A Takeaway


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This is about the interview between Gautam Vasudev Menon and Ilaiyaraaja. The interview is available online and one may look it up.

My takeaways from the interview were two.

One; the revelation about Aathirambile’s source being Poovarasampoo Poothaachu. In retrospect, it seems pretty clear. But unless Raaja mentioned it, it wouldn’t be so obvious.



The second one was more interesting for me; in the sense of what it threw out. He spoke of the Hindi masters. Touched on SD Burman’s mastery of tune composition; and quoted Khilte Hain Gul Yahan (Sharmilee, 1971), and went further. He touched on Stree’s (1961) O Nirdayi Pritam, composed by C Ramachandra, as being the inspiration for SDB’s Khilte Hain. Nirdayi Pritam has Shakuntala writing a letter to her lover on a lotus leaf and setting it afloat in the river in a forest.

He went further. Sang the scales of the raga (Shudha Dhanyasi) and gave another revelation that the raga is best suited for the nature of a forest and its associated climes!  Where is Khilte Hain Gul Yahan set? In a forest of course! Raaja’s tone of reverence is to be seen. Now neither Raaja nor GVM mention this but my mind was already mapping the scale to Maalaiyil Yaaro Manadhodu Pesa. Where is set? Forest and river. Of course!

O Nirdayi Pritam:

Khilte Hain Gul Yahan:

Now Raaga_Suresh was telling me that they have discussed on TFM long back on Khilte Hain being a possible inspiration for Maalaiyil Yaaro. But hey, so much depth!

Maalaiyil Yaaro:

PS: As I was looking up stuff online, I came across a composition of Muthuswami Dikshitar in Sudha Dhanyasi (there is no Youtube of the kriti in Shudha Dhanyasi): http://www.sangeetasudha.org/dikshitar/vol2/d42.html; called Somasundareswaram,

Which has the lines;

karuNAmrutarasa jalESvaram varam
kadamba vanasthita kapAlESvaram

Meaning ;

Great Lord Somasundaresa showers nectar of compassion. As Kapalesvara, he resides in Kadamba forest.

Mind = blown.

142 Avarullil MSV



I attended Ilaiyaraaja’s tribute to MSV yesterday. I loved it. Yes, a few anecdotes were old ones (not for all though. A friend who attended told me he hasn’t heard any anecdote anywhere before. So, that way, I’d already say the anecdotes have already served their purpose; by reaching out to folks who haven’t known it). But there were a few songs, anecdotes and nuances that were new for me. And boy, did they blow me away. I can only speak for myself and as a fan, I came away wanting more. To quote இனிய நண்பர் @atlasdanced who accompanied me, ‘பிறவிப்பயனை அடைந்தோம்’. A few more pointers before I give the list of the songs and share Raaja’s views and my observations on those songs that impacted me yesterday. Some songs were unusual and rare. Some of them were from the early-mid 50s. And quite a lot of the songs weren’t the usual MSV/MSV-TKR platinum collection hits (though there were a few). But it is worth noting what Raaja said. To paraphrase, “We composers don’t hear music the way you hear. I may not like the music you like. Any music has to teach me something for me to like it.” The way I see it, these were songs that made his childhood memories with MSV and his musical sensibilities and not our necessarily our memories/sensibilities. Quite aptly, “Ennullil MSV” and it was deeply personal, with insights from Raaja’s own life and how MSV shaped it. And what greater pleasure for me to just watch Raaja and watch him talk to us live?!

The list of songs:

  1. Ulage Maayam, Devadas (1953)
  2. Kanavidhu Dhaan, Devadas (1953)
  3. Vaan Meedhile, Chandi Rani (1953)
  4. Mayakkum Maalai Pozhudhe Nee Po Po, Gulebakavali (1955)
  5. Naan Andri Yaar Varuvaar, Maalaiyitta Mangai (1958)
  6. Ooru Sanam Thoongiruchu, Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu (1986)
  7. Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile, Bhagyalakshmi (1961)
  8. Mayakkama Kalakkama, Sumaithangi (1962)
  9. Thanga Radham Vandhadhu Veedhiyile, Kalai Kovil (1964)
  10. Viswanathan Velai Vendum, Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964)
  11. Paalirukkum Pazhamirukkum, Paava Mannippu (1961)
  12. Nenjam Marappadhillai, Nenjam Marappadhillai (1963)
  13. Nilave Ennidam Nerungaadhe, Ramu (1966)
  14. Sentamizh Naattu Solaiyile, Sugam Enge (1954)
  15. Kannil Thondrum Kaatchiye, Sugam Enge (1954)
  16. Aadaadha Manamum Undo, Mannadhi Mannan (1960)
  17. Aadai Katti Vandha Nilavo, Amudhavalli (1959)
  18. Vaan Nila Nila Alla, Pattinapravesam (1977; Audience request)
  19. Paattukku Paatteduthu, Padagotti (1964)

I enjoyed the way he started it. Of course, he began by quite literally worshipping MSV (having the chorus sing Gurur Brahma and him proceeding to sing Maasatra Sodhi, quite metaphorically, it doesn’t get more personal than that!) and then proceeded to shed light on MSV’s early days and how Govardhanam (composer of Andha Sivagami Maganidam, ‘Pattinathil Boodham’) and TG Lingappa (composer of Chithiram Pesudhadi, ‘Sabash Meena’) took musical notes from CR Subburaman for the left side of the orchestra while MSV and TK Ramamoorthy took notes from the right side. It is in this context that CRS passes away while leaving a few films incomplete and MSV-TKR team up to finish them but the film releases in CRS’s name. So while their first release was ‘Panam’ in 1952 (Sivaji’s second film and his first with Padmini and directed by NS Krishnan), ‘Devadas’, that released in 1953 had the first song done by MSV, which is Ulage Maayam Vaazhve Maayam and that was performed first. As always, Raaja is a man of legacy and it couldn’t have started better.

