Friday, May 22, 2009

The Soul stirrer.......

The below is one topic that has been discussed, written, debated over and over again by millions of people across. I know very well that one more addition to that huge pile of blogs and articles about this living miracle is highly irrelevant and immaterial since it doesn’t require any further emphasis or confirmation. However, being an ardent follower of IR music, I couldn’t resist myself from joining the bandwagon in trumpeting his genius through whatever means I could find. I had wanted to do this long time before, however every attempt of mine to draft a few words (few !!!!) had resulted in miserable failure. It was like trying to draft a summary about how the Ocean looks or how it feels when a cool breeze hits you or about the love for one’s mother… How-much-ever proficient one might be in a language, yet no one will be able to write a fulfilling summary on the above topics. Certain things are indescribable. The best way is to rather keep it untold, sit back and enjoy the experience and awe of it, rather than trying to bring it in a word form. Mine was a similar position when I had decided to write about IR’s music. Even now as am drafting this post, am at loss of words... rather am groping for the apt words to describe my admiration, obsession, fanaticism, madness, devotion, passion towards this man's works.

1980's – The Golden era of Tamil Film Music Industry

Close to 900 movies, more than 5000 songs and still counting. The staggering record of IR stands testimony to the pace at which he composes music. The 1980's was an era where Raja ruled the Tamil film music industry. His songs were so popular that some of them got copied in Hindhi (with no credit being given to him). Even crap movies managed to get a 'hit' status, thanks to his songs. Directors queuing up to get his dates, radios echoing his songs 24/7, enthralling all listeners ranging from urban to rural. No musician enjoyed such a cult status as IR did during the 80's. The kind of media attention which people enjoy today was not present during those days, but that never stopped him from hogging the limelight. Many actors owed their career to Ilayaraja. Courtesy his songs, they enjoyed an extended stay in the cine industry. His domination of that era is evident from the number of releases that made to the theatres during that decade. Composing music for more than 50 films in an year consistently (which implies a new release every week !!), churning out hits after hits. The fact that people are still glued to listening to all the hits of 80's shows that his music is evergreen and stands the test of time. Most of the songs nowadays belong to the 'popcorn' category (i.e) enjoy it for the moment and move on. But, Raja's songs, despite repeated listening remains fresh and never seem to bore you. Although nowadays people come up with some really good foot-tapping numbers, melody is what stays on with us forever and that’s what makes Raja special. Even His hard-hitting peppy numbers will have a soothing melody behind it. Melody is His forte and He is the uncrowned King of it. His pathos numbers can be heart-wrenching and tearjerkers. Some people argue that He is no more the ‘much-sought-after music director’ what He used to be during his early days and that it’s the twilight of His career and His standards have dropped. I don’t think there can ever be twilight to His Musical journey. It is true that there are various options for the directors nowadays and He is no more the monopoly. That doesn’t imply that His standards have dipped. It is just that the trend nowadays is so much towards music resulted out of computers and synthesizers. Original composition is few and far to find. For me, Ilayaraja is a musician beyond any stretch of imagination, a bench-mark of His own. He is probably the destination for all other music directors. Beyond musicality and talent, it is the soul in His songs, His command over the Tamil language, the clean diction and clarity of lyrics... that’s what makes Him stand apart from the rest and He will remain unconquered.

SPB - IR, the killer combination

Blessed are we, to be living in the same era of these two legends, to be able to enjoy the birth of some of the most enchanting, memorable songs. When they join hands, its sheer magic that is created (unfortunately its been quite sometime since this combination last worked together). To write a review on the kind of songs these two giants have produced, it requires a lifetime. The masterpiece "Mandram vandha thendralukku" is enough to speak volumes about the mind-boggling numbers created in their combination.

King of BGM

In an era where Background Music was least given importance, here was a man who revolutionized BGM in Indian Cinema. The recent awarding of National Award for Best BGM to Ilayaraja proves it. The fact that 'National Award for Best BGM' is a new category which was introduced just last year and rightfully the first awardee being Ilayaraja shows his prowess. If at all this category had existed a couple of decades back, am sure He would have bagged dozens of them for His lilting background scores. Naayagan, Mouna Raagam, Agni Natchathiram, Dhalapathi….. these are cult movies where the BGM stands out (I badly miss the IR-Maniratnam combo ). People who have grown up watching these movies can blindly identify the scene by just listening to a few seconds of the background score. Such is the impact it has on the viewers.

People say 'Music is a great stress reliever'. The absolute truth in that statement I could experience it only when I listened to IR music, more so whenever I travel. The kind of feeling his melodies evoke is something only mother's love can match upto. The best way to enjoy Ilayaraja music is to be alone, close one’s eyes and get ready to be carried to a new world. After a point of time one will feel a sense of tranquility, feeling so light as-if something gripping has been taken off our shoulders (if you don't believe me try listening to HOW TO NAME IT and NOTHING BUT WIND). Songs like 'nalam vaazha ennaalum' from Marupadiyum, ‘ninnai charanadaindhaen’ from Bharathi, 'pitchai paathiram' from His album, 'maranthen piranthaen' from His album and many more songs of His, if listened when alone takes me to an entirely new world... sometimes makes me sound philosophical too... a sense of 'what am I here for, what am I running behind, why all this....' kind of a feeling creeps in. Such is the power of His music.

IR Vs ARR... A never ending debate

Every hard-core fan of IR might probably have been a tinge sad about the Oscar being awarded to Rahman. Not because of the award not being given to IR. We don’t need an Oscar to certify or recognize the brilliance of an IR or ARR or MSV. The irritation creeps in when comparisons start pouring in and when conclusions get derived just because someone holds two Oscar awards in his hands. I have read so many articles and debates on this one hot topic... IR Vs ARR... Every article or debate, I find that it would end up resulting in one party abusing the other party. The pro-Ilayaraja group will abuse at Rahman calling him a mere sound technician and the pro-Rahman group will hit back replying that 'Ilayaraja is a personification of arrogance and pride and he is known only to south India whereas ARR is popular world over'... I don’t want to join in the above category and behave anti-Rahman. Yet, to put-forth my opinion on a IR Vs ARR debate, all I could say is having a global limelight has various factors determining it other than sheer talent. Being the most famous, doesn't necessarily imply being the most talented. Fame has lot to do with marketing, international exposure, public relations etc. In my humble opinion just because ARR is global and has a couple of Oscars doesn’t bring him ANY close to IR, it never will. So all pro-Rahman who call IR as an unpopular person should reiterate the above fact in their mind. If they do, the debate will come to an end :-)

Raja – the individual

For the past couple of years I have been digging up so much about Him, reading anything and everything about Him, collecting His works, articles about Him and what not.... The more I do, the more the thirst is to dig up harder. However, one striking aspect which I noticed across many articles was with regard to ‘Ilayaraja, the person’, His pride, His arrogant statements, the tiffs which He had with innumerous people whom He worked with. This was one trait which even hard-core fans like me found hard to justify or defend. Some of the above allegations might be true, some might have been twisted to tarnish His image and some might have been resulted due to misinterpretation. Yet, considering that some of the above are true, the only consolation or justification that can be thrown is that when one has the option to be influenced by ‘Ilayaraja, the musician’ why to care a damn about who ‘Ilayaraja, the person’ is. When His music has the potential to influence so many people’s life, getting rooted in everyone’s mind, bringing so much of joy and peace to millions of people, why to care and complain about something which is very personal. It is His music that He preaches, not His lifestyle. Then why make a big fuss about it and quote it as a reason for Him being not so popular. It is highly illogical to deny Him due recognition quoting His pride as a reason. It pains to see that, for the genius of a musician He is, he is still just a ‘Regional hero’ rather than being a ‘National treasure’. Although IR has millions of fans across the globe, still He has not been given the due limelight which He deserves. Kamal hit the nail on the head by describing IR as one more Bharathiar kinds... Someone whose value is not given the due during his lifetime and one who is treasured only posthumously... However, I hope it doesn’t happen that way and that people realise and recognise this genius.

Celebrities about IR

LALGUDI JAYARAMAN (Eminent Musician, India) - "His talent is not the fruit of one single birth's efforts. This level of achievement is only possible to one who has lived with music for countless births. The speed with which he writes notations have always baffled me"

Dr.BALAMURALIKRISHNA (Eminent Carnatic Vocalist, India) - "As far as i am concerned, i would say Ilaiyaraja is the composer of the century. If there is one single authority on 'orchestration' it can only be ilaiyaraja.

K.J.YESUDAS (Eminent Film/Carnatic Vocalist, India) - "There are infinite music forms hidden in his heart. All that should flow-out for the good of mankind."

ZUBIN MEHTA (Music Conductor, Israel Philharmonic) - " I was bewildered after listening to his 'nothing but wind' and 'how to name it'. He belongs to the 21st century and perhaps beyond." (comment given during late 1980's)

LASLOV KOVACH,(Conductor, Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Hungary) - "He is Hollywood Kind. A very special composer. It seems he does not have to think at all to create music. Music just flows out."

NAUSHAD ALI (doyen of hindi film music, India) - "What this man has achieved is 100 times more than what any of us have achieved; only time can tell the quantum of his achievements."

SUDHA RAGUNATHAN (Eminent Carnatic Vocalist, India ) - "Yesterday, today or tommorrow, ilaiyaraaja will remain the unquestionable emperor of music...Period !!!!."

UTTAM SINGH (Music Composer, India) - "Ilaiyaraaja is perhaps the only complete music composer in India."

SUHASINI MANIRATNAM (Eminent Actress, India) - "Show me a composition matching legendary compositions like 'shenbagame shenbagame' & 'panivizhum malar vanam' by Ilayaraja. Only then can you talk of someone overtaking him."

MANIRATNAM (Noted Film Maker, India) - "Ilayaraja would look at the scene once, and immediately start giving notes to his assistants, as a bunch of musicians, hovering around him, would collect the notes for their instrument and go to their places. When the orchestra played out the notes, they would be perfect, not just in harmony but also in timing - the background score would commence exactly where it should and end at the exact place required. Ilayaraja was a genius, who could compose music with just one look at the scene.

I know that this has now become one biiiiiiiig, dragging and lengthy post... probably for some people 'an overdose of Ilayaraja mania with an exaggerated level of passion'. Hence I wish to end it abruptly at this point. I don’t know whether I was able to do justice to what I wanted to write about Him and what I had ended up writing. But remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg of my feeling towards His music. So be happy that I had chosen not to exhibit the entire iceberg................. Probably I could never be able to :-)

Hail Ilayaraja Music !!!

Sri Kumar J


madhusudan said...

i had a silimar experience in ilayaraja groups when i tried to explain myself no one was there to debate .... : -)

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