Raja and his rule

master musician

“I cannot express in words what Ilaiyaraja means to the music industry and his contribution to our cinema. I consider him a genius. He knows everything about music” — Amitabh Bachchan. “I am a big fan of Ilaiyaraja and feel honoured to have him score the music for my forthcoming film Rani Rudhrama Devi” — Anushka.

Well, for that matter, not just Amitabh Bachchan and Anushka, you can find Ilaiyaraja as the common point between any two personalities in the film industry. With this being the case of celebrities, it is not difficult to imagine the love fans have for  him. For many, Ilaiyaraja is the ‘God’ of film music.

But for the past few years, the ‘Isaignani’ was not so active. Only a handful of films had his music in the last half decade, and with those movies too failing to strike a chord in the box-office, fans of Ilaiyaraja were in for a big disappointment.

At last, their wait came to an end recently when the composer implicitly announced his comeback with the audio of Neethane En Ponvasantham. Almost all songs from the Gautham Vasudev Menon directed film became chartbusters and this time, not just his fans for decades, but teenagers and college goers too started celebrating, if not worshipping, Ilaiyaraja. Social networking and microblogging sites were full of postings, discussing the magic of Ilaiyaraja’s music in Neethane En Ponvasantham. “The moment I conceived Neethane En Ponvasantham, I decided that it should have music by Ilaiyaraja,” says Gautham Vasudev Menon.

He adds, “I grew up listening to Raja sir’s songs and right from my first film, it was my wish to work with him. But I wanted to prove myself before approaching him. And when the knot of Neethane... struck me, I decided that there should not be any further delay (in working with Ilaiyaraja).”

The director, who ensured that the audio launch function of Neethane En Ponvasantham turned out to be a festival to celebrate Ilaiyaraja, says working with him was an unforgettable experience. “Whenever he puts his hand on the harmonimum, there comes out a beautiful tune. I was so lucky to work with him,” he adds. Interestingly, Gautham has shot on his iPhone the way Ilaiyaraja works. “Because I wanted every single moment to be recorded,” he adds.

With the songs of Neethane En Ponvasantham still topping the charts even months after their release, Ilayaraja fans have more to cheer. For, the maestro is currently working in a string of films, that too in multiple languages. In Tamil, his forthcoming ventures are Un Samaiyal Araiyil, Naadi Thudikkuthadee and Thalaimuraigal. In Tollywood, he is currently working for Rani Rudhrama Devi and Ulavacharu Biriyani. The Malayalam industry has him working for Samrajyam 2 - Son of Alexander and in Bollywood, Ilaiyaraja is scoring the music for Assi Nabbe Poorey Sau.

“Ilaiyaraja has never taken a break from composing music. The past few years were like the interval block of a movie. The second half has just started and wait and watch for more surprises,” says Senthil Vel, a senior manager with a KPO firm, who runs a blog on Ilaiyaraja.

There is an interesting story behind how the name Ilaiyaraja came into existence. Born as Gnanadesikan at Pannaipuram in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, Ilaiyaraja was fondly called by his family members and friends as Raasayya. And when he joined Dhanraj Master as a student to learn musical instruments, the master renamed and called him just Raja. In his first movie Annakili, producer Panchu Arunachalam added ‘Ilaiya’ (means younger in Tamil) as prefix in his name Raja and named him Ilaiyaraja because in the 1970s there was one more music director A M Rajah.

“When we think, we can conclude that the name Ilaiyaraja is apt for him since he has been ruling the Tamil music world for nearly four decades now with his youthful and soulful music,” says Vel.

And with the ‘King’, who stayed away from action for some time, is back on ‘track’ now, one can expect that the people will be happy in his regime.

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