Vaan Meedhile had the by now well-known anecdote (which yours lowly has also ranted on here). An interesting tidbit is Mayakkum Maalai Pozhudhe was a song composed by KV Mahadevan (vaguely remember reading this somewhere) for ‘Gulebakavali’ but the song was credited to MSV-TKR. The next song was a discovery for me. The song is a screamer and had shades of Indraikki Yen Indha Anandhame in its tune. I can sense why it would’ve impacted Raaja so much. The song is Naan Andri Yaar Varuvaar. The melody at least, to me, sounds modern in its structure, though firmly rooted in a classical framework, rendered in a concert hall in 2015. We the audience and music fans pin MSV-TKR modernizing Tamil film sound at 1961. Like always, it was sobering for me to imagine that for Raaja, it could well have been the early 50s when he sensed modernity (in hindsight of course as a composer, going back to “I hear music differently compared to you”) in MSV-TKR’s music. I sense the song has 2 different pitches (correct me if I’m wrong), one in the pallavi and the other in the charanam. Singing it, TR Mahalingam and AP Komala wow, is made effortless but we could see how the singers on stage had a tough time starting. But once in, Sriram Parthasarathy totally nailed it.

It was followed by Ooru Sanam, the pinnacle of the MSV-IR collaboration in my opinion, another song which to me (correct me if I’m wrong) has 2 pitches for the singer and one cannot not think of S Janaki while listening. In fact, Raaja had very high words for SJ towards the end while talking of MSV’s shehnai player Sathyam. He brought the 2 to mention what amazing breath control they have. Sathyam could play an entire stretch of music with 2 Avarthanams in one flow without pausing for breath and S Janaki in Dhoorathil Naan Kanda Un Mugam after 15-16 takes having to scale the swaras to Panchamam got it right in the 16-17th take. Raaja happy, said ok but SJ wanted to go for one more, making Raaja wonder if we’d see one more like her. “பாக்க முடியுமா? இவங்கள பாக்காம இருக்க முடியுமா?” were his words, consistent from his praise for her over the past several years. I don’t think Janaki needs a higher certificate.

The piece de resistance for me was Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile. He had his grandson Yatheeshwar play a Bach movement on the piano and went on mention the privilege he has at 14, adding in his teenage, he was exposed to this:

His insight was amazing. The song is written to a pattern of எழுசீர் விருத்தம் by Kannadasan, meaning each line has 7 words.

Maalai, Pozhudhin, Mayakkathile, Naan, Kanavu, Kanden, Thozhi.

Manadhil, Irundhum, Vaarthaigal, Illai, Kaaranam, Yen, Thozhi

This has its roots in hardcore தமிழ் இலக்கியம் but Raaja’s insight went home with me when he mentioned how the poet makes it accessible placing a message for the society through the film’s widow at “இளமையெல்லாம் வெறும் கனவு மயம் இதில் மறைந்தது சில காலம், தெளிவும் அறியாது முடிவும் புரியாது மயங்குது எதிர் காலம்”. He relates it to his life as a teenager, “ஆமா இளமையெல்லாம் சில காலம் போயிடுச்சு, எதிர்ல நிக்கற நிகழ்காலத்துல என்ன ஆக போகுது?” True for every generation of human species. Profound from Kavignar, yet told about just-like-that. இந்த பாட்டோட அர்த்தம் புருஞ்சாலும், அதுல இருக்கற இலக்கிய மரப சுட்டி காட்டி பாட்டுல இருக்கற காலத்த தாண்டி நிக்கற ஆழ்கருத்த கோடிட்டு காட்டற அந்த இது தான்… இதுக்கு தான் யா ராஜா தேவ. எனக்கு இங்கயே concert’s money was worth.

Having spoken about raising profound questions worth introspecting, he proceeded to sing a song that answers to questions himself, chiding himself for making mistakes and apologizing to MSV’s mural on stage as he sang, Mayakkama Kalakkama. He moved on to the next song saying this song inspired Kavignar Vaali and that he could speak on this song for hours. Allow me to indulge by paraphrasing from my memory of what Vaali spoke, from an interview to Podhigai in 2011.

The song ought to be understood by following the lyric’s logical growth. Each line answers the previous line. The pallavi Mayakkama? Kalakkama? Manadhile Kuzhappama? Vaazhkaiyil Nadukkama? is followed by the charanam Vaazhkaiyendraal Ayiram Irukkum, vaasal dhorum vedhanai irukkum. It answers to the soul who answers yes, vaazhkaiyil nadukkam dhaan to vaazhkaiyil nadukkamA? But how is it hard to not get depressed when a 1000 problems stare at you would be the next question. That is answered by vandha thunbam edhuvendrAlum vAdi ninRal Oduvadhillai. But how do you not be fazed? Edhaiyum thaangum idhayam irundhaal irudhi varaikkum amaidhi irukkum. So the poet ends this stanza by stating that troubles that plague you leading to a 1000 problems which lead to depression are best countered by having a heart that bears everything. But how does one have a heart that bears everything? Ezhai manadhai mALigai Akki iravum pagalum kAviyam pAdi. That’s how you get a heart that can bear anything. But how do I make my heart a palace if I’m not assured of the next meal? NaaLai pozhudhai iRaivanukkaLithu nadakkum vAzhvil amaidhaiyai thEdu. Ok… but… unakkum keezhe uLLavar kOdi ninaithu pArthu nimmadhi nAdu. Every previous line was a masterly buildup to this final denouement. And how much must Vaali have been impacted to understand it in all its entirety!

