Singer-actor Ila Arun is the biggest name that represents Rajashtani folk music since more than three decades. She is the voice behind superhit folk numbers like Mera Assi Kali Ka Lehnga, Resham Ka Rumal, Vote For Ghagra as well as the ageless Choli Ke Peeche and the Ringa Ringa from the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. “Wo andar se hona chahiye na,” she says on being asked about her journey of becoming a singer. Also read: Ila Arun: Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been like a son to me but when I saw him on sets of Haddi…
Ila Arun’s journey as a singer
Ila says she ‘lived’ folk music during her time in Jaipur. “There were workers, domestic help, those who come to clean your grains or come for construction work; they were all singing. Rajasthan has so many festivals and I used to take part in all the festivities. I always enjoyed Rajasthani music and that’s how I got carried by that music. You can easily become a singer if you appreciate the music. I appreciated Rajasthani music which has a lot of variety and I don’t know when and how I started singing, but it happened,” she says.
Ila Arun grew up listening to Rajasthani folk songs during her growing up years and went on to make a career out of it when she moved to Mumbai. She recalls, “When my servant used to drop me to school, imagine me sitting on a cycle and him singing. I enjoyed his singing and then he unconsciously became my teacher. I participated in school events and my voice was recognized. That’s how you gradually make your own place and your name professionally. It all happened when I came to Mumbai. I used to take part in many things. I have a heavy voice and used to sing folk music. People used to like thin voice and filmy music. Mine was different and therefore, was recognized in Mumbai.”
Ila has not just sung folk songs but also gets the credit of delivering superhit songs like Morni Baga Ma Bole (Lamhe), Lamba Lamba Ghunghat (Karan Arjun) and Gutur Gutur (Dalaal) apart from Choli Ke Peeche for Khalnayak.
Ila Arun on which songs make her popular
Ila Arun however, denies getting international offers after the popularity of Ringa Ringa in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire which went on to win multiple Oscars in 2009. On being asked if it trickled down to getting similar offers, she says, “In India, it doesn’t make a difference by getting one Oscar. You have to connect with your audience. I sang the ones I got. People always liked me. My private numbers like Mera Assi Kali Ka Lehnga, Resham Ka Rumal, Nigodi, Vote For Ghagra, Bichhuda were very, very popular, all women are still dancing to them and that’s really something which touches me.”
Predictably, Ila Arun is not a fan of new recreations of old folk songs or remixes of ageless film numbers. “Sometimes I’m not too happy, like people are liking What Jhumka, but I enjoyed the song from that time Jhumka Gira Re… That was a beautiful song,” she says.
Ila Arun on remixes
On the topic of folk songs being milked for creating new singles, she says, “Some folk songs have been molested badly in the name of remix. But for some of them, the new generation cannot relate with that beautiful music easily. Folk music or filmy old music was really very soothing and they are so till today. They can never die. That is the reason people are doing remixes because they can’t make such beautiful compositions anymore. What they can do is kainku kainku idhar udhar (putting tunes here and there) and that hits because the swag has come, the new generation wants that way.”
She goes on to add, “We are not here to criticize them. I am just saying if you are doing the comparison then the folk music of India is the backbone of any music. They are pure, they are full of soul, they are full of energy. Remix is maybe the demand of today’s time.
Ila recently saw the digital release of her film Haddi on ZEE5. She plays a transgender in the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer for the first time.