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Isaignani Ilayaraja or a fond Raja sir to all his devotees celebrated his birthday recently.  And this time around, quite atypical of him, the legend celebrated the occasion cutting a cake with the event being attended by his family members and close friends.

To encapsulate Raja’s accomplishments and to trap his awe inspiring work within the dictum of few words is tantamount to attempting to fill in all the ambient air into a meek balloon. However, just as a humble tribute to the legend, this writer wishes to touch upon a few ‘icings on the cake’ of Raja sir’s majestic musical repertoire.

Recently it was heard that the audio rights of Nee Thaane En Pon Vasantham directed by Gautham Menon scored by Ilayaraja have found takers who are willing to lap it up for a whopping rate even surpassing Gautham’s earlier Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya. This according to sources in the industry is one of its kinds in the history of Tamil cinema. Such is Raja’s prowess and the clipping released in the media showing the maestro at work is a revelation in itself.

Divinity is a synonym of music and creating music is almost like feeling the God. The sheer abstract and the unexplainable nature of it, takes the listener on an ethereal trip. And Raja sir is a master craftsman who can render such a mesmerizing effect on his audience and can drench them in an incessant shower of ambrosia and transport them to different realms of a blissful space that is far removed from the mundane real world.

His background score is yet another subject of interesting discussion altogether. Something that cannot be communicated through a dialogue or an expression or a song can reveal itself very lucidly through Raja sir’s BGM. Although, there are innumerable films that boast about the maestro’s background score, Nandalala and Azhagar Saamiyin Kudhirai in the recent times would be the apt examples for the current generation. And rightfully and fittingly so, Indian government decided to initiate an award for Best Background Score from last year and Ilayaraja is the first composer to be honored with this reward not just for his work in Pazhassi Raja but for all that he has done to the music industry for more than quarter of a century.

His music is something that is always avant-garde. Even now when we listen to many of his songs, they would perfectly gel with today’s sensibilities and never out of times. That’s why director Balki who is perpetually smitten by the maestro’s work insisted on retaining ‘Vizhiyilae Mani Vizhiyil’ and ‘Kuzhaloodum Kannanukku’ and ‘Mandram Vandha Thendarulukku’ in his Amitabh and Tabu starrer Cheeni Kum with Hindi lyrics.

Ilayaraja enjoys immense respect with the music fraternity and more so with Hindustani exponents. And that explains why the much revered Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty immediately accepted to render ‘Isayil Thodangudhamma’ in Hey Ram only for Ilayaraja and was content to take his blessings despite knowing the fact that he may not be compensated for his work due to paucity of funds. 

Raja’s music is such that it cannot be slotted within a specific genre or trend. The timeless feel of it transcends all kinds of literal and metaphorical boundaries. He is one of a very few composers who still continues to write his musical notes preferring the style over the technological tools. His usage of musical instruments in his compositions is highly nuanced and would bring out the apt feel with finesse. It is said that the ambience in his recording studios will be totally different from others and highly discipline driven. Artists who have worked for Ilayaraja say that he has such a sharp ear that he can spot a timid discordant note amidst numerous other notes with such acute precision.  

He is in the industry for a more than three decades and in the interim, there have been other music composers as well. However he still holds his fort and enjoys a huge and loyal patronage for whom music is only RAJA.

To sum it all and to borrow the words from the legend’s own number,

Netru Illai Naalai Illai, Eppavum Neengal Raja!


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