This song was followed by Thanga Radham Vandhadhu Veedhiyile, sung by Balamuralikrishna, which Raaja stated was a song praised by BMK as a song equivalent to any krithi. First time for me, a late 20s youth. தன்யன் ஆனேன். Also, this song evoked a Kaalai Nera Poonguyil in me. Not sure if this is an inspiration since Raaja did not specifically say so. But I can see how evidently it has influenced him.

Another anecdote/nuance that had me aahaaing (though I’ve heard it through hearsay long back but witnessing it live from the man himself was something else) was when he sung Salil da’s Aaja Re from ‘Madhumati’ (1958). Beautiful song.

This later inspired the great Madan Mohan to create his very own Maayi Re for ‘Dastak’, a score that would fetch him a National Award no less. Interestingly, both films had the same editor, popular filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Raaja sings Aaja Re again and gives an example of how MSV was inspired from Aaja Re as…

இதுக்கு தான்யா எனக்கு ராஜா வேணும். What followed was even better, with him singing what his brother Pavalar Varadarajan sang using this song’s tune for Communist propaganda,

Er Pidikkum


Nilam IrukkAdhu… in the tune of Paalirukkum. Perfect stitch.

What’s even better is the tune is in ArOhaNam, i.e. ஏறுமுகம். And he begins the line with Er Pidikkum… Rapturous applause! What I found endearing was when Raaja mentioned him singing this to Kavignar who was wowed and Raaja was moved to tell us (not his exact words but close enough), “இதை எல்லாம் அவர்கள் இடத்தில் பாடி காட்டி ஆசீர்வாதம் வாங்கும் பாக்கியம் எனக்கு கிட்டியதை நான் பெரும் பேராக கருதுகிறேன்.” A similarly outstanding substitute lyrics for Viswanathan Velai Vendum had us in splits. The Osai nayam (words fitting in the tune) was quite outstanding from Pavalar there. Deserves to be seen on TV.

He moved on to the amazing Nenjam Marapadhillai, borrowing the exact same thoughts from here, with the addition on the lines that do not seemingly make sense (watch the video) having Kannadasan’s denouement of quoting Auvaiyaar saying “a wrongly written song can be set right with the right music.” Raaja would later quote MSV too saying “சங்கீதத்துக்கு நான் பொறுப்பு, சாகித்யத்துக்கு நீங்க பொறுப்பு (Kavignar).”

Sentamizh Naattu Solaiyile was another song that I was listening to first time. I would tell @atlasdanced again on how modern the melody sounded, rendered in 2015. Amazing discovery, I have Raaja to thank for. Yes, old school lilt but just think the whistles to start the song and the violin and flute harmonies briefly as Jikki and KR Ramachandran sing. And note the variations to the tune as the lines end from Jikki. Most lovely.

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong but I recall Raaja also linking this song stunningly to the format of a Mozart movement and stating both the music pieces’ sandham were the same! And it is unlikely MSV would have had access to Mozart back in those days to listen, process and imitate the sandham. Great minds do think alike, even 200+ years apart. Mind blown to be honest. Also, an expert can watch the concert on TV and decipher which Mozart movement Raaja played. புண்ணியமா போகும்.

Aadai Katti Vandha Nilavo was another discovery and mindblowing insights in my opinion. The song is written by Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram and Raaja mentions it to be kAvadichindu tuned in a modern format by MSV. Frankly, if Raaja hadn’t told us, I’d have no frikking clue this was a kAvadhichindu.

He ended MSV/MSV-TKR songs with Paatukku Paatteduthu. Amazingly, as average as the sound systems were in Kamarajar Arangam and the orchestration was minimal (keeping with the era), this song, as much as I have heard it before, appeared entirely in new light to me. Stripped off its orchestration, this song evokes Raaja’s melodies’ soul; 101. Raaja and his music I live with daily is in this song. I told so to @atlasdanced and he concurred. Do tell us if you concur too. I think I may have come slightly closer to feeling what Raaja might have felt about MSV right then. Mindblowing. Raaja mentioned this was the first instance Tamil music had a medley (musically speaking) in a single song.

The end with MSV’s family and Rajni is best experienced watching on screen. No amount of self-serving writing from yours douche would do any justice. He did end it with his own meta’est (for this stage) Sadha Sadha Unnai Ninaindhu Ninaindhu Unnil Kalandhidave Arulvaai. As a Raaja fan 101, too much. There were many more personal anecdotes and memories, quite a lot I’ve already heard and read and shared online before. எல்லாதையின் தான் டிவீல பாக்க போறீங்களே. இத ஏதோ எழுதலாம்னு தோனுச்சு. எழுதறேன். I think I have said all that I wanted to say. But none of this matters ultimately in front of the heartfelt tribute that translated to me and the musicality of a colossus revisited by another colossus. None of what I write or we say would stay. MSV’s music will. Raaja’s legacy will. I told @atlasdanced one last time; “எம்எஸ்வீ குடுத்து வெச்சவர். To have Raaja succeed him.” And he concurred.

141 Legacy


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MS Viswanathan passed away last week. As much as the internet is flooded with tributes, as a fan of Raaja, I am keen to discuss a few songs to see how Raaja not only took over MSV’s musical baton but also enriched it with his own brilliance.

