Film Education

Interview with Arka Mukhopadhyay – The arshinagar project

I would like to present this special interview with Arka that i conducted yesterday night and would like to tell you about his upcoming workshop The Arshinagar Project presents “Fools and Princes” – a workshop exploring fragments from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘King Lear’, through breath, rhythm and physicality.

Workshop Dates: May 14th – 18th Time: 4 PM to 9 PM
Venue: Vedic Cultures, Mahalaxmi Fees: 3,500

Q1. Arka, you have a unique and interesting project  The Arshinagar Project which you describe as  ‘This project is a journey exploring freedom and love as essential conditions for living on Earth.’  how  and why did this project come into being?

 It essentially came out of my individual experiences in theatre, as also working through theatre working with children and teachers, activism, and my exposure to spiritual performance forms such as Qawwali, Baul songs, and the dohans of Kabir. It is also fundamentally inspired by the philosophy of Jerzy Grotowski. For many years, I was working as an individual, wandering about here and there, but at a certain point, I wanted to extend that to a collective vision, and so, about a year ago, The Arshinagar Project was born. It is a trans-disciplinary performance research collective, working at the intersection of performance, education, anthropology and ecology. Our name in fact comes from a Baul song, and means ‘the city of mirrors’ – so we are essentially trying to work with pluralistic visions of identity, in the process promoting the values of personal freedom and love towards other human beings as fundamental to being human. I invite your readers to find out more about us on

Q2. The Body plays a very important role in your work and would you like to share with us why the body is so important in your process? 

Well because everything begins and ends with the body, doesn’t it? We don’t have only one body, but several bodies, several identities – there is our dramatic body, our erotic body, our political body… all the great masters of theatre focussed on the body in their own way. Stanislavsky, Chekov, Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, Artaud, and of course Grotowsky, who’s my greatest influence. And even the ancient Indian Sanskrit theatre was rich in movement and gesturality, as are all our folk/tribal/classical performance forms. To work with the body, to work with rhythms that ultimately originate from our breath itself, is to in a way liberate ourselves and connect with a primal, childlike self, from where deep creative possibilities can emerge.

Q3. Your project is inclusive of all artists including actors and among others you are strongly influenced by Jerzy Grotowski’s work. What according to you is his most valuable insight to the actor ?  


That the actor must be vulnerable, that s/he must have the courage to be spiritually ‘naked’ before the audience, be at once the priest as well as the sacrifice (The Holy Actor, as he calls it) must constantly question his/her own clichés, must discard recipes or a box of tricks, and must instead look inside for his/her own truth.

Q4.  Could you describe very briefly the special feature of your current workshop “Fools and Princes”  and  what should the participant expect to learn from the  workshop?

At one level, an entirely different awareness of breath, which is built upon my research into Buddhist meditation techniques, Sufi practices, and other forms – and a way to express the cardinal Rasaas through breath. They’ll also learn how to approach text based entirely on rhythm, as opposed to  purely psychological approaches such as the method. We’ll try to experience organicity, impulse and flow. But more than any techniques, the participant will be constantly questioning and challenging himself/herself, and will try to access their personal creative essence.

Arka Mukhopadhyay is a theatre researcher, performer and pedagogue, as also a poet and a Spoken-Word artist. He is engaged in researching a performance language that delves into ancient mystical performance traditions but is at the same time reflective of contemporary truths. 


“Fools and Princes” Workshop

The Arshinagar Project presents “Fools and Princes” – a workshop exploring fragments from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘King Lear’, through breath, rhythm and physicality. Led by The Arshinagar Project founding member Arka Mukhopadhyay, the workshop is based on The Arshinagar Project’s research into the performer’s craft, which is inspired by Jerzy Grotowski’s philosophy of the ‘holy actor’ and draws upon the spirit of forms such as Sufi Qawwali and the Baul tradition of Bengal, in effect aiming for a performer who, through a total dissolution of the ego, touches his inner essence.


Participants will explore the connections between breath and the nine fundamental rasaas, organicity and rhythm, impulse and flow, musicality and vocal work, movement and basic acrobatics and solo, partner and ensemble creation, in the process learning to let go of technique and acquired cliches, to be fully present in the space, to give support and to receive the presence of the co-actor, to share laughter and tears, to be joyful and free.


The workshop is open to actors, dancers, musicians, teachers and others who are interested in exploring psycho-physiological performance craft as a pathway towards unlocking the Self. No prior experience in Shakespearean performance is assumed. The workshop will be conducted in English but participants are free to work with text in their own language.


In order to join, please send an e-mail to, stating your background, performance experience if any (in theatre, music, dance or in any other way), and your reasons for wanting to join the workshop, by the 13th of May.


For an example of Arka’s performance work, please visit the following link:



3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thats a very interesting project. Shakespeare meets Baul. Regarding the reference to body, I would like to mention that bauls have a theory called ‘dehatatwa’, which aims at achieving spiritual liberation by means of the body. Some of that would certainly be present here. Thanks for bringing this to light Orrvazi

Comment by Riddhiman Basu

Riddhiman! really interesting work by Arka and ‘dehatatwa’ seems very interesting , will look into it

Comment by oorvazi

Reblogged this on The Arshinagar Project and commented:
Interview with Arka Mukhopadhyay The Arshinagar Project

Comment by The Arshinagar Project

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