Ishitta Arun was a ghostwriter and a creative voice behind the scenes while working with guitarist-composer Dhruv Ghanekar, often on ad jingles and music for projects such as Coke Studio and artists including Atif Aslam. When she began counting how many projects she’d been a part of with Ghanekar (also her husband), there were more than 25 ad jingles to start.
She says over a phone call, “I think songwriting is something that crept up on me. I was ghostwriting for Dhruv for the longest time, whenever there was a need… maybe a correction on an ad jingle or anything of that sort. Doing that, I became his go-to person for this, about 15 years back.”
More recently, Arun – a VJ, theater artist, actor (seen in Scoop and Rana Naidu) and content creator (more on that later) – served as lyricist on two songs off the Kangana Ranaut-starrer and action flick Dhaakad in 2022. While the film left a lot to be desired, the same can’t be said of the soundtrack, which was composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Ghanekar. Arun wrote the lyrics for the lullaby “So Ja Re” and the title track, sung by Vasundhara Vee. The title track ended up winning a Clef Music Award (CMA) for Best Bollywood Song last year, which Arun cherishes, more so because it wasn’t something that came out of the usual oft-heard rigamarole of lobbying for the honor.
There is still a bit of humility when Arun notes that it would be wrong to think she was a “deserving candidate” to work on these projects. “But, it’s because of my musicality. I was born in music,” the artist says. The daughter of famed folk-pop singer Ila Arun, there’s now a “Bollywood cultural musical” that Ghanekar and she are working together on. It’s opening at Japan’s Min-On Culture Center later this year. “I’m writing not only the lyrics but also the dialogues,” she adds.
All of this comes even as Arun has been part of filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s new series Scoop on Netflix, essaying the role of Nelly Siddiqui, the wife of journalist Imran Siddiqui (played by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub). Elsewhere, she also stayed on Netflix with another drama series, Rana Naidu. She’s clear that she wouldn’t limit herself to any particular media and just wants to be excited and challenged by projects that come her way. “It took me a while to come on to this medium (OTT) but I’m here and I’m here to stay. So hopefully, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me and hearing a lot more from me,” Arun says.
The other way Arun keeps her “artistic, creative brain alive” is often by whipping out her camera phone and creating Reels and thus, becoming a content creator. She says, “I don’t limit myself by anything. I have a lot of peers who look down at these things. I think there are a lot of puritan beliefs attached… but the truth is that [these platforms] are the quickest and surest way of reaching your audiences. And you know what? Boo hoo if you can’t adapt and relate to a new platform and speak a new language, because it’s great. It’s fun to do so.” Arun scripts all the video content herself and says she wants to break away from mundane life and writes “stuff that makes me laugh.” She adds, “Maybe that’s why my page is so sporadic, disjointed and crazy as I am.”
Up next, there’s the musical in Japan, as well as music coming out from Ghanekar’s Wah Wah Records, his label. Slated to release next year, it will see Arun work on a variety of songs as lyricist. “It’s like a factory, because I’m having to write different kinds of songs. I got a little bit of faith because when you work in advertising, your turnaround time is so quick.”