One of Tamil cinema’s earliest instances of jazz music in songs to my memory is Aadavar Ellaam Aada Varalaam in ‘Karuppu Panam’ (Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy), 1964. If you do note in this song, the chorus singing is unique. They do a chagumchagumchagum refrain that contrapunts with the lead melody and another chorus layer sings a melodic line in harmony with the melody. It is pretty richly layered and the gibberish refrain is a sub-genre by itself in western music. When such gibberish words are fit to a jazz format and rhythm, the resulting sub-genre of vocal jazz is called scat, which is characterized by improvising with such wordless syllables to rhythms and using the voice as an instrument. Aadavar Ellaam is a remarkable example of scat singing in Tamil film music more than 50 years back. Even otherwise, the lead singer’s humming and the melody itself is so foot tapping and enjoyably accessible.

Other noteworthy examples of scat singing in modern Tamil film music include the thigirithigirithaavoo’esque refrain in Hello Mr. Edhirkatchi, ‘Iruvar’ and the shuboobumthaatha gibberish as a part of the main melody in Jillendru Oru Kadhal, ‘Sillunu Oru Kadhal’ from AR Rahman. Like I mentioned, the aforementioned songs, including Aadavar Ellaam, have wordless syllables loyal to the rhythms and grooves of jazz.

Looking at Raaja’s use of scat throws up some very popular songs. Pudhu Maapillaikki from ‘Aboorva Sagodharargal’ starts with a bababa babbabare gibberish refrain which soon joins the trumpet in harmony. As SPB begins the pallavi, the gibberish continues interspersing the lead melody. But as he ends the pallavi, the chorus enters a conventional Heyyy hum which contrapunts with the melody. This continues throughout the charanam, effectively for the entire song, even becoming part of the lead melody when SPB goes raba baappapa rababba. However, the rhythm this song follows is not quite jazz but broadly falls under rock’n’roll. When vocal harmony with gibberish phrases is used in a pop, rock’n’roll, rhythm & blues, disco set up, it becomes another sub-genre by itself called doo-wop. It owes its origins to the music of the 1940s among African-Americans in USA. Pudhu Maapillaikki is quintessentially doo-wop but this melody’s origins are wonderfully hidden in a popular MSV song.

Raaja explains it in an interview to SPB around 1996 for DD (full interview is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsEyAvsoJeI):


The beauty is two-fold. One, unless Raaja told us the origin, we wouldn’t know though it stares us in the face when Raaja tells us. Two, the most beautiful evolution of Naan Paarthadhile from anecdotal evidence is Pudhu Maapillaikki that they’re musically so far away yet so near. Pop art in all its magical beauty!

Another very popular example of doo-wop in Raaja’s music can be Pudhucheri Kacheri, again for Kamal, in ‘Singaravelan’. The kakakaa kikeekookoo gibberish stands apart from the main song giving only its lead melody but the bamchikku bamchikku refrain comes throughout the song. The melody is however couched in an accessible Shankarabharanam and SPB’s pyrotechniques while rendering; mimicking a cuckoo, parrot, crow, singing jadhis, all the while the chorus making its presence felt; there’s a lot happening musically in a casual sense.

MSV often used to say that even the best of melodies, however peppy they are, would do well to have a sense of pathos. The kAlam ennOda kAlam portion in the charanam in this song in my opinion carries a subtle change in tone emotionally, which Raaja uses to make effective the pathos version (importantly starting from the charanam to leverage the hidden sorrow sooner and ending with the pallavi). It is totally different in tone and character to the peppy version with its beautiful use of the solo violin. This again is an MSV trope with respect to Tamil film music (recall classics like Andru Vandhadhum Idhe Nila in its peppy, the tcha tcha tcha motifs again borrowing from scat, and sad variants, which to be fair was Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy and the ideas in the orchestration owe their fair share to the latter. But the idea finds resonance in MSV’s solo works too if we are to recall the peppy and sad versions of an Ammadi Ponnukku Thanga Manasu, to quote one example). Again, the beautiful extensions of MSV’s ideas with Raaja’s own originality and signature are striking here.

However, the most outrageously brilliant use of Raaja’s doo-wop in my opinion is Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu, ‘Karagaattakaaran’. Superficially, this is a folk song with elements of fusion prominent in the imitative dialog between folk (Nadhaswaram and Thavil) and disco (trumpet and drums) in the second interlude. But there is a lot more happening. The lead melody is loyal to Shanmugapriya, the 56th Melakartha raga. Starting the song with Gandharam (Ga in SaRiGaMaPaDhaNi) and placing the Madhyamam (Ma) in உச்சஸ்தாய் at kaadhal eedera at the end of the charanam are bold musical strokes that would please a Carnatic purist. The conversation and response between the vocals and flute in the charanam, evoking a silent affirmative response from the flute as the hero answers his friends, is another Indian element.

But the papappaa refrain in the pallavi are vocal harmonies from the chorus that scat to a rhythm set to 6/8 Tamil folk! This is an effortless subversion of doo-wop, in essence bending it to reveal a new facet of the genre. The papappaa scat, is a vocal counterpoint to the lead melody rendered by Malaysia Vasudevan. Even better, the chorus that continues scatting even in the charanam suddenly sings words at ille ille and aamaa aamaa and it doesn’t seem out of place. But what baffles me more is how the entire song, apart from the prominently disco portions, including doo-wop, sounds authentically folk to us!

