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Arna Mukhopadhyay: ‘Comparisons between Athhoi and Omkara are welcome’

Athhoi stars Arna in the title role alongside Anirban Bhattacharya, Sohini Sarkar, Arpan Ghoshal, Mimi Dutta and Ditipriya Roy

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 14.06.24, 03:45 PM
Arna Mukhopadhyay, the director of Athhoi, which releases in theatres on June 14

Arna Mukhopadhyay, the director of Athhoi, which releases in theatres on June 14

With Athhoi slated to hit cinemas this Friday, first-time director Arna Mukhopadhyay talks about transitioning from theatre to screen and helming his debut feature film based on Shakespeare’s Othello.

Athhoi is your debut feature film as a director. What was it like to be in the director’s chair for the first time?


Arna Mukhopadhyay: I have been in the theatre world for years and have wanted to direct a feature film for quite some time. This desire became intense during the Covid lockdown. I started the journey by writing the screenplay and got Anirban (Bhattacharya), who was a part of the stage production, on board.

There was a nervous energy while making the film since it was a huge responsibility. Anirban, who was our creative director, helped me a lot. Although I was the captain as the director, it was a collaborative effort in the truest sense of the term.

How was the transition from theatre to directing a feature film?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: Theatre and films are two distinct mediums. Not only as an actor but also as an art practitioner, I have always wanted to explore different mediums. I want to work in jatra too and do radio plays. I have been acting in front of the camera for several years. But as a first-time director, there were challenges. On the one hand, it was an exhilarating experience, and on the other hand I was constantly nervous about failing.

After watching the trailer of Athhoi, many people remarked that it has the feel of a stage production. What is your take on that?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: I take that as a compliment. An art practitioner creates a piece very organically and the creative process is influenced by his outlook to life. Primarily I belong to the theatre world and so my work is influenced by it. And I do not see a problem in that. Apart from a few technical aspects, theatre and films are not that different. There is a synergy between these mediums; they are not opposed to each other.

How did you zero in on an adaptation of Othello as your maiden directorial venture?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: There is no specific reason for this. I had two-three other scripts which I wanted to work on. It just so happened that Athhoi became my first film. Also, I believe Shakespeare will remain relevant as long as human civilization exists.

In the stage production of Athhoi, the events in Othello were set in the Indian context. Have you done that for the film as well?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: Yes, absolutely. In the original play, Othello was the Moor of Venice. Here he is a doctor. Venice has become Vinsura, a fictional village in West Bengal. I wanted to capture the vulnerability and mystery of rural Bengal.

Athhoi was staged almost eight years back. Have the characters in your story undergone any change?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: The soul of the story has remained the same. There have been minor changes in the plot. For example, a few dialogues refer to the growing significance of social media in today’s society.

How was the experience of working with Anirban and Sohini Sarkar?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: I have worked with Anirban in innumerable plays. Working with him is an experience in itself. The chemistry we shared on stage, I am hopeful people will be able to witness it on screen as well.

There is a comfort in working with Sohini as well, both as an actor and a director. There is an ease of communication between us. She understands what I want from her and delivers exactly that.

Vishal Bhardwaj adapted Othello as Omkara. There may be comparisons between the two films. Are you nervous?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: Comparisons are bound to arise and I welcome them. I believe Omkara is among the best adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, across the globe. It was magical. It is not possible to match the creativity of Vishal Bhardwaj’s work. So, if people compare the two films, I will be happy. And after watching Athhoi if people rank Omkara higher, so be it.

What are your plans after Athhoi?

Arna Mukhopadhyay: As of now, I am in talks with some production houses for acting roles. Nothing is finalised yet. As for direction, I am yet to approach any house with a script. I have a few scripts ready and will think about it after Athhoi releases.

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