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Vishal Bhardwaj's philosophy of Othello's adaptation impacted me: Arna Mukhopadhyay making directorial debut with Athhoi
Athhoi
Image by Avishek Mitra/IBNS

Vishal Bhardwaj's philosophy of Othello's adaptation impacted me: Arna Mukhopadhyay making directorial debut with Athhoi

| @indiablooms | 11 Jun 2024, 11:08 am

Arna Mukhopadhyay makes his directorial debut in films with Athhoi, a cinematic adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello, slated for June 14 release. Besides direction, Arna plays the protagonist in the film which features Sohini Sarkar as Desdemona. Here's an excerpt of IBNS correspondent Souvik Ghosh's interview with Arna on the film...

Q. Why were you reluctant to act in your directorial debut film?

A. I haven't studied acting in any film school though I have learnt theatre. I haven't prepared for acting in any film. Moreover, Athhoi was the protagonist in the film. Though I have managed to play Athhoi in theatre overcoming hurdles, I couldn't think of essaying the role in the film. After Anirban joined us as the creative director, he as well as the production house pushed me to opt for the role. I felt a bit secure to accept the challenge as there were a few people on the set to help me out in the execution of my vision for the film.

Q. How challenging was the juggle between the two roles- direction and acting?

A. It was a difficult task for me. I could pull it off because of the contributions from Anirban and other members of the team. Anirban stepped into my shoes when I was busy giving a shot. We had no egos. I have no ownership pride over the film. It was sheer teamwork.

Arna Mukhopadhyay (L) and Sohini Sarkar (R) | Image by Avishek Mitra/IBNSArna Mukhopadhyay (L) and Sohini Sarkar (R) | Image by Avishek Mitra/IBNS

Q. How could you and Anirban Bhattacharya maintain the borderline as the director and creative director respectively?

A. It depends on the creative understanding and dependence on each other and not friendship. We have a creative dependence on each other. I have known him for a long time, even before he turned into a director. We never had to create a borderline. We had our difference of opinions which are creatively healthy. But we ironed out the differences before entering into the shooting floor.

Q. Why did you choose Othello for your directorial debut? Was it because you worked on it in theatres?

A. It's a call of the time. I was reading BR Ambedkar, watching the Rohith Vemulla episode panning out while I was writing the Athhoi play. I felt the racial politics was operational in a different shape- in the form of Hindu-Muslim or Dalit politics. The speciality about Shakespearean dramas is the writer weaves a story of individuals to convey the relevant politics in disguise. Our play also resonated the same. Shakespeare dealt with the core emotions of individuals- envy, love, hatred, betrayal. Shakespeare can't be identified with a single genre because he has touched upon all elements and human emotions. I would grow as a director if I base my film on a work by Shakespeare, no doubt.

Q. Do you feel the emotions and its expressions have changed from the Shakespearean world to the present time?

A. The forms have changed but the content hasn't. The emotion has remained the same but its form of expression has altered. I think the expression of emotions has turned more raw. My writing is the calling of the time. What I have seen in 2015-2016 was just the tip of the iceberg without having any clue to the huge amount of hatred buried under it. We can feel it now in 2024.

Q. Did previous adaptations of Othello influence you?

A. I tried not to get influenced by previous adaptations but it's very tough. I felt the impact of Vishal Bhardwaj's philosophy of adaptation greatly. It also inspires me a lot. I may not be able to make the film like Vishal Bhardwaj, but at least I can interpret it in my own way.

Q. Is the inclusion of modern words like troll an effort to contemporarise Othello?

A. No, it's not an effort. It's more of an organic outcome. Athhoi, the character, has turned out to be a reflection of my inner thoughts and feelings living in the present era. I wrote the play about a decade ago but I am inching towards 40 as I am making the film. So perspectives have changed with time. The dialogue is just an example of what's in store as content.

(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)

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