Doo-wop’s key use is in evoking a sense of humor. All the 3 songs discussed service the emotion of humor. This again is a great legacy of MSV’s, changing the tone of film songs from servicing ragas to servicing the emotion required for the medium of cinema. How Raaja stamps his music with raga virtuosity without imposing the raga on the emotion but with his own freak signature is brilliant. To paraphrase from a twitter friend, பிரபஞ்சக் கூத்தாடும் மஹாகலைஞன்.

140 Up Above The World So High, Like A Diamond In The Sky



This post shall list a few videos, my take on each one of them and a few objective observations on each. For those who have not seen these videos, it would be interesting. For those who have, you may enjoy connecting the dots. You will know why at the end. Read on.

First is a video from 1986; Singapore. Ilaiyaraaja is with Gangai Amaran in a concert. He speaks of his views on ragas, being a musician and how he approaches a song from a contrarian view which, inexplicably for us, churns out beautiful art. He does so with astounding irreverence which comes with nuance, making me find it enjoyable. Do watch it:

Now that you’ve watched it, you would’ve seen that the piece de resistance of that video, as its title suggests, is him speaking of his partnership with MSV in Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu. He connects Vaan Meedhile from Chandi Rani, 1953, with Vaa Vennila from MTK, saying how he wanted a song like Vaan Meedhile and MSV composed just that, a song like Vaan Meedhile, which Raaja orchestrated.

Digression. Raaja confusing Vaan Meedhile with CR Subburaman does make sense. CRS passed away in 1952, aged a mere 41. He was committed to a number of films, which his assistants MS Viswanathan and TK Ramamoorthy would finish for him, and as history would record, notch up a partnership soon which would alter the way cine music was being composed and appreciated in Tamil Nadu. So the seeds were sown by CRS and MSV-TKR’s first film together, incidentally Sivaji Ganesan’s second film, was Panam in 1952, where he was paired for the first time with Padmini (incidentally directed by NS Krishnan, the famous comedian (that’s what he is famous for. But as you see, he was multi-talented)). It was indeed the first of a couple of unforgettable partnerships which has produced some high art for Tamil fans. But importantly for this post, CRS is also credited as a composer for Chandi Rani along with MSV and TKR, meaning all 3 had composed songs for the film, MSV and TKR after CRS’s untimely death.

Digression to the above digression. CR Subburaman also happens to be among Ilaiyaraaja’s most favorite composers. He will be remembered for quite a long time in history as the artiste who composed Bharathiyar’s Chinnanchiru Kiliye Kannamma (rendered by ML Vasanthakumari), for the film Manamagal, in 1951. That is the version of Chinnanchiru Kiliye we hear sung in Carnatic concerts today. So we have a song which was exported from cinema to classical music. Quite a CV to show the purists there. I am linking Chinnachiru Kiliye below in this blog, though Raaja is not connected to it, because a) he’d be proud, b) he is connected.*

Chinnanchiru Kiliye:

* He is connected because he used the tune in his private album on Ramana Maharishi, Ramana Aaram in 2013, as a tribute to CRS and wrote and rendered the song himself:

End digression to digression. End digression.

Back to our topic of Vaan Meedhile and Vaa Vennila. Listen to both the songs here:

Vaan Meedhile:

Vaa Vennila (Male):

Vaa Vennila (Female):

I add the male and female versions to purely impress on the difference in orchestrations in both the songs 😉

As you would now notice from Raaja’s live demo in 1986 from Singapore and the versions themselves here, tune wise, Vaa Vennila is not earth flatteringly different from Vaan Meedhile. No, there is not so much of even a subtle difference. It’s very similar. It’s an imitation, like Raaja tells us in this video from 2014 during Ulavacharu Biryani’s audio launch in Hyderabad (in Telugu, 28 years apart, the details don’t quite change, except for an interesting catch). So they basically remade the song because Raaja wanted to and it’s MSV’s song and he can do whatever he wants to with it:

Now the catch is, he speaks of how one can get genuinely inspired from a song, in this case, the same song. Listen to Oh Nenjame Idhu Un Raagame, Enakkaaga Kaathiru:

You see the difference here. We can fit Vaan Meedhile and Vaa Vennila’s lyrics in each other’s tune structures and we won’t know the difference (imitation). But we cannot fit either of these songs’ lyrics in Oh Nenjame’s tune structure (inspiration) and Oh Nenjame carries the idea of Vaan Meedhile ahead and creates its own, so to say, path.

The real catch? Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu released in 1986. Enakkaga Kaathiru released in 1981! He composed a song inspired rather subtly (if he didn’t tell us, would we know? No) from Vaan Meedhile before requesting for a remake from the original master, who was only glad to oblige.

PS: The title is not a homage to the rhyme, but a homage to Thangapadhakkam’s climax, which was a homage to the rhyme.

139 Rain Rain Come Again


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Mazhai Varudhu Mazhai Varudhu Kudai Kondu Vaa is a fine song. The melody set to Bageshri wins and the overall mood the song translates for me is consistent with what I see on screen. The mist, breeze and chillness are transported as is through the music and I am able to feel it. The sweeping string sections, quintessentially Ilaiyaraaja, with the flute in the second interlude, Yesudas and Chithra (most favored combination of yours truly after SPB-S Janaki); are all winners. But that is not all.

Recently, I happened to check a comment on Facebook by Raaja’s prominent Bass Guitar player (and brother-in-law) Sashidharan. Sashi programmed Raaja’s notes for the synth bass in the pallavi and the interlude while playing on the live bass for the rest of the song. Heard the song again –> prelude, pallavi and first interlude use synth bass –> first charanam is live bass –> pallavi again has synth bass –> second interlude and the second charanam have live bass –> final pallavi again has synth bass. Now this enters subjective realms and how I see the song.

