Ila Arun has a gift for Punjabis this Baisakhi. It's a play called Mareechika, an adaptation of famous playwright Henrik Ibsen's work, The Lady from the Sea. Ila says she isn't new to adapting and writing plays - having been a part of theatre for 25 years now - but with this being her first play as a director, she's happy she could add her own touch to it.
As she comes to the city to stage Mareechika along with her daughter, Ishita, co-director and actor KK Raina and the rest of the cast, Ila is her usual vivacious self.
The Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai singer says she couldn't resist adding rustic beauty to her play, making the desert of Rajasthan serve as the 'sea' of Ila's Mareechika. "I have not been as abstract as Ibsen was in the original. But I have added a cultural twist to it, which was incidentally also loved by the Norway government which had commissioned Ibsen's plays to be adapted in order to promote the late playwright," she shares.
In humour typical to Ila's vibrant persona, she laughs, "After seeing the play, I am sure you would say I wrote it first and that it was Ibsen who followed up." On a more sombre note, she confesses to have been comforted when she found that 'Ibsen was also in love with folk culture.'
Meanwhile, Ishita, who is here for her second play, chips in, "My mom is a powerhouse of energy. I won't lie, but with mom around, I am a little nervous since she is quite experienced and dedicated to her projects."
Ishita, who did a popular TV commercial at the age of three, says she opted to work in theatre instead of films, because she was convinced she would be able to grow better in this medium. "In the film industry, my success will be compared with others' achievements. I believe in setting my own standards.
Movies are boring to act in, for they restrict one's creativity," she reasons. Theatre also seems to discipline her, as the pretty girl confides, "I sometimes get lazy, but looking at my mother and other actors rehearsing 20 days ahead of a play's staging makes me guilty and work better."
Ila is also an indulgent mother who thinks the world of her daughter, as she adds, "Ishita is a blend of folk and Bollywood." That's when the friendly banter becomes interesting, with Ishita protesting, "Mom, stop being generous. You are a mother so you will say that."
Ishita also recalls her mother calling herself a 'banjaaran' (nomad) once, a term she is now happy to share. "I would say I am also like her, but an urban traveller, who likes to perform in front of a selective audience that knows how to respond. My mom's shows are cultural and respectable and they do not insult anyone's sensibilities."
In love with the city, the two add that Chandigarh has brilliant theatre, being the ninth city that sees Mareechika.
However, KK Raina would like to add, "My only regret is that people can spend Rs 500 on a movie ticket, but find it a pain to buy a play's ticket. As an actor I feel why should people come and see me for free? Do you know why I am also acting in this play? Because one of the actors left. And why shouldn't he, if he gets better opportunities?"
Ila comes back in the picture, laughing her trademark hoarse laugh, "This one is for free. But it's on a first-come-first-serve basis."
Mareechika will be staged at Tagore Theatre, Sector 18, Chandigarh, on April 12 at 7 pm.