Kantara: Bollywood learns all the wrong lessons from all the wrong movies

When people like Sanjay Dutt and Ranbir Kapoor Say the main reason most Bollywood films fail this year is that they are not ‘rooted’ in Indian culture, they speak in programming language. They don’t talk about Bollywood movies at all, but they do talk about the idea of ​​masculinity that those movies offer. And while that may be It seems As if fanning stories set in the villages, they are actually talking about the horrible men who rule them.

What these guys really want—and they don’t make any bones about it—is a Cantara movie, a movie in which men with beards race buffaloes, harass women, and fight in the mud.

After months of positive word of mouth, Kantara has arrived (in admittedly altered form) on Amazon Prime Video this week. And having not consumed any marketing material other than stunning facial-tinted photos of writer, director, and star Rishab Shetty, I sat down to watch it, somewhat intrigued as to what all the fuss was about. But imagine my disappointment when, after about 10 minutes, I realize that Kantara isn’t a magical realism tale set in rural India at all, but essentially a toxic version of KGF with a plot denser than the jungle in which its protagonist lives.

played by Shetty, The second most disturbing movie of the year was Shiva It is introduced in a fight sequence. A perpetually angry look on his face, he sneers at the mere idea of ​​taking “permission.” Shiva, you see, has a multi-generational distrust of the authorities. He plays by his own rules, and is seen as a kind of hooligan in his village. Over the course of the film, he picks a fight with a local forest officer just to do his job, and repeatedly molests a woman until she falls in love with him. He’s the kind of guy you want to stay away from, but for some reason, he’s chosen as the protagonist of this movie.

You could argue that Shiva is a true representation of what it would be like to be an alpha male living in a Karnataka village in the 1990s. And you are right. But that’s not the problem, is it? Shiva is free to be as terrible as he wants. But the question of ideological deadlock only comes up when the movie begins to forgive his terrible behavior, and then reward him for it. In doing so, Kantara sets the Indian film industry back by years.

Declaring that Bollywood films have forgotten what made them special in the first place, people like Ranbir Kapoor don’t just dismiss The breakthrough made by mainstream Indian cinema in the past decade – aided in no small part by the sensitive portrayal of masculinity in Kapoor’s films herself – but they’re also undermining the contributions of colleagues who have spent their careers trying to distance themselves from the industry’s problematic past.

It’s a past that Bollywood filmmakers desperately want to return to, having convinced themselves that it’s the only thing separating their films from success. They came to this conclusion after witnessing several South Indian films earning paychecks in Hindi-speaking regions, often at the expense of major Bollywood releases starring beautiful people. A single Instagram post would score “likes” from more people than would appear. for them. Movies.

It’s one thing for widely syndicated films like Pushpa: The Rise, $$$$KGF: Chapter 2, and Bunin Sylvain: I am To make money – they were always supposed to – but when a film like Kantara is released, without even reverse engineering to be a ‘pan-Indian’ success, you have to stand up and take notice. You have to ask yourself which audience they’re drawn to and, more importantly, why they’re coming back for seconds. Made on a relatively small budget of ₹16 crore, the Kannada language film has grossed over ₹400 crore to date. For context, that’s about three times the box office total of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali Gangbai Kathiawadiwhich was said to cost 10 times as much.

By slapping her with the badge of honor, and failing to criticize her many mistakes, we set the ball rolling on the road to creative doom. Just look at what kind of behavior he endorses, and then identify directions. This new wave of Angry Young Man cinema owes a huge debt to the 1970s, but while Vijay’s mother in Deewar was his moral compass in many ways, Shiva’s mother in Kantara and Liger’s mother in this nonsensical film are mostly irritating. They exist simply to “serve” their children, sometimes literally. This is a stereotype that the average Indian man might identify with. For example, in one scene in Kantara, Shiva snaps at his mother because she is no longer his favorite dish.

In another scene, when his mistress Leela brings him food while he is chained to a tree or something, he violently pushes her away. Leela is an interesting case study, by the way. The first time Shiva sees her, he pinches her bare stomach without her consent. Later, he peeped at her when she was taking a shower. The next morning, when Leela and her father come looking for him after he touches her inappropriately, apparently enraged by his actions, it seems for a while that the movie is about to hold him accountable for his behavior.

But no, it turns out that they came for a completely different reason, and Shiva, who was momentarily anxious, got away with it. Perhaps emboldened by the lack of consequences, he forces Leela to squeeze herself between him and her father on his motorbike Next momentHe smiles as he does. It’s really disgusting, because the movie knows what you’re thinking – it wouldn’t have led to a laughable misunderstanding otherwise – and chooses to mock you for it.

Films like Kantara, KGF, and Liger actively reject the idea of ​​millennial masculinity, but they also show an almost massive middle finger. Every character is female created in the last decade. Leela’s presence in the movie isn’t an issue, but here a character who barely speaks, has zero agency, and only exists to run around Shiva’s orbit. At one point, he straight up threatened to hit her. She’s a third-rate supporting character at best, but by casting her as the “female protagonist,” the movie cruelly violates the meaning of those words. It’s the equivalent of a woman getting a huge promotion within a company, and then entrusting her with just ordering coffee.

People watched Kantara and it resonated with its depiction of ancient ritual, its anti-sectarian allegory, and its epic and operatic narrative. But I saw cruelty. Unlike most bad movies, Kantara is not clueless. He. She Choose to take the conservative route. It’s a disgrace to Dinosaur Mentality, another “Humbale movie” that’s sorely lacking in both humility and humanity.

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