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Exclusive! Sapthami Gowda: Kantara is my first film as lead heroine; I’m grateful to Rishab sir for the way he’s written Leela

The actress adds that working with director-actor Rishab Shetty, Kishore and Achyuth Kumar on what is only her second film was a dream come true

Exclusive! Sapthami Gowda: Kantara is my first film as lead heroine; I’m grateful to Rishab sir for the way he’s written Leela

Kantara is Sapthami's first as a leading lady

  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 06.47 AM, Sep 20, 2022


Sapthami Gowda had just forayed into the Kannada film industry as one of the three ladies of Duniya Soori’s Popcorn Monkey Tiger in 2020 when the pandemic struck. “When lockdown relaxations came in after the first wave of the pandemic, I got the opportunity to do a video for Karnataka tourism, for which we had to travel across the state. One of the stills from the making of the video, which was shot at the Chamundi Hills in Mysuru, caught the attention of team Kantara and that is how I got called for an audition and look test. My look in the film is not only deglam, but I also needed to go at least three shades darker for my skin tone, which we not only managed, but also ensured that it comes across as natural. Rishab sir was quite impressed with the results of the look test, but I struggled with the dialect that was to be used in the film. Kantara was to be shot in a village near Kundapura, so my character had to speak Kannada like it is spoken in the Mangaluru belt, which I am not familiar with. Rishab sir asked me to undergo workshops to help me get into the character, without ever confirming if I had got the part. In fact, some of the workshops were in Kundapura, a few days before the film went on floors. I was probably the only one there who was not officially on board the film at that point,” she says, laughing, and adds, “On the eve of the muhurtha, Karthik Gowda sir, the executive producer of Hombale Films, which is backing the project, invited me to the event, and even then, Rishab sir had not confirmed my casting. At the muhurtha, Rishab came up to, congratulated me and wished me all the best, after which the news of my casting broke in the media.”

Although the trailer of Kantara tells us that Sapthami as Leela is Rishab’s love interest, who, incidentally, is also a forest officer, the actress says that there’s so much more to her character, which will be revealed when the film opens in theatres on September 30. “What you’ve seen of me in the trailer, Leela is actually a lot different than that. I also had to make sure that at no point Sapthami is visible to audiences, be it in the way I talk, walk or my general body language. There is a lot of discussion on social media, especially because there is a line in the trailer, where Kishore sir says that I am taking salary from the government but doing service to Rishab sir’s character Shiva. As a team, we have not addressed any of it, because we want to keep these elements of Leela as a surprise. For instance, we first released the song, Singara Siriye, which makes it clear that she is the love interest. Then, in the trailer, we showed that she is in the forest department, and Shiva has something against them. There are certain scenes that happen with and around my character that add to the narrative of the film. As a relative newbie, I am thankful to Rishab sir for having written my character so well,” says Sapthami.


While she has fond memories of working on the film, off set was also a lot of fun, she says. “All the artistes were staying in the same hotel. The senior artistes, like Kishore sir, for instance, were given separate vehicles, while the rest of us would take the tempo traveller shuttle to and from the set. Kishore sir, though, would ditch his vehicle and join us and engage in games of Antakshari and Dumb Charades along the way. For us, Kishore sir is a super star; he’s acted with the who’s who of Indian cinema. But for us, to actually be in close quarters and see how he actually is, was quite the eye opener. Unlike other senior artistes, he does not travel with an entourage; in fact, he didn’t even have an assistant on set. He would not confine himself to a caravan, and instead spent time with the rest of the cast and crew on location. Achyuth (Kumar) sir is also like that,” says the actress.

With less than 10 days to go for the film’s big screen release, Sapthami says that her excitement knows no bounds. “This is my first film as a leading lady and there is so much to the character that I am just waiting for audiences to see. We went on floors about a year ago, and now, we are ready to present it to the world. Honestly, it feels like yesterday that I was trying to figure out how to play Leela. In Popcorn Monkey Tiger, I was not the lead heroine and did not have even a fraction of the screen space that I have in Kantara. My look in both these films may seem similar, as also the realistic feel of the storytelling. But the characterisation is vastly different. Most importantly, Rishab sir was like an institution, from whom I learnt a lot during the making of this film; an experience I will always cherish,” she signs off.