Watch Shakespeare's Othello retold in a novel manner in Ranjan Ghosh's Hrid Majharey
Though Bengalis are known for their love of English literature, especially Shakespeare, it's really surprising that till 2014 there were no films of repute made on the immortal tales of the bard. It was young filmmaker Ranjan Ghosh, who first made a film in Bengali called Hrid Majharey, a cult romantic tragedy based on Othello followed by many other films by other reputed directors. His debut film was a tribute to the maestro on his 450th birthday. Shot in the scenic islands of Andaman and Nicobar, this film starring Abir Chatterjee and Raima Sen shows how the life of a promising Math professor turns topsy turvy, courtesy a prophecy by a soothsayer.
The film has the distinction of being screened at the British Conference on the Bard held in London in April 2016 marking the 400th death anniversary of Shakespeare. On the eve of Shakespeare's birthday this year, we thought of catching up with the director about his first film, Hrid Majharey and how he conceived it. You can catch up on the film on HoiChoi. Excerpts from the chat:
How did you conceive the film?
My introduction to the world of Shakespeare was an oral one. I used to listen to my mom reading out Merchant of Venice to my sister and then I read Julius Caesar at School, which too impacted me profoundly and I found it very interesting. While on high seas for five years during my merchant navy days I read up a lot of world literature including Shakespeare and later when I took up film studies I wrote this original screenplay since screenwriting was my specialisation. So, the script of Hrid Majharey was ready way back in 2008-9. Initially, I wanted to make a Hindi film and I also got a producer. Siddharth Narayan loved the script and was supposed to play the lead. But the producers wanted a happy ending to which I couldn't agree. Later, Aparna Sen encouraged me to make a Bengali film with this script and the rest is history.
Was it difficult to make a plot based on Othello since makers like Vishal Bharadwaj had already played around the story in Omkara?
I never thought it that way. It was more of a challenge to myself to come up with something original based on a much-read story plot. And I am glad that everyone who watched it loved it and it got global acclaim and got screened at the New York University Tisch School of Arts and was included in their PhD in Cinema Studies.
What are the special memories associated with Hrid Majharey?
Oh, there are aplenty. The very fact that I could make this film was a dream come true for me since it's a very ambitious project for a debut film. I remember one very funny incident. While shooting a sequence where Raima was supposed to rustle up an omelette, she agreed to do so only if I ate it after the shoot. I relented and gorged on the egg after the scene was shot. Again, since I had kept the ending very open-ended and dual and was sceptical in the final stages of edit whether to keep it that way. It was Abir who reaffirmed my faith in my own script and asked me not to change it. There are many such beautiful memories.
Do you plan to work around any more Shakespearian stories in the future? If yes, then which will be the ones?
I loved so many of them, the tragedies and comedies and would definitely like to make another one. But it has to surpass Hrid Majharey in all parameters for me to go ahead.
How are you utilising the lockdown period?
I am reading up a lot of non-fiction works including film textbooks from film schooldays and doing a lot of poetry sessions on social media to keep up the spirits.