Ilaiyaraaja 73: A Tribute

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The master composer who recently crossed the monumental landmark of 1000 films turns 73 and incidentally he also recently completed 40 years as a film music composer. It was an historical occasion which would be remembered for many years to come and just to put it in perspective, Maestro Ennio Morricone has composed for about 500-600 films. One shouldn't be surprised if he completes 1100 shortly. The most influential composers/bands of all time including the likes of likes of Beatles, Micheal Jackson, David Herman, John Williams, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Joe Hisaishi, Elvis & Eric Clapton would probably be credited with 50-100 great songs or at the maximum 250 compositions. But here is a composer who came from a tiny village and an impoverished family with no formal education who has 1000's of masterpieces to his credit. As compositions just literally poured out of him, as Mr Mani Ratnam put it "Thoota tune kottum", the Maestro kept on producing timeless music sitting inside the 'music factory' Prasad studios. What's even more astonishing is, he still produces music at the same speed even after 40 years.


And wait its not just the number of songs, original background scores for 1000 films which in itself consists of a body of work which will remain unparalleled in my opinion. "The real power of music lies in the background score" and there could be no better example than the master himself. Many complex emotions and depths of characters gets conveyed and elevated like nowhere else. I remember a particular blog post which read as" the background score conveys what actually the writer and director wanted to and what the screenplay attempted to do even though the same was not achieved visually". I couldn’t agree more. The themes from “Karakaatakaaran”, “Thalapathi”, “Nayagan”, “Netrikan”, “Johnny”, “Aan Paavam”, “Punnagai Mannan”, “Mouna Raagam” “Devathai”, the recent “Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai” & “Thaarai Thappatai” (to name a few) and the scores of “ Mudhal Mariyaadhai”, “ Idhayam”, “Anjali”, “Moondram Pirai”, “Aboorva Sagodharargal”, “Tik tik tik, “ Agni Natchatram”, the recent” Pazhassi Raaja”, “Nandhalala”, “Onayum Aatukutiyum” & “Shamitabh” will be on par with the best film music compositions of all time and will stand testament to the genius of Ilaiyaraaja.   


Whenever i converse with someone about Mr Ilaiyaraaja, they keep talking about him completing 1000 films (Like Sachin's 100 centuries). But can the Musical achievements and contributions of the Maestro be measured only by such numbers? In a recent tribute piece Mr Bharadwaj Rangan wrote " It’s like one man in Madras was putting out at least one Thriller every month. In Tamil. In Telugu. In Kannada. In Malayalam. In pop. In rock. In folk. In jazz. In Western Classical. In Carnatic. In Hindustani." It's the quality of the compositions also which will stand the test of time. With a mere mini bar of music or a particular usage of an instrument or a particular interlude or prelude, one can easily identify the song and the composer. Very few composers in the history of film music have managed to attain such individuality and produce such original music which are uniquely theirs. When songs like " Poove Sempoove", "Sundari Kannal", "Vizhiyilae Mani Vizhiyilae", "Ithu Oru Nila Kaalam", "Sorgaame Endralum", "En Iniya Pon Nilavae", "Ilaya Nila", "Nee Partha", "Rasathi Una", "Vaanam Thottu Poona", "Thenpaandi Cheemayilae" (to name a few, i could go on and on) could transport you to a time and place instantly and when such songs make you connect and emote deeply and when compositions like "Polla Vinayae", "I Love Mozart" & "Do Anything" could bring about profound clamness, there is no better music and there is no bigger a composer. Happy Birthday to music alais Ilaiyaraaja.


PS: The songs and scores are in no particular order and nor are they comprehensive. They are nothing bur droplets in the ocean

Sriraman Srinivasan
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