Mumbai, November 6: Ila Arun was presented The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Knight 1st class – a high honour awarded to individuals for extraordinary service for Norway within the fields of art, science, industry and public service.

On Friday, November 2, in recognition of Ila Arun’s outstanding achievements, Norway’s Consul General in Mumbai, Ann Ollestad, had the honour, on HM King Harald V’s behalf, of presenting her with the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, Knight 1st Class.

Through her highly successful adaptation, directing and performance of plays by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, Ila has strengthened Indo-Norwegian cultural ties, not least through her Ibsen Festivals in Mumbai.

Ila Arun & Surnai members with Norway’s Consul General, Ann Ollestad

“Lady from the Sea”, “Ghosts”, “The Master Builder”, “A Doll’s House” and “Peer Gynt” are all plays on her list of merit, and next year an adaptation of “Hedda Gabler” will be added.

Not only are her adaptations of high theatrical quality, but through the universal and timeless themes of Ibsen’s work, she challenges societal norms, ignorance and taboos. Ibsen’s plays are just as relevant today as they were when they were written over a 100 years ago.

Ila Arun, through the adapted plays, has been instrumental in conveying this to the Indian audience.

Ila’s tryst with Ibsen carried on with the adaptation and performance of “Peer Gynt” as “Peer Ghani” in the very first “Ibsen Festival in Mumbai” in 2014 with the theme of ‘When the dead awaken, Ibsen comes alive’. The festival was organized by Ila as its festival director in collaboration with the Royal Norwegian Embassy and creative support of Surnai & Antardhwani Productions.

Ever since Surnai has been holding the Ibsen Festival in Mumbai annually, inviting groups to perform Ibsen in several languages.

The Ibsen Festivals were very-well received each year creating tremendous awareness about Henrik Ibsen, the 19th Century born Norwegian playwright. Ila was invited in 2017, to share her experiences at the Lillehammer Literature Festival in Norway. It happened to be the 150th year of the performance of “Peer Gynt” and Ila shared stage space with one of the most famous Ibsen actors, Kare Conradi, who played Peer in Norwegian to her Aase, his mother, in Hindi!

In 2018, Ila was invited to the Ibsen Conference in his hometown of Skien. It was the highlight of hers and Surnai’s relationship with Ibsen. To cheer her on were Surnai members, Arun Bajpai, KK Raina and Anjula Bedi. Later in Oslo for the Ibsen Theatre Festival, they watched a memorable performance of “Peer Gynt”, with the ninety-one year old Maurstad, Toralv playing Peer Gynt.

It was earlier this year, the 24th of April 2018 when His Majesty, King Harald V of Norway conferred the Order of Merit, Knight 1st class, on Ila Arun for her outstanding work in promoting Norwegian culture in India.

Vishnu Karmakar

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