Kannada film Kantara, the pan-India sensation directed by Rishab Shetty that garnered much praise and acclaim from audience and critics alike, finally made its OTT debut on Amazon Prime on November 24, 2022. The worldwide digital premiere of the Kannada blockbuster was announced by Prime Video and production house, Hombale Films, on November 23.
However, hours after it was released on OTT, social media was abuzz over changes made to the climax portion of the film. ‘Varaha Roopam’, the song that was instrumental in adding to the cinematic experience of Kantara — and was also the focal point of a heated debate that erupted over the film’s appropriation of the bhootakola tradition of coastal Karnataka region — has been dropped by the makers and replaced with an alternative version. While the lyrics have been retained, the makers have changed the orchestral arrangement and vocals.
Disappointed netizens complained that the new song diluted the viewing experience of the film. Even as #BringBackVarahaRoopam trended on Twitter, audience rued the loss of the original ‘Varaha Roopam’ without which, they said, Kantara had lost its very soul and essence.
Allegations of plagiarism
Kantara was recently embroiled in a controversy after Kerala-based music band Thaikkudam Bridge accused the makers of copyright infringement and plagiarism on October 25, 2022. They claimed that ‘Varaha Roopam’ was a rip-off of their 2007 track, ‘Navarasam’ and had filed a petition alleging copyright violation.
Hombale Films, director Rishabh Shetty and music director Ajaneesh Lokanath were quick to refute all allegations of copyright infringement. However, they had admitted to being familiar with ‘Navarasam’ and being inspired by it.
On October 29, 2022, Kozhikode District Sessions court imposed an interim injunction order against using ‘Varaha Roopam’ in Kantara. The order banned the makers of the movie, including the producer, director, and music director, besides OTT platforms, music channels, websites, and YouTube from using the song without the permission of Thaikkudam Bridge.
Subsequently, the makers of Kantara approached the Kerala High Court and filed two petitions challenging the temporary injunction order. On November 23, 2022, the Kerela High Court dismissed the petitions as not maintainable, while giving liberty to the film producer to avail alternate remedies available in law.
Following this, Hombale released Kantara on Prime Video with a new version of Varaha Roopam. Meanwhile, even as the makers have taken down the song from their official handles and various music streaming sites after the injunction order, multiple videos of its original version, uploaded by YouTube users with a small subscriber base, continue to gain views.
On Thursday, Thaikkudam Bridge celebrated the court order in an Instagram post, which read “Justice Prevails!” The band thanked its attorneys and Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, which is the copyright holder of ‘Navarasam’.
Digital release and Tulu dubbed version
Kantara premiered on Amazon Prime Video in Kannada along with Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu language dubs and English subtitles.
On the digital release of Kantara, writer, director, and actor Rishab Shetty shared, “Audiences from all corners of the country have showered immense love on Kantara and I am extremely excited that with its global digital premiere on Prime Video we will be able to take our labor of love and hard work to a wider audience worldwide. It is a story that has universal appeal but the plot’s local flavor will keep viewers intrigued until the very end!”
On Thursday, Hombale Films also surprised Kantara fans by announcing the release of the Tulu dubbed version of the film. Since the film is set in coastal Karnataka, comprising a predominantly Tulu-speaking population, and employs the ritual of Bhootaaradhane in its storytelling, there had been a growing demand for dubbing the film into Tulu.
Releasing the Tulu poster and trailer, the production house announced the Indian theatrical release of Kantara in Tulu on December 2, 2022. The Tulu dub will release overseas on November 25, 2022.