Kanthara, Rishab Shetty success

What 'Kantara's success is teaching other filmmakers

The year 2022 has put the Kannada film industry on the world map. One after the other, Kannada films have set the box office on fire across India. Kantara has become the latest buzzword among moviegoers and most people in the entertainment industry are raving about its success.

So, can the Rishab Shetty starrer show the path to success for other small and medium-budget filmmakers in the film industry? Well, that is a billion-dollar question.

The box-office collections of Kantara worldwide are about to touch close to ₹150 crore. According to trade experts, the film may mop up ₹200 crore by the end of its dream run. The movie, produced by Hombale Films at the cost of ₹10 crore, is all set to become any producer’s dream investment. The movie is Rishab Shetty’s biggest hit to date and the actor-director is on cloud nine, giving interviews across the country.

RGV is mocking big-budget filmmakers

In the midst of all this rejoicing, maverick filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma tweeted multiple times about the movie’s success and its budget and how this “wonderful lesson called Kanthara” is turning out to be a nightmare for other filmmakers.

Ram Gopal Varma seemed to be mocking the big budget ₹300 crore, ₹400 crore and ₹500 crore films. The question that Ram Gopal Varma and several other filmmakers are pertinently raising is whether such big budgets are even necessary to rake in the moolah at the box office? Clearly, Kantara, has shown otherwise.

Also read: Investment or gamble? Post-KGF, Kannada filmmakers plot pan-India films

Take the case of Hombale films, for example. They made the mega-budget KGF franchise with over ₹200 crore for a period of six years. The film’s second part alone raked in about ₹1,200 crore. The makers of the KGF franchise had some top-level presenters for different languages of the film. Kannada superstar Yash too, travelled the length and breadth of the country to promote his film even though KGF Chapter 1 was already a surprise hit in the Hindi belt.

Meanwhile, shooting for Hombale Film’s ₹10 crore budget Kantara started in August 2011 and the film released in October 2022. The film made nearly ₹150 crore in just 2-3 weeks of its release. Sources in the industry say that, in a way, Kantara has performed better for Hombale films compared to KGF given the investment, time, and risks.

Initially, Kantara had nothing going for it except for a big production house like Hombale films backing it. The teaser and the film’s poster had created a buzz among the audience, but sources close to Rishab Shetty and Hombale Films say, even they never expected this kind of response.

Film critic and journalist M Sagar told The Federal that it would not be wrong to say that Rishab team’s and Hombale films took a huge risk when they released the film. “The movie was released along with the much-awaited Mani Ratnam big period film, Ponniyin Selvan, which also had a huge star cast. Kantara did not have much publicity and the initial plan was to release it just in a few theatres,” he pointed out.

However, the film picked up by the first weekend, thanks to rave reviews and word-of-mouth publicity. Kantara’s Telugu, Tamil and Hindi dubbed versions were popular as well and the filmmakers started to increase the number of screens in Karnataka and elsewhere. “So, it was a clear case of trial and error that turned out to be a success, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give credit to its craft and overall presentation,” said Sagar.

Also read: Why movie-goers in Karnataka pay more to watch Ponniyin Selvan

GGVV was a good film but failed to rake in the moolah

It is interesting to note here that Garuda Gamana Rishaba Vahana, starring Raj B Shetty and Rishab Shetty, based in the Mangaluru coastal belt had also received critical acclaim from filmmakers, audience, and critics. Film critics from the Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam industry heaped praise on the film. However, GGVV never tasted the kind of box-office success that Kantara is currently enjoying.

Going by Hombale Films’ experience, there is no one formula that works. One of Kannada film industry’s top producers and distributors told The Federal that how the film performs at the box office is always a gamble.

”I produce/distribute small, medium and big-budget films. Most of the time, we never watch them before their release. We give our best to every film and at the end of the day, it’s the audience who decides the fate of a film. Honestly, every film is a gamble. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. You just have to keep continuing to make films and hope it works,” he said.

Another producer, who did not want to be named, said that a few years ago, a film was made on a budget of ₹17 crores with a big star and it took nearly two years to be released. The film was an average hit and the makers earned about ₹18 crore. According to the producer, the film was a loss as the same amount could have earned more in a bank. Besides, the producer could have also avoided sleepless nights worrying about whether the film will be a hit or not.

Meanwhile, big names in the Indian film industry are worrying over big-budget films flopping at the box office. Films like Saaho, Radhe Shyam, Acharya, Bheemla Nayak, and Cobra tanked badly. These films had superstars who belonged to the ₹100-200 crore club.

Is it necessary to make ₹400 crore big-budget movies like Baahubali to earn more (which it did, the film made ₹1,800 crores)? Or, should filmmakers stick to making a ₹10 crore film like Kantara that will rake in ₹200 crores? But, sources in the industry also say that Kantara’s box-office win may have just been a one-off success story and not all well-made, small-budget Kannada films releasing in theatres will enjoy the same success. In the end,  filmmakers continue to tussle with this million-dollar question.

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