The song has lyrics by Pulamaipithan and he does an interesting job. I’ll list a few lines which are curious with respect to the overall song and make it a consistent pattern:


“மழை வருது மழை வருது குடை கொண்டு வா, மானே உன் மாராப்பிலே… ஹோய்.

வெயில் வருது வெயில் வருது நிழல் கொண்டு வா, மன்னா உன் பேரன்பிலே.”

1st Charanam:

“சுகங்கள் யாவும் அளந்து பார்ப்போம்,

நதிகள் மீதும் நடந்து பாப்போம்.

நதிகள் மீது நடந்து பாப்போம்,

சுகங்கள் யாவும் அளந்து பாப்போம்.”

2nd Charanam:

“உலகம் எங்கும் நமது ஆட்சி.

நிலமும் வானும் அதற்க்கு சாட்சி.

நிலமும் வானும் நமது ஆட்சி.

உலகம் யாவும் அதற்க்கு சாட்சி.”

Pallavi again finally:

“வெயில் வருது வெயில் வருது நிழல் கொண்டு வா, மன்னா உன் பேரன்பிலே… ஹோய்.

மழை வருது மழை வருது குடை கொண்டு வா, மானே உன் மாராப்பிலே.”

You do see that there is a juxtaposition of thoughts and that is consistent throughout the song. The pallavis I list, because initially, it starts with Mazhai Varudhu… Kudai Kondu Vaa; Veyil Varudhu… Nizhal Kondu Vaa and finally, it starts with Veyil Varudhu… Nizhal Kondu Vaa; Mazhai Varudhu… Kudai Kondu Vaa. It is very deliberate because of the pattern in the overall song.

This brings me to connect two and two. I feel the juxtaposition of synth bass with live bass holds with the overall theme of the song. As to whether this is over-analysis, I know not. But when the art lends itself to such an observation, it is a win-win.

You disagree? Matters not. At least I brought you to the song. Listen off 🙂 :

138 Nothing But Rhythms

There is a popular song of Ilayaraaja’s, Veettukku Veedu Vaasappadi Venum, from Kizhakku Vaasal. Quite a few music fans may know it to be an inspiration from Mozart’s 25th symphony. In fact, there was a comment once on Facebook from his flutist, Napoleon Selvaraj (also singer Arunmozhi) that on the day of recording, IR produced notes from the symphony, made them play it and announced this shall be the song for the day. That trivia aside, Mozart’s movement here:

Ilayaraaja’s Veettukku Veedu here:

By now as you finish hearing both tracks, you may have figured where the inspiration lies (if you didn’t know already that is). It is in Veettukku Veedu’s first line and the portion where Mozart’s symphony enters what is popular to us as the ‘Titan theme’. It is a very well disguised inspiration, as you would have now noticed. But the question that may arise is, why this? It may be IR just seeking inspiration. But maybe not, according to him. He told an audience in Italy during one of his concerts there in 2005 that the reason for picking this symphony up was to make a point. Aside from the obvious tribute to Mozart, the second line of Veettukku Veedu, “therukkoothukkum paattukkum thaaLa gadhi vENum” (a street play needs its rhythm progression) is the whole point behind this inspiration.

Ilayaraaja wishes to underline that with the appropriate thaaLa gadhi (rhythm progression), any music can become a therukkoothu (street play). How does he go about doing/proving this statement of his? Yes, he takes up Mozart’s symphony and with the rhythm or thaaLa gadhi he sees as appropriate, he produces a most entertaining song fitting the template of a therukkoothu to a T! He was expecting some discerning fan to get this. None of us did, until he told us. One aspect of the cleverness of a genius lies in the fact that when it breaks down the methods behind its genius, it stares in our face but unless it is broken down, it is never apparent.

Recently, a violinist played Mozart’s movement, transitioned to Ilayaraaja and went back to Mozart. It effectively puts the method behind this song in a nutshell. Also, note how the audience react when it becomes “our music”.

I have also uploaded Ilayaraaja’s extended cover of the same song which he performed with his orchestra in the Italian concert. He plays around with the rhythms quite a bit here going on a thani Avarthanam-like movement with his percussionists.

Why did I post this? Have blog, will archive all the relevant videos with His Master’s insights in one page. Ciao until the next post.



137 How To Name It?


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Ilayaraaja composes a song. We discuss what raga it is set in out of academic interest. But wait. Did he compose that song with the raga in mind or did the song take up a raga as the composition came about? I have seen videos where Raaja claims to reflect a mood and if it happens to be in Kalyani ragam, so be it. I have also seen videos where he says he took up a particular raga (man has discovered a couple of ragas as a matter of fact) and composed a particular song. So I guess it depends on the milieu. With respect to films, when a musician primarily does justice to a situation/lyric and satisfies a director’s vision (in most cases, despite the lack of a vision), raga in my opinion is secondary. It is nevertheless fun or informative to look at a song through the prism of its raga.

In this vein, there was a playlist made out of Raaja’s Kalyani songs (happens to be my favorite raga from my favorite musician and so gives me a reason to indulge) by  Raaga_Suresh. I saw that the list had 30 songs and offered to create a parallel list in the same raga by Raaja. He has more than 50 songs in only Kalyani and in my opinion; he has never gone wrong when he has taken it up. He also has a sizable number of non-film songs/tracks in this raga which may not be very popular outside the hardcore fan circle. So this led me to add all the non-film and filmy songs not in the first list and comparing the 2 and adding from one list to the other and vice versa, Suresh and I decided to re-create this as 2 playlists; one with film songs which were light on the ears, the other with film and non-film tracks which were devotional/semi classical. There is an overlap zone which can be best explained by a Venn’s diagram but I have used my discretion here and I intend to share the lists and discuss a few songs. So if you aren’t yawning yet and are willing to indulge with me, come along.

Disclaimer: There are many songs that could have a brief Kalyani and have another raga (not included here) and there are songs here that could have other ragas too with Kalyani being the base. What I have added are mostly songs which predominantly are set in Kalyani.

Devotional/Semi-Classical playlist:

The list contains 27 songs from films and private albums (at your leisure yougaiz; ranges from films to devotional to parallel attempts) so I will say what I feel about 7 songs very briefly and move on to the light/filmy list.

  1. Maa Ganga/Paramporul Thaane: The former is a Hindi bhajan composed as the title song of Naan Kadavul. The film begins in Varanasi and the tune, until I confirmed when I heard it at first, I thought was out of a North Indian bhajan. It fits the bhajan construct of North India to a T.

But this is not all. The same tune was reused in a Tamil devotional in a parallel album on Ramana Maharishi as Paramporul Thaane Arunachalam. Incredibly, it sounds in sync with the Tamil sensibilities here. How? Maybe the voice in each song. Kunal Ganjawala in Naan Kadavul and Sriram Parthasarathy here add their individual essences. But IR carnaticizes the Tamil song with brighas while the Naan Kadavul song is mostly plain. The result is starkly different. But it is essentially the same tune! QED.

2. Arul Thavazhum: This is a Carnatic keerthanai written and composed by IR on Ramana Maharishi. This goes all the way to the rigors of South Indian classicism. Unni Krishnan does a fine job but the composition’s grandeur is where it reaches the upper octaves and climaxes in an awesome peak at “amarar peru RamaNar uRai aNNAmalai” with the Mridangam giving superb support. Beautifully done.

3. Sarvamum Nee: This song introduces the album and has about a minute’s discourse from IR on his intent in producing such a devotional album. But if you do get past that, there is genius lying in wait. Thiruvalluvar famously said அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு and underlined that like the language of Tamil has agaram to begin it, there is a Primordial Lord responsible for this world. Raaja takes that idea and incorporates it to music. How he does explains his genius. He begins the song with Sa Pa Sa in lower and higher octaves, that fundamental lesson in Carnatic music and expands Sa with superlatives on the Goddess. He proceeds to அகம் புறம், ஆனந்தம் and goes on to ஈஸ்வரம், உளம் உள்ளும், ஊன் உள்ளும், என்னிலும் ஏகமும், ஐம்பெரும் பூதமும் நீ. Essentially, he has made use of every “uyir ezhuthu” in Tamil from agaram (அ) to ஐ and expanded each vowel with a superlative on the Goddess. What he did was take the fundamentals of music and then of our language and marry it in a song dedicated to one primordial Goddess. Thiruvalluvar for scholars. Ilayaraaja for me.

4. You Cannot Be Free: (Even if you don’t read my rant, just listen to this score. You won’t regret it if it’s a first timer). This was apparently written (literally, for he writes his background scores for songs and BGMs) in half an hour during a random lunch. The entire album is a crossover look at how Thyagaraja and Bach would sound together. That’s Indian and Western Classical music (WCM). What he says is they are the same (click here).  Here, when he looks at a beautiful Kalyani true to its Carnatic roots in Western Classical arrangement, in one stanza repeated twice separated by a second stanza, it sounds both here and there. He maybe says we can’t be free and will be tied to the music when we listen to this.  When the Mridangam natters in the charanam, I feel it too. The beauty of the Carnatic Kalyani overtakes us there and I can’t be free from magic such as this when it’s played. What did he name this album? “How To Name It (HTNI)”. For, how do you name this?

5. Mozart I Love You: Legend has it that Hariprasad Chaurasia wished to collaborate with IR upon hearing his exploits with the flute in “Idhu Oru Pon Maalai Pozhudhu”. That eventually happened in Nothing But Wind, another lyricless album of instrumental tracks that bridge Indian and Western Classical styles (like one Ravi Natarajan in a forum once said, genres are merely inputs into his music, not outputs for you cannot categorize the output) with the flute. For music with the flute or music in its primordial state in unison with nature is nothing but wind!

In HTNI, he paid his ode to Bach with the violin. Here, he pays his dues to Mozart with the flute. It starts with a passage inspired by Mozart’s Allegra but quickly gets into Indian roots with the flute echoing a Kalyani that is less classical than what we heard in HTNI but as this ‘Kalyani lite’ peaks with the violin in a counterpoint (two different melodies in WCM sounded together is a counterpoint and IR’s music is riddled with 100s of counterpoints harmonizing Indian classical elements), it’s like being lifted on a joy ride without the effects of gravity in a plane. Slowly, violins ease into a night of quiet and sure, the flute breaks into a dawn that brings in pure Indian folk and counterpoints it with the WC elements with the violin. Simply breathtaking.

6. Kalaivaaniye: The climax song of Sindhu Bhairavi. A popular one. But as you listen to the interludes (this was in 1985 and HTNI was in 1986), we can notice similarities and I for one feel he was experimenting with such a sound (harmonizing WCM with Carnatic CM). The concept in this song we all know. It has no descending notes (Sa Ni Dha Pa…) and only ascending notes (Sa Ri Ga Ma…). Every line goes on ascent and stops in the ascent. Every line is a mini climax. The finale of course is breathtaking with KJY in top form with Kalyani breathing Carnatic fire. The content is that the life of the musician will now be only in ascent. The stuff that Raaja brings to the table for a storyteller is stuff of dreams.

7. Malayoram Mayile: This is an example of overlap zone. Hero is a village simpleton. Heroine is a sophisticated lady. How does a duet underline the difference? Hero’s lines are plain. Heroine’s lines are punctuated with classical brighas. Same tune, different output. It continues in the charanam as well. The interlude has the hero with a folk “than dha na tha” and heroine with a Carnatic “tha ka dhi mi tha ka janu”. The character lines are defined subtly through an unassuming melody where Kalyani the raga is merely used to service the characters and harks to the first category I spoke of at the beginning where the raga itself is secondary. Also, there are elements of folk and carnatic in a film song and I placed it in the classical list just to show it is futile to rigorously classify his songs because I can place it with the classical songs and get away with it 😉

Light/Cinematic playlist:

There are 36 songs for your listening pleasure here (bringing it to a total of 63 songs in Kalyani that I know of). I shall leave you to discern through this list and speak of 4 songs and 1 BGM.

  1. Kottaara Kettile: For the Malayalam original of the Tamil film Friends. A shortie. Less than 2 minutes long. But just give a listen to how he beautifully traverses the range of Kalyani for a light song in such a short duration. Brilliant.

2. Ee Naade Edo Ayyindi: For the Telugu film Prema. I share this simply because this was lifted lock, stock and barrel for the Hindi remake by Anand-Milind and that is more popular across India (Bollywood, duh!) than this. One for Raaja. One for regional cinema. Of course, one for this beautiful number.

3. Marangal Tharum: A relatively rare Tamil number. Hero finds out that a blind primary school’s food is poisoned. Children invoke God in a song before they eat. As they begin their meal, the hero saves the kids, fights and kills the villain and goes to jail. All this under 3 minutes without a structure and the tune as the kids sing is peaceful without any instruments. As the hero’s heroism and sacrifice is apparent, it is supposed to be an emotional high for the viewer and that precisely happens through the ears as violins and trumpets collide in a counterpoint offering an outstanding contrast in such a short number.

4. Sundari Kannaal Oru Sedhi: One of the most iconic songs in Tamil Film History. The song has multiple parts. Hero weds heroine, hero goes to war, hero and heroine are united in thought and separated physically, war rages, and hero wins and reunites with the heroine. Orchestration is exquisite in the prelude. Kalyani is exquisiter as marriage is solemnized. But as the hero goes to war, raga changes to Kosalam. The change in the 2 ragas is only 1 note but the change conveyed in the mood is stark. In the charanam, as the lyrics and visuals denote, there is separation (physical) and unison (platonic), Kalyani and Kosalam both appear to underline this in a brilliantly constructed passage. As they unite physically in their dreams in the pallavi, Kalyani reappears. War continues with Kosalam, the unison-separation continues with Kalyani-Kosalam and as the final unison happens, it is back to Kalyani. Ragas are used as devices for conveying emotions here. The 2 contrasting emotions find vent under Ilayaraaja’s spontaneous genius.

5. Baba Mar Gaya: Film is Nayagan. Hero kills a corrupt/abusive police officer, discovers he has a family with a challenged kid. The situation calls for pity or like our elders would say, kAruNyam. What follows is a BGM score in Sarangi that underlines 2 things. A sorrow for the kid’s plight and the pity from the hero. 2 emotions. 1 tune. Listen!

To conclude, Indian to Western classical and all that that lies in between from folk to rock to rap (give Iniya Gaanam a listen, for that has rock, rap, qawwali and Carnatic in one song!) in one raga has been touched by IR through his music. Heck, only Kalyani would be enough to show that there is hardly any genre left untouched by him and I’ve only discussed 12 tracks here. To people familiar with the blog, some of the post can be a case of ‘thirumba thirumba pesara nee’ but then, this is a glimpse of a genius which is not tiresome for me and tomorrow is the man’s birthday in any case so I guess you would understand this post 🙂 Like I like to say, whenever Raaja takes up Kalyani, it seems as though Kalyani thanks Raaja for taking her up. Well, not for the first time and certainly not the last, take a bow Ilayaraaja.

Appendix for your curiosity:

The song list for devotional/classical:

Song Film/Private Album (F, PA)
1 Maa Ganga Naan Kadavul (F)
2 Arul Thavazhum Guru Ramana Geetham (PA)
3 Saranam Bhava Baba Pugazh Maalai (PA)
4 Paramporul Thaane Ramana Saranam (PA)
5 Enakkoru Annai Geethanjali (PA)
6 Sarvamum Nee Geethanjali (PA)
7 You Can’t Be Free How To Name It (PA)
8 Suramodamu Aditya 369 (F)
9 Vizhigal Meeno Raagangal Maaruvadhillai (F)
10 Enakkul Iruppadhu Amma Paamaalai (PA)
11 Sharanam Bhava Sethu (F)
12 Mozart I Love You Nothing But Wind (PA)
13 Enadhu Udalum Ramanamaalai (PA)
14/15 Honnina Therinali/Annaiye Ambigaye Honnina Therinali/Geetha Vazhipaadu (PA)
16 Janani Janani Thaai Mookambikai (F)
17 Amma Endrazhaikkaadha Mannan (F)
18 Vandhaal Mahalakshmiye Uyarndha Ullam (