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Ila Arun brings two plays on domestic violence and post-partum depression to Bengaluru

Dilnaz Irani in the play Baby’s Blues directed by Ila Arun and K.K. Raina. Two shows of the play will be performed at Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru on April 8, 2023

Dilnaz Irani in the play Baby’s Blues directed by Ila Arun and K.K. Raina. Two shows of the play will be performed at Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru on April 8, 2023
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Ila Arun is no stranger to Bengaluru. Earlier, the actor-director — well-known as a folk and Hindi film singer — presented plays Miracle on Matunga Street and Ye Raaste Hain Pyar Ke which were showered with adulation when they were staged in the city last year. Overwhelmed by all the love, her theatre group, Surnai Theatre & Folk Arts Foundation, is back with two more productions this month. 

The plays, Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan and Baby’s Blues, will be performed at Ranga Shankara on April 7 and April 8, respectively.  

“I fell in love with the Bengaluru audience because they were very receptive and intelligent. It is always nice to explore the reaction of a crowd you are not used to,” says Ila, over the phone from Mumbai.  

Challenging tradition

The poster of Ila Arun’s Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan. The play will be performed at Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru on April 7, 2023

The poster of Ila Arun’s Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan. The play will be performed at Ranga Shankara in Bengaluru on April 7, 2023
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan is a Hindi adaptation of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts and is the fourth play of his she has adapted.  

“The ghosts in the play are not out of some horror film. The play is about feudal glories, outdated traditions and taboos that don’t change with time. They follow women, generation after generation, suffocating and haunting them like ghosts,” says Ila.

While the theme is universal, Ila was excited to set it amongst a royal family in Rajasthan. “As I am aware of the class and caste dynamics in Rajasthan, I used it as a canvas to paint this story on and added my own strokes to it.”

Descent into madness

Actress Ila Arun performs in the play ‘Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan’ on the third day of the International Theatre Festival, in Jodhpur in March 2023

Actress Ila Arun performs in the play ‘Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan’ on the third day of the International Theatre Festival, in Jodhpur in March 2023
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Baby’s Blues (BB), on the other hand, is a faithful English staging of US playwright Tammy Ryan’s 2001 play about a woman’s descent into post-partum depression (PPD).  This is the first play to talk about PPD in India and deals with “the reality-altering experience of new motherhood, rooting the play in my own emotional experience, but also steeped in research of clinical cases,” says Tammy, who herself battled PPD. 

Ila calls the protagonist a victim of her own mental and hormonal health, pushed to the edge by a lack of emotional support from her family, that is equally clueless about the devastating impact of PPD. “In fact, until I bought and read this play in New York, I didn’t know what PPD or baby blues was. Many doctors are unaware of it too,” says Ila.   

Both plays seek to critique conventional mores and ideas. While Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan deals with the issue of domestic violence on women and the suppression of their voices by traditional societies, Baby’s Blues tacklesthe taboo subject of mental health head-on while demystifying the image of sacred motherhood.  

Decades-old collaboration

Baby’s Blues has been co-directed by Ila and long-time collaborator, K.K. Raina. Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan, meanwhile, was written by Ila and directed by Raina, while also starring them in major roles. 

Ila Arun

Ila Arun
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

“There is an immense understanding between us because of decades of association. I wanted Raina to co-direct Baby’s Blues as well as bring in the male perspective. He is an observant director who knows how to get the best out of the actors’ strengths and weaknesses. Together, we created a sensitive environment for the play to grow,” explains Ila.   

As a folk musician, sound design is crucial to Ila’s plays and she is all praise for Sanjoy Dazz and Ambar Das, the talented music composer duo.  “I have written and composed the two songs in PKP, but the sound design and production by Sanjoy and Ambar added deeper layers to it. Their work in BB is fantastic too,” explains Ila.  

Salim Akhtar’s set and light design, she says, reflect the different mental states of the protagonist.  

Ila hopes their efforts reach the city’s audience. “I want all young mothers to watch the two shows of Baby’s Blues so they can understand the condition and be prepared for any eventuality.”

(Peechha Karti Parchhaiyan will be staged on April 7 at 7.30pm, and Baby’s Blues on April 8, at 3.30pm and 7.30pm, at Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar. Tickets are available online and at the venue)

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