Ila Arun: From Folk Melodies to Powerful Roles

- September 7, 2023
| By : Santosh Mehta |

From Choli Ke Peechhe to Haddi, Ila Arun's Unstoppable Artistic Voyage

INFLUENCE: Ila Arun says that Rajasthan’s rich cultural heritage and the vibrant banjara community inspired her to pick singing and performing arts

Ila Arun, a name synonymous with dedication and cultural enrichment, stands out prominently among her fans and audiences. A versatile artist, she effortlessly juggles roles as a renowned actress, a celebrated Rajasthan folk singer, and a captivating television personality. Hailing from Jaipur, Ila Arun’s multi-faceted talent has left an indelible mark on society.

Born and educated in Jaipur, Ila’s journey took flight from Maharani Girls College. Her marriage to Arun Bajpai, a retired Merchant Navy person, led her to embrace the name Ila Arun, which has become a cherished identity among her admirers. Her daughter Ishita, now an actress, resides in Mumbai following her marriage.

Ila’s popularity soared when she graced the Sony Entertainment Television’s Gurukul show, where she assumed the role of the school’s headmistress, training contestants for reality singing. Her soulful rendition of the Tamil track “Muthu Muthu Mazhai” from the movie “Mr Romeo” composed by the illustrious AR Rahman, elevated her. This culminated in her being awarded the prestigious Filmfare Best Playback Award for the iconic “Choli Ke Peechhe” from the film “Khalnayak”.  This song remains a favourite among audiences to this day.

Beyond her vocal prowess, Ila has ventured into production, creating several successful singles that include chart-toppers like Vote for Ghagra, Morni, Main ho gayi sawa lakh ki, Mera Assi Kali ka Ghagra, Darudi, Bichuda, and Main Raatan Jagi.

A crusader against music piracy, remixes, and explicit content in songs, Ila emerged as a strong voice advocating for authenticity in music. After a hiatus following her album Haule Haule, she is all set to make a grand return with a new album. Her role as a judge for the folk-singers’ team Maati ke Laal on NDTV Imagine’s reality show Junoon-Kuch kar dikhana hai underlines her commitment to nurturing musical talents.

Ila’s signature Rajasthan folk music resonates deeply with her audience, a quality that was brilliantly showcased in her portrayal of Maham Anga in the 2008 hit Jodhaa Akbar. Her acting prowess extended to critically acclaimed films such as China Gate, Chingari and Welcome to Sajjanpur.

Her family’s creative lineage includes her brother Piyush Pandey, an advertising maestro, and her sisters Rama Pandey, a producer-director, and Tripti Pandey, a cultural activist in Rajasthan. Ila’s rendition of the Hindi song Ringa Ringa for the Slumdog Millionaire further solidified her artistic brilliance.

Notably, Ila’s daughter, Ishita Arun, is seamlessly following in her mother’s footsteps, carving her own niche in the realm of singing and performance.

Ila will grace the silver screen once again in Akshat Ajay Sharma’s film Haddi scheduled for release on September 7. 

Portraying the powerful character of Amma, she joins an ensemble cast including Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, and others. The film, produced by Zee Studios, promises to captivate audiences with its compelling narrative.

In an interview with Patriot, Ila delves into her role in Haddi and her journey as an artist.

AT A GLANCE: The poster of Haddi

Q: Tell us about your role in Haddi and your experience working in such a character.

A: In Haddi, I portray the character of Amma. She is not just a motherly figure but also a formidable presence, akin to a protector and a don. It’s a unique amalgamation of roles —mother, protagonist, and guardian. It’s a fresh challenge for me, as it’s the first time I’m portraying such a complex role.

Q: How did you connect with the script of Haddi?

A: When I read the script of Haddi, I was immediately drawn to its gripping storyline. The film mirrors real-life scenarios, making it relatable and impactful. I feel honoured to be part of a project that sheds light on pressing issues. It’s truly an eye-opener.

Q: Can you shed light on your character ‘Amma’ in Haddi?

A: Amma is more than a mere maternal figure; she’s a protective force guarding her family. The film delves into the realm of crime, wealth, and mafia, where powerful individuals reign. Amma stands strong amid this darkness, safeguarding her son and exposing the underbelly of Mumbai’s murky underworld.

Q: Your collaboration with Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been notable. How was it working with him again in Haddi?

A: I’ve had the privilege of working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in films like Dhoomketu and Raat Akeli Hai. Our collaboration continues in Haddi. Beyond the screen, I consider him my son. It’s a joyous experience to share the frame with him.

Q: Does Haddi shed light on the transgender community?

A: Indeed, ‘Haddi’ centres around the transgender community, symbolised by the term ‘bone’. The film delves in the life of a transgender woman working as a sex worker in Mumbai. Following a tragic event, the protagonist embarks on a journey of revenge, unravelling the grim reality of Mumbai’s sex trade.

Q: How pivotal is the strong female character of Haddi?

A: Haddi celebrates the strength of its female lead, who fights fearlessly for justice. The trailer showcases her resolute determination and unwavering fight for rights. The film exposes the gritty and dark underbelly of Mumbai’s sex trade, sensitively portraying the transgender community.

Q: As a distinguished artist, how do you view your journey so far?

A: When I began my journey, opportunities for learning and artistic growth were limited. Today, platforms are abundant, connecting artists and audiences. Our society’s dynamic transformation has brought about substantial changes, and we now have the privilege to explore diverse avenues.

Q: What inspired your journey into the world of singing and the arts?

A: Rajasthan’s rich cultural heritage and the vibrant banjara community left a profound impact on me. I drew inspiration from the unique voices and energy of those around me. Their passion resonated deeply within me.

Q: Your daughter Ishita Arun is also carving her path. Could you share your thoughts on her journey?

A: Ishita Arun, my daughter, has embarked on her own artistic journey. She has collaborated with stalwarts like Sonu Nigam and is a talented artist in her own right. Her hard work and dedication make me proud as a mother.

Q: How was your experience working with director Akshat Ajay Sharma?

A: Akshat Ajay Sharma’s directorial skills have impressed me. As a theatre enthusiast, I find his vision refreshing and am thrilled to be part of his cinematic narrative.

Q: Your memories of Delhi hold a special place. Could you share some of them?

A: Delhi holds cherished memories for me. I underwent a short course at the National School of Drama and remain connected to the India International Centre. Rajpath, the grandeur of the Republic Day celebrations, and cultural hubs like Mandi House and Triveni Kala Sangam evoke nostalgic sentiments.

Q: Do you have any favourite shopping spots in Delhi?

A: Delhi’s charm resonates with me. Khan Market, with its diverse offerings, has always been a favourite. However, the bustling traffic often compels me to send my staff on shopping quests.

Q: The influx of bold content on OTT platforms has raised concerns. What’s your perspective on this?

A: The contemporary landscape witnesses evolving societal norms and influences. While platforms exhibit varied content, it’s imperative for parents to guide their children’s consumption. The increasing prevalence of explicit content necessitates responsible monitoring.

STRONG ROLE: Ila Arun portrays the character of Amma in her next film Haddi. Amma has a formidable presence and is a protector and a don

Q: What message do you have for your audience, and can you share any upcoming projects on the horizon?

A: I humbly acknowledge the immense love and support of my audience, without whom I am merely a name. Their unwavering dedication fuels my artistic journey. I respect their discerning taste and genuine admiration. Alongside Haddi, I am involved in Kuch Khattaa Ho Jaay directed by G Ashok. Collaborating with Guru Randhawa and Anupam Kher, the film is currently in the dubbing phase, promising to captivate audiences soon.