Ila Arun is already an established name in the music industry who has achieved the status of an undisputed queen of Indian folk music with her rustic voice. However, she is also an equally skilled actor and a director. The Nigodi Kaisi Jawani Hai crooner also helmed a play on postpartum depression, Baby’s Blues, which was staged recently. During an exclusive conversation with News18.com, she revealed that she was not privy to the concept of postpartum depression and only got to know about it when she came across the play by Tammy Ryan.
The singer, along with her actress-daughter Ishitta Arun, was also part of a seminar conducted by the women’s exclusive global society, ‘Coto’, where they spoke at length about motherhood and the pressure women undergo post-pregnancy. Ishitta, who also joined the chat with us, spoke about her own mental state after giving birth to her child, among many other things.
Tell us a little about the Coto app and how it aims to help women.
Ishitta Arun: I’ve been with Coto now for over two months. It has only women who are initiating conversations and discussing things that they are generally wary of discussing on other platforms. It is a unique, distinctive factor that sets this app apart from others. Besides that, it’s a fresh change from the general social media practices right now and it is really committed to its members.
At this stage, how many women are aware of its existence, and how many are using it?
Ishhita: People associated with Coto are reaching out and creating more buzz about it. But like anything sustainable, it is a slow reach. It’s reaching people and the ones who come are not leaving it. So women are getting to know about it and it is gathering momentum, but at a very healthy pace.
You did a play (Baby’s Blues) on postpartum depression. Tell us about that.
Ila Arun: My play is an insight into what postpartum depression is all about. It’s very unfortunate to see that young mothers are suffering, to whatever degree, from postpartum depression and my play addresses that issue. It’s a very important subject and nobody in India has attempted that. They always shy away from talking about this subject. I did not know what postpartum depression was till I bought the play by Tammy Ryan. The author suffered from postpartum depression and she researched and created this beautiful play.
I belong to a family with seven sisters and my mother was always supportive. During the old days, women were sent to their own families after childbirth so they had support. But there is nobody if it’s a nuclear family and that’s where all the depression comes in.
We have a very dear friend Shweta Kawaatra (actress) and she suffered for five years. She was ready to kill herself. Now, she has overcome her problems and is in a position where she can share her thoughts with young mothers. Becoming a mother is God’s blessing and it is very unfortunate that women have suffered because of hormonal, social, or emotional changes. After watching the play, you will know to what degree postpartum depression can reach. It can be an extreme situation.
After you became a mother, was there any phase for you where you went through a similar thing?
Ishitta Arun: I think every new mom goes through it in various degrees. And it depends on the individual on how severe or how long this phase lasts. There are also mothers who just sail through such phases. In my particular case, I’m sure I must have gone through some sort of postpartum blues. It was not diagnosed but after having lived it and read a lot about it I can safely assume that it was there in the vicinity.
The picture of motherhood is a very rosy one and the older generation has fixes for these but there’s been no explanation handed down. People ask you to try a lot of things but there is no logical explanation. Nobody can prepare you for what motherhood holds and it really is not a black-and-white situation. Sometimes you have the best people in your environment, but you cannot articulate what you’re going through mentally or you are not accustomed to asking for that sort of help because it’s not culturally accepted. So there are a bunch of things.
It really doesn’t depend on whether you have a big family or whether your in-laws are there for you. It depends on whether you’re operating from mutual respect and love. Even if you have a generational gap between parents, when you see your child suffer despite disagreements on why they’re suffering, you will want to come forward and try to understand that. Even that bridge has not happened in a majority of Indian households where it is brushed under the rug.
This play depicts a disconnected family where a sensitive sensitization towards mental health is next to nothing. It depicts the reality of a large majority of women worldwide. And this play makes you see all these things played out so you understand what you are missing.
Ishita, talking about your films and shows, how was it to be a part of such an ensemble and strong cast in Rana Naidu?
Ishitta: Looking back, it is really amazing to be included with such great actors and people who are respected in their field. For me, Rana Naidu was and is an expression of self-belief. This year I set out to break my own limitations and this is the first thing that I’ve done with regard to work.
On the women of Rana Naidu:
Ishitta: Everybody’s talking about how it’s a male-dominated show, but I think that women are very important in it, especially my character because she, unlike many women, is hiding a troubled, loveless, abusive marriage. So to play that character was a dream and I keep thanking my stars that I got this opportunity. I find that women are very multi-dimensional, and there’s a lot that is going on in their lives.
You’d be surprised as to how much they can handle and what resilience they can come up with. So I had an opportunity to deep dive into that aspect.
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