Just a day before Kalaignar turns 90 today, Maestro Ilaiyaraaja turned 70 yesterday (02nd June). For more than 35 years, Ilaiyaraaja has been the shining flag-bearer of Tamil films and Tamil film music. Born in Pannaipuram in Theni District in the early forties just before India’s Independence, Ilaiyaraaja has seen the dark side of life right in his young age when he suffered severely due to poverty and with nobody to back him up or offer support. The musical revolutions indulged in by the Maestro over the years are beyond the realm of imagination of even many music experts.
Unlike many of his contemporaries and those before him, Ilaiyaraaja doesn’t rehearse his musical numbers; given a situation to compose a song, he takes a few minutes and conceives the ‘theme’ in his mind and brings it out through his harmonium which goes on to become an immortal song. Raja also possesses an amazing sense of background score and is a master in the art of merging it with the sequences in films.
The Maestro won appreciation from Subbudu, the harshest of critics, as the ‘only music director who delivers music without distorting its nicety and melody’. Even those who didn’t understand the genius of Ilaiyaraaja became his die-hard fans and admirers as the eighties and nineties unfolded with Raja’s mesmerizing melodies. Raja is solely responsible for taking film music to the poorest of the poor cutting across the economic barriers.
However, fans of the Maestro are somehow upset that the greatest music director of the country hasn’t yet been recognized in a fitting manner by the Union government. Ilaiyaraaja is yet to be conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, though ‘Nightingale’ Lata Mangeshkar has already won it. Of course, we all know that Ilaiyaraaja is beyond all those awards and recognitions and is a pocket-sized dynamite which has taken Tamil film music on the global stage!
Let’s salute and wish the Maestro on turning 70; here’s wishing him many more years of musical journey!