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Bhoota Kola: The Pride Of Tulu Nadu

A review of the Kannada movie 'Kantara'

Located in the southern state of Karnataka, along the north banks of river Shambhavi, is my native village, Hejamadi, known for its spirit worship ritual, “Bhoota Kola.”

This brings me to Kantara, an action-packed period drama film that tells us the archaic story of man vs. nature, villagers vs. property owners, and the greed for land and money. But it is so much more than just that. It integrates the “Bhoota Kola” so seamlessly into the story, that perhaps without those elements, the movie would feel incomplete.

The movie starts in 1847, with a restless king who is in search of tranquillity. He travels far in his search until he enters a forest where he hears the sound of a “kalunguragalu”, anklets, which leads him to a stone, and feels peace like no other and submits himself to it. There he comes across the tribal village that refers to the stone as “Daiva,” a deity. The king requests the villagers to allow him to take the God-residing stone back to his palace so he can worship it. Then he directly speaks to “Panjurli”, a divine spirit, who uses a man as a vessel to communicate with the king, he tells the king he will go along with him as long as the king promises to give the villagers land that stretches as far as the sound of his voice, so they too can continue to worship and care for their “Daiva”, a symbol used to worship the divine spirits. He also warns him that “Guliga,” another divine spirit, will follow him wherever he goes, and if any of the king’s descendants were to go back on their word, “Panjurli” might forgive him, but “Guliga” will never, and they will have to face his wrath. The king agrees.

Many years later, the villagers are still abiding by the king’s words, performing the annual ritual of “Bhoota Kola,” where they worship the “Daiva,” which has turned into a God of sorts to the villagers. The movie then follows Shiva, a rebel, and descendant of the tribe, as he defends his village and its people in their times of need.

“Bhoota” means ‘spirit’ and “Kola” means ‘play’ in Tulu, a non-written language native to the people of Mangalore. It is a festival that is celebrated to worship the “Bhootas.” It is an ancient ritual practiced among the Tulu-speaking community in Dakshina Kannada districts in Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala, collectively known as Tulu Nadu. Although the origin of “Bhoota Kola” is still unknown, according to Tulu mythology, Lord Shiva sent a destructive boar, as a punishment, to Earth with the responsibility of guarding the inhabitants, in this case, the villagers and their livestock. This boar evolved into “Panjurli.”

There is a proverb linked to the Tulu Nadu spirits, “I shall not leave the ones who believe in me and shall make the non-believers believe in me.”

I am aware that a lot of these concepts are foreign to people, but the way Rishab Shetty has represented our culture in his movie with its spectacular storytelling is commendable. I believe the movie has surpassed all limits in terms of direction, narration, acting, and cinematography. It is impressive how Kantara gained such heights of popularity by just word of mouth. It had become the most profitable Kannada movie of the year. It is a rare film that deserves to be seen in a theatre, and the film demands a theatre experience. It is movies like this that raise questions like “Can Bollywood survive the southern invasion?” I believe that the rise of the 'Indian cinema' is the greatest thing to come out of this evolving environment. When our movies are viewed abroad or are nominated for big awards such as the Oscars like ‘RRR,’ a Telugu movie, they are referred to as ‘Indian films,’ not Telugu or Kannada; and that’s the beauty of our culture. I think it is time we break beyond the barriers of language and region and embrace our diversity because that is what makes Indian cinema so unique.

Kantara highlighted the simplicity of the lives led by the villagers in the movie and I enjoyed how much it resembled the actuality of rural village life. While there are parts of the movie that might be dramatized, it still felt close to reality as it did not glamorize the struggles and the lifestyle of the villagers. It felt especially close to my heart to see a part of my culture on the big screen. The plot is predictable, but the compelling atmosphere created by the film will keep us immersed in Kantara's world until the end. And cultural aspects like the “Bhoota Kola” gave the movie its jazz. Even then, it is one of the very few movies that I genuinely enjoyed to the point where I have watched it twice in the theatre and once again when it started streaming online. The success this movie has received is a clear indication that it is worth watching at least once, not only does it give you an insight into a diverse culture, but it also keeps you entertained with its electrifying performance.


Mathur, A., 2022. Kantara movie review: Rishab Shetty's mesmeric blend of action and mythology ranks among the best of Indian cinema. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Outlook Traveller , 2022. Bhuta Kola, a ritualistic performance by the Tuluvas in Karnataka, involves the invocation of local deities and spirits. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Shetty, R., 2019. Bhoota Kola, the pride of Tulu Nadu. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].

Usman, Y., 2023. Why Indian cinema is the real winner in South vs Bollywood box office war. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 2023].


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