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Monday, March 4, 2019

Illayaraja 75 .. .. the greatness of Maestro - the musical genius


A few decades ago,  come Deepavali – besides new dresses, crackers, there would be new releases .. .. and fans would debate endlessly on superiority of their heroes ..  that was a time when Rajnikant and Kamal were ruling the roost.  In 1980, remember that in our school class room, one vividly portrayed Barathiraja calling Balachander – a week prior to Deepavali release, exclaiming that both of them had dwelt on the same subject [Unemployment – Nizhalgal & Varumaiyin niram sigappu] – he went on to say that an unperturbed Balachander replied that both had unique styles and need not worry about the other ~ not sure of its authencity – incidentally both flopped . ..

Anbukku Naan Adimai; Ellam Un Kairasi; GramathuAthiyayam; Guru; IlamaiKolam; Johnny; Kaali; KallukkulEeram; MooduPani; MurattuKaalai; NenjathaiKillathe; Nizhalgal; Rishi Moolam; Soolam; UllasaParavaigal~ what brackets these together … .. besides the fact that these all were released in 1980s – there is another – one important at that .. the music of Maestro hearing which our generation grew ! .. ..
Pic credit : my friend Joseph Raja

Isaignani  Illayaraja – is a genius, a master at work – far different and far ahead of his era, the composer, singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, orchestrator, conductor-arranger and lyricist made the whole World look up to Tamil cinema music.  Have heard with awe, the way he would work with music notations and sharing them with his group for composing music for songs and .. .. and background scores too.  Widely regarded as one of the greatest Indian music composers, he is credited for introducing western musical sensibilities in the Indian musical mainstream. Being the first Asian to compose a full symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, Ilaiyaraaja is known to have written the entire symphony in just 13 days which has never been done before in the world. He is also a gold medalist in classical guitar from Trinity College of Music, London, Distance Learning Channel.

Those days, if 60 movies were to be released in a year, 40 of them would have Illayaraja whose music alone would ensure victory of some movies.  The maestro is a  recipient of five Indian National Film Awards – three for Best Music Direction and two for Best Background Score.  In 2010, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian honour in India.  In 2018, he was honoured with  Padma Vibhushan.  In 2003, according to an international poll conducted by BBC, more than half-a million people from 165 countries voted his composition Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu from the 1991 film Thalapathi as the fourth in the world's top 10 most popular songs of all time.

On February 2nd and 3rd, the Tamil Film Producers Council held a huge tribute to Isaignani Ilayaraja to celebrate his contributions to the Indian film industry. The event  titled ‘Ilayaraja 75’  was held in Chennai. Most of the leading lights of the Tamil industry marked their presence on one of the two days, and made it even more memorable for the 1000s in attendance. Ilayaraja had a live music concert along with his orchestra on the 3rd and enthralled the gathering. Rajinikant’s tribute speech was heartfelt in particular.

“In the 80s, there used to be up to 15 films releasing for festivals like Diwali, Pongal and Tamil New Year. Raja sir used to be the composer for at least 10 of those films. Producers used to queue up outside his studio in the hope that he would complete the re-recording of their film. He used to manage the re-recording of three films in a single day, without any sleep; nowadays composers take 30 days for a single film! Raja sir would also give story level inputs to make sure that the song’s situation makes sense. So many films have benefited from his presence. Raja sir has also given up his salary for producers who were in financial trouble. He has sacrificed a lot for the industry and is an example for every celebrity on how to handle fame and popularity”, added Rajinikanth.

Maestro is a loner and enjoys himself being alone – yet there have been attempt to drag him into controversies, calling him arrogant and .. .. .. ridiculous.  During Chennai floods in 2015,  Illayaraja did his best in helping the flood victims, yet in a college function, a reporter kept nagging him with Q of his opinion on ‘beep’ song.   An irate Raja sir, angrily retorted – do you have senses and what are you asking, where ? -  that was a stupid question and yet there were some who called Raja arrogant. 

Now comes a no-brainer from ex-actor Rohini.   It is reported that  actor Vikram and Shankar were on  the stage with Ilaiyaraaja. Those hosting events many a times blabber thinking themselves to be intelligent but end up exhibiting their dumbness.   The event's host Rohini asked the Enthiran directorShankar  when he will team up with Ilaiyaaraja as fans are expecting the collaboration. Illayaraja rightly stopped Rohini midway and told her, "Are you trying to get me a chance? I don't like this. Why are you taking up that topic now? He (Shankar) is working with the people with whom he is comfortable with. Why are you disturbing him?"

It is common knowledge that Shankar has been in the industry for decades and has only collaborated with AR Rahman and Harris Jayaraj for his films. It is right for the Director to work with anyone with whom he is comfortable – similarly the music Director is at liberty to chose people / movies in which one would work.  It looks childish to ask why or why not ? – on a stage !!

Illayaraja is a genius, stands very tall, way bigger and ahead  than most others – his melodies are the best companion when one wants to relax sitting alone, or anyone on a long drive.  A real boon to the music lovers are his songs ..

With regards – S. Sampahtkumar
4th Mar 2019.


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