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No effort goes unnoticed!
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The year was 1993 and one song that reverberated in nooks and corners of the country was Choli Ke Peeche from the blockbuster film Khalnayak starring...

The year was 1993 and one song that reverberated in nooks and corners of the country was “Choli Ke Peeche” from the blockbuster film ‘Khalnayak’ starring Sanjay Dutt, Madhuri Dixit, and Jackie Shroff. The song was rendered by Ila Arun along with Alka Yagnik. Ila Arun became an overnight sensation and, as the adage goes, the rest is history.

Today, Ila prefers to call herself “a theatre artiste”. Ask her about her theatre connection, she says, “I was encouraged to participate in all kinds of cultural activities since my childhood. It started with my school staging different plays and I was always interested in getting into a new character.

At college also, I was best in theatre. I got a scholarship to do a short-term course at the National School of Drama. I was very excited because theatre legend Ebrahim Alkazi was the director. Fortunately, the year I joined, Alkazi saab himself took over and conducted our workshops. He said six months are not enough for you and he gave me the opportunity to continue for three years. I still remember my mother was not in favour of this decision she always used to say that cultural activity should be like ‘salt in a dal’ and it’s not a full ‘Bhojan’. And today this is my meal. As an actor, I try to understand all artforms. But NSD was the most beautiful time of my life where I learnt that drama is not just acting, but a complete study of life.”

Ila started her theatre group ‘Surnai’ when she came to Mumbai. “When I came to Mumbai in search of better prospects, ‘Prithvi Theatre’ was just opened and Jennifer Kapoor was leading it. I made my own theatre group ‘Surnai’ and presented my first programme on June 1, 1982, the show became hugely popular as folk was something new to Mumbai at the time. Then, there was no looking back; I started singing and acting in films simultaneously. ‘Surnai’s’ first production was ‘Jethwa Ujali’, where I explored the caste system and exploitation of women.”

Ila Arun also scripts plays. “My original plays are—'Riyaaz’—I touched upon the man-woman relationship, the sacrifices a woman has to make in terms of work and creativity when she’s caught in the web of marriage and children. ‘Chhota Kashmir’ is also my original play. And the third play is ‘Shabd Leela’ which is based on Dr Bharti’s creative writing.”

She has adapted plays and the difference is she used folk forms in plays. “‘Greetings!’ by Tom Dudzick (Namaste: Jai Shri Krishna), ‘La Chunga’ by Mario Vargas Llosa (Jamilabai Kalali) ‘Peer Gynt’ by Ibsen (Peer Ghani), ‘The Lady From The Sea’ by Henrik Ibsen (Mareechika) ‘Ghosts’ (Picha Karti Parchaiyan) and ‘Hedda Gabler’ by Henrik, all these plays are infused with Indian appeal. In all these plays, I used the folk forms of Rajasthan and Kashmir to highlight sensitive issues such as the caste system, terrorism, drugs and AIDS,” Ila says and feels that Henrik Ibsen is a person who gave voice to women.

Ila Arun was never away from Bollywood and about it, she says, “I am doing much more work in tinsel town now. Being basically a theatre actor, I am happy with my acting in Bollywood. You are going to see me in ‘Thugs of Hindostan’. I enjoyed working with Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan.” Is theatre losing its audience? “It’s difficult to bring the audience to watch a play. There are musicals, films, stand-up that takes a considerable crowd. Nobody wants to come for a meaningful play,” she says and urges the audience not to plan dinner or outing after a play as one will be busy in checking the time instead of watching play.

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