Ila Arun: Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been like a son to me but when I saw him on sets of Haddi…
Ila Arun will be seen as a trangender for the first time in the film Haddi. She talks to HT about working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui again and much more.
Singer-actor Ila Arun is coming back on screen, and this time, as a transgender. She plays Amma in Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Haddi and says she was the only cis-woman on set among men and transgenders. The film's trailer had revealed the plot of the revenge drama in which Nawazuddin’s character takes revenge from those who killed Amma. And Ila confirmed she couldn’t identify Nawazuddin for a moment when she first saw him in the getup of a woman. Also read: Ivanka Das reveals she had ‘very bad experience’ with trans actors during Haddi shoot
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Ila shared her experience of working with transgenders for Haddi and how they all welcomed her on set by grooving to her hit songs. She also talked about feeling conscious around them in the beginning before eventually becoming their Amma. Excerpts:
Tell us about your character Amma in Haddi.
Amma is very close to Nawazuddin’s character. She has given him strength and he cares for her and that’s why he goes on to avenge her death. Each group of transgenders has an Amma, who is also a transgender. I'm the only woman in the film. Others are either males or transgenders or there are people who have changed their sex. Amma is like a Durga…she is emotional and she's very powerful.
How was your experience of shooting with transgenders?
It was a happy experience. I was a bit conscious on the first day because I didn’t know how to behave. Sometimes these people were very loud, sometimes they were very emotional. But then they became part of me. As I entered the set, they danced to my song Resham Ka Rumal. The first thing they told me is how they sing my songs whether it's an occasion like Holi, marriage or childbirth. They knew 5 songs. They made me so comfortable and all my scenes were with them. I had to be comfortable because they are part of my gang or my family in the film.
What was your reaction when you first saw Nawazuddin dressed up as a woman?
I still remember when nobody had told me and I turned around, said hi and thought, who is this woman? And it was Nawaz. I couldn’t recognise him because there were so many transgenders decked up all over. So it took me a minute and then I laughed. He looks so beautiful on set and has worked so hard. It was difficult to recognise him even though I know him in and out.
You have worked with Nawazuddin quite a few times. How was it to work with him when he was dressed as a woman?
It takes time initially but then we are all actors. Nawaz was a cop in Raat Akeli Hai, a vulnerable village boy in Ghoomketu and a great writer in Manto. In our fourth film, when you see him as a woman, he makes you conscious because of the way he takes his pallah or the way his body language is. Sometimes when he smokes, that's the only time I was reminded of him as Nawaz. For a second I was conscious because I always saw him as my son. But then, this is how the actors are known to adapt and change. He made me comfortable and I treated him exactly the way I should have done as Amma.
You work in very few films? Why did you say yes to the role of a transgender?
I'm the problem. My age actresses do 2-2 films in a year. I did Ghoomketu, Aafat-e-Ishq and then Chhalaang. I am shooting for three films right now.
I played a transgender because actors are always looking for a challenging role. Otherwise the face remains the same. What makes it different is the character that they play. I have done a children’s film where I played an 86- year-old. I changed the voice and all those things. I was a bit conscious but when I got into my character, I realized Oh my God. I followed some of the transgenders. Lakshmi is a good friend of mine who looks beautiful. Gracefully, she wears her saree. You need to get the body language right otherwise it is normal. It's a challenging thing to do with them on actual location but was a good opportunity.
Your fight scene on stage with Lillete Dubey in Call My Agent: Bollywood was fun.
(laughs) It depends what you're getting and how much screen space is given by the director and what he's expecting. Sometimes the director is not open. He has a script, but he’s not open. He’s got his own ideas. If you have given us the character, then let us do justice to that character. Sometimes they are very adamant. I come from Shyam Benegal’s era and he gave a lot of freedom to improvise within that frame. You will see some good stuff from me and hope I keep on getting good stuff.
Haddi releases on ZEE5 on September 7.