyal said, “They have crossed Rs 300 crore against the investment of, I think, Rs 16 crore. It should be noted by all the captains of the industry here.”
Kantara already had a successful run in the South ever since it was released on September 30 in Kannada. Still, it resurged, causing a storm in the North after the release of its Hindi version on October 14. As per trade analyst Ramesh Bala, Kantara’s Hindi version made Rs 53.7 crore till November 4. It has surpassed the Hindi versions of KGF: Chapter 1 (Rs 44 crore approx.) and the Telugu sleeper hit Karthikeya 2 (Rs 31 crore approx.) to make its space among the highest-earning southern films dubbed in Hindi, a list lead by Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Rs 510 crore approx.) and K.G.F 2 (Rs. 434 crore approx.).
“Kantara is a film that was never labelled as pan-India,” says Himesh Mankad, a film trade observer. “It was trending more than KGF 1 and KGF 2 in Karnataka when it was released. Seeing the buzz it created because of its content, there was a demand from people to watch it, and thus a Hindi version was released.”
Himesh also believes that Kantara rode high and fast on word of mouth. “When the Kannada version with subtitles was released in Mumbai, there was an exponential increase in the number of screenings. Word spread fast and those not familiar with the language, thronged to the theatres in large numbers when the Hindi version came out,” he explains. “If both versions had been released simultaneously, the growth of the Hindi version wouldn’t have been so fast. A film like Kantara, which is strong on content but doesn’t enjoy the privilege of big stars like in RRR and Baahubali, should be released in the Hindi belt only after a gap. The same happened with Dulquer Salmaan's Sita Ramam, which was dubbed in Hindi a month after the Telugu version and still did well.”
Film journalist and trade analyst Komal Nahta agrees with this assessment. “Not having a star worked in Kantara’s favour. Nobody knew about it and the Kannada version didn’t perform well in the North. But what it did was create news. The commercial success of the Hindi version is because of the buzz its rooted content created.”
It might seem strange that a film, which is set in a village in Dakshina Kannada, starring a hitherto unknown actor, and exploring myth and folklore prevalent in South India, resonated with viewers in the North. “The more we go local, the more global it becomes,” says screenwriter Niren Bhatt, who is bracing for the release of his next, Bhediya. “People in the Hindi belt could also relate to the demigod ‘Daiva’ in Kantara because they have their own versions of it.” Himesh backs this point. “We all have heard about people being possessed by deities. The version might be different but the crux is the same.”
Kantara, even in its fourth week, is giving tough competition to big Hindi releases. Even on a Diwali weekend, people preferred the Kannada film over Akshay Kumar’s action-adventure Ram Setu and Ajay Devgn’s Thank God. “The problem with Hindi releases these days is that they are mostly genre films. They are not a package deal. Films like Ram Setu might have an alluring concept but they don’t offer a wholesome experience. They lack comedy and catchy songs. A family of four has to spend about Rs 2,000 for a theatrical experience and when it comes to that, Kantara is a bang for your buck,” says Vishek Chauhan, CEO of the popular Roopbani Cinemas in Bihar.
“Bollywood continues to fail week after week because the films that are being released were conceptualised in the pre-pandemic era. The times have changed now, people are seeking a wholesome experience,” he adds.
But will the Kannada superhit fare well in the coming weeks? Raj Bansal, a Rajasthan-based exhibitor, says, “It will manage to garner Rs 75 to 80 crore. Bhediya and Drishyam 2 are also approaching and both are riding on high expectations. Let’s see how Kantara fares against them.”
With inputs from Shilajit Mitra