As the creative producer of Hombale Films, did you back Rishabh Shetty the actor and director, or did you back the story of Kantara?
We got involved with Kantara from the inception of the idea with Rishab Shetty. Once he got the idea, he called me and that’s when we were into the project.
The theme of the film, with its focus on daiva aradhane, the culture of coastal Karnataka, tribal issues and forest rights, does not seem to have the ingredients of commercial cinema.
The film had every commercial element but in the right mix of being true to the culture and nativity of coastal Karnataka. I really don’t understand exactly what “commercial” means according to the language of cinema, but if a film entertains people throughout its running time, then that’s fine for us. We were confident [that the film would do well] and that’s why we went ahead and produced the film. It was a story that was very true to coastal Karnataka, which still continues now and then, and we wanted to tell that to the world.
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What was the budget and how much has the film grossed at the box office so far?
The budget of Kantara was somewhere between Rs.15 and 20 crore and it has grossed more than Rs.300 crore at the box office as we speak [November 5].
Hombale Films is redefining Kannada cinema with a series of hits. Have you hit upon a winning formula?
Thank you. I think it’s the script and nothing else. You get the script right and everything else falls in place.
What next for Hombale Films? Will you remain with Kannada cinema or will you produce other language films as well?
We are doing films across languages. We started shooting for Salaar in Telugu last year starring Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran. We are doing a Malayalam film with Fahad Faasil called Dhoomam and another called Tyson with Prithviraj. We have signed a Tamil film with Sudha Kongara of Soorarai Pottru fame. So, yes, quite a few films in other languages apart from Kannada.
There have been some controversies regarding Kantara: the accusation that the film has appropriated local cultures and tried to portray it as a broader part of Brahminical Hinduism, and the charge of plagiarising the Varaha Roopam-Navarasam song. What is your response?
This is a story that is true to the culture of the land. We haven’t portrayed anything apart from that. We have just told a story that is true to the culture of coastal Karnataka so I will stick to that, and on the “Varaha Roopam” controversy, all I would like to say is that the legal team is looking into it.