When theatre group Surnai performed ‘Peer Ghani’ in the national Capital on Monday, veteran actor and folk singer Ila Arun opened up, on her luck to have worked with some of the greatest film directors in Bollywood and on her pride of being a woman, in a candid conversation with Millennium Post.
You have been involved with Rajasthani folk music for several years, but how challenging was it to sing in other languages?
It was quite challenging to sing in Tamil, Telugu, Kannad and Malyalam, since the pronunciation is very crucial and above all what matters the most is people’s acceptance. For me understanding the meaning of the songs and singing them properly was very important. To do justice to the language, you need to understand the meaning. I did enjoy the opportunity given to me by A R Rahman. I also realised that South Indian languages, especially Malayalam, have lots of Sanskrit words and pure Hindi words.
How was the experience working with A R Rahman?
It was undoubtedly a great experience. When Rahman asked me to come to the studio, I was totally blank, but the best part about him is that gets to know all your weaknesses and strengths and then he lets you lose, and you have to be prepared to work at night. Throughout the day you’d feel tensed but when you are there, he makes you feel really comfortable and will get the best out of you.
You had left singing for albums, protesting against piracy in songs, when do you plan to come back with a new album?
I have not left it actually as I’m ready with an album. The market is so weird and insecure these days. I mean my song Nimoli with Coke Studio got lots of likes on YouTube, but otherwise the procedures with which the companies are working now are beyond my understanding. I guess only film music is doing well commercially. I do not know how to proceed, even though I have my audience. I don’t know who the right person to approach is, or who will give me loyalty and be transparent with me. I have crossed the age of taking a break, sooner or later I will try again to reach out to the public before it’s too late.
Have you considered singing in any of the recent commercial movies?
I don’t have to consider them, they will have to consider me (laughs). I have made my mark and I personally feel, that if they want me they will call me… I have full faith in them. They probably want new voices as well. Film making has also changed over the years and there are films which have as many as six music directors in them! Today almost every other song is an item number, which was not how it happened a few years back. We had situational songs which were in demand.
What inspired you to pursue acting?
Well, this confusion has to be cleared once and for all. Actually I had stated off as an actor, music happened by accident. I am a trained actor and dominated the stage in Rajasthan, I also got scholarship from the Sangeet Natak Akademi and went to National School of Drama.
I had also formed a group in Mumbai in 1982 called ‘Surnai’. I have adapted nine plays of well known European Nobel laureates, and have written two original plays as well. People do not know of my theatre career, my theatre group which is 32 years old and of my writings. While I do the writing and the music while K K Raina directs the plays. Theatre is a very different world. Nobody is a star there but everyone is equally important. I have enjoyed my world with Shahrukh Khan, Saif, Juhi, Raveena and Akshay Kumar as much as I enjoy my life with no stars and new comers in theatres.
What are your beliefs on Women’s Day?
Women should be proud of themselves and respect themselves. When women can give birth to men and raise them, they can do anything. I don’t think women need to be specially mentioned, they are all dignified and are doing very well in the Indian society. I am proud of all the women and would be proud to say that I love my daughter Ishita and my grand-daughters Amala and Alaya.