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Ila Arun: My journey from Mandi to Begum Jaan has been challenging

The singer-actress, who celebrates her 65th birthday today (15 March), started her acting career with a supporting role in Shyam Benegal's film.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Suparna Thombare

Begum Jaan, which stars Vidya Balan along with an ensemble cast, is a story of a brothel which suffers the consequences of India's Partition in 1947 as the Radcliffe line dividing India and Pakistan also runs through the house. A resolute bunch of prostitutes led by their madam (head, played by Vidya) fights to save the house from being brought down. 

Actress-singer Ila Arun will be seen in a key role as Amma in the film, returning to acting on the big screen after playing a small role in the Vidya-Farhan Akhtar starrer Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014).

Interestingly, Ila Arun, who celebrates her 65th birthday today (15 March), started her acting career with Shyam Benegal's Mandi (1983), which was also set in a brothel. Ila had played a prostitute in that film, too. Life seems to have come full circle for Ila, who now acts in a film on a similar theme of a brothel being destroyed by those in power.

"From Mandi to Begum Jaan, the journey I have had has been challenging. The difference between Mandi and Begum Jaan is that the audience has changed. They will now have to see how women keep things hidden in their hearts and why they reach the point that they do. At that time we were doing sex trade and now we are seniors, getting sex trade done," says Ila with a laugh.

"The biggest thing is that line in the film about Partition, about how one line divides the house. Also, these are komal si dikhne wali yeh mardaani. The mardangi that has come out in this film was not there in our film [Mandi]. It was more about nazakat, jhankaar and kotha. This [Begum Jaan] is something different. And I am proud to be associated with [director] Srijit Mukherji and the film," she added. 

Ila went on to joke about not getting the chance to sing in the film. "I feel sad that I got a role where I was told to listen to beautiful songs, not to sing," she said.