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Ilayaraja has all rights to slap me!

Around 10 years ago, I got my first mobile handset - a basic Nokia phone. I could have just 10-15 songs in it due to its poor storage. I had to carefully pick those 10 songs, because they were the ones that meant the world to me. I would listen to those 10 while I ate, before I slept, when I was getting ready to school, basically whenever I could. Somedays, I would just lie on the terrace listening to them, daydreaming. 

If a new song releases and I like it, the unluckiest of the 10 will be replaced. This routine followed for a few months, when my mother introduced me to Ilayaraja. That was the first time I experienced magic. She didn’t force me to listen. She was playing “Thendral Vanthu Theendumbothu” while cooking, and I overheard it. The next thing I did was somehow find the song on google, and replace the unluckiest one.

10 years down the line, I sit down and wonder what made me do that. The song “Thendral Vandhu Theendumbothu” was so special to me. The lyrics of the song was merely a commentary on Ilayaraja’s music. The whole song is a metaphor to Ilayaraja’s music. While Ilayaraja was making conversation with me, Vaali was playing the role of the translator. I understood Ilayaraja’s music.

“தென்றல் வந்து தீண்டும் போது என்ன வண்ணமோ மனசுல…
திங்கள் வந்து காயும் போது என்ன வண்ணமோ நெனப்புல”

I looked at Ilayaraja’s music as cool breeze, I felt the breeze, and my heart was filled with colours. I looked at Ilayaraja’s music as the moon - calm and serene. I saw the moon, and my thoughts were filled with colours. When both your mind and heart are filled with colours, you become a colourful person. The maestro’s music engulfed me. I surrendered to him.

It was a feeling that I’ve never experienced before. As I sat for dinner that day, out of curiosity, I asked my mom about Raja and why she constantly listened to his songs. She took out her phone, and played En Iniya Pon Nilave. While that was playing in the background, she narrated the story of how she grew up with Ilayaraja.

Being someone born in early 1970’s, my mother’s birth coincided with Ilayaraja’s burst into the music scene. My mother was 4 when Annakili released and she told me how her sisters used to make her dance to the tunes of 'Machaana Pathingala'. She was 10 when Sakalakala Vallavan released, and from that year, ‘Ilamai Idho Idho’ used to be played on the day of New Year, even now. She was 15 when Nayagan released, and she fell in love with a Mani Ratnam movie for the first time.

As she started telling me how she loved the Punnagai Mannan Theme, she started tapping her feet involuntarily. Coincidentally, that theme song was playing the background. Thalapathi and Guna, which released early in 1990’s made her feel that Ilayaraja is a special person in her life. With the turn of the millenium, she doubted if Raja sir will be relevant in the age of technology and young composers.The man came up with pieces like 'Ilankaathu Veesuthe', and 'Nee Partha Parvaiku'.

What she told me about Raja sir was just a few bricks in a huge palace of music. I understood, that Raja was the Raja of this palace. Life is not a bed of roses. It has thorns. But Raja's music somehow makes the thorns blunt and eases your pain. He introduced a new form of Anesthesia, that could work wonders. It makes you believe life is actually simple and beautiful, like his music. 

Slowly, all the 10 songs on my phone became unlucky ones and Raja Sir’s songs alone stood the test of time, like Raja sir. I could neither convince my heart, nor my mind to remove any of Ilayaraja’s 10 songs. The colour of his music had stained me. Even the best detergent in town cannot remove the stain. I’ve upgraded to better phones, and still those 10 songs remain a part of my playlist.

I know for a fact that post 2010, the popularity of his songs have changed as compared to what it was in pre-2000’s era. But the man has done enough work for the next 3 generations to enjoy. When millenials tell me that the end of Ilayaraja is near, I laugh it off. Everytime I think that Ilayaraja's music is on the wane, he slaps me hard. With his mellifluous music. He has all the rights to do so, because the man gave us the answer way back in 1988, in the song Poove Sempoove from Solla Thudikuthu Manasu. “எந்நாளும் சங்கீதம் சந்தோஷமே…" 

All that I ever wanted to tell Ilayaraja was,

"நீ பார்த்த பார்வைக்கொரு நன்றி!
நமைச் சேர்த்த இரவுக்கொரு நன்றி!
அயராத இளமை சொல்லும் நன்றி நன்றி!
அகலாத நினைவு சொல்லும் நன்றி நன்றி!"

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