Ilaiyaraaja scoring demo electrifies IFFI crowd

The most fascinating segment in the hour-and-a-half session showcased the maestro composing an impromptu score for a situation provided by Balki: a son walking on the streets to kill his father.  DH Photo/Pushkar V

With fans outnumbering film professionals at the Kala Academy, Ilaiyaraaja's eagerly awaited masterclass on Wednesday turned out to be a happy, boisterous affair. 

The session was a part of the nine-day International Film Festival of India, concluding on Thursday.

Fans screamed and shouted, bringing an energetic concert charge to what was meant to be an academic affair. 

The 76-year-old maestro spoke about his art in an informal conversation with filmmaker R Balki, who described himself as an Ilaiyaraaja 'fanboy.' 

An orchestra of eight played some of his best-known themes from Kannada and Tamil films. Instrumental passages from Pallavi Anupallavi and Punnagai Mannan deservedly got pride of place, as did the lush violin-and-cello interludes from the song Joteyali jote joteyali.  

Ilaiyaraaja later sang snatches of hit songs on popular demand, with Kanne kalai maane from Moondram Pirai (1982) and Thendral vandu from Avataaram (1994) getting the loudest cheers. The focus of the masterclass, however, was on how he composes his background scores. Balki said each of Ilaiyaraaja's situational passages had a hidden melody ‘waiting to be flicked’ for a song.

The most fascinating segment in the hour-and-a-half session showcased the maestro composing an impromptu score for a situation provided by Balki: a son walking on the streets to kill his father.

The composer took about five minutes to jot down his notations, but not before warning the audience to keep absolutely quiet. He then handed his score to the violinist, who played something that sounded like a tender lullaby in a 3/4 beat. 

When Balki asked him why he had chosen a soft melody for a scene depicting murderous rage, Ilaiyaraaja said it was intended to remind the boy of the love he had received from his father.

The full house, with about 1,000 people, erupted in applause when the maestro explained his rationale for the piece. The masterclass had indeed imparted a lesson both to cinema professionals and fans: music can be ironic, it can write a sub-text, and it can reveal aspects of the story even the filmmaker might never have imagined.

The annual festival, in its 50th year, also saw a lively discussion featuring actors Vijay Deverakonda (Arjun Reddy, Dear Comrade) and Rakul Preet Singh (Gilly, Manmadhudu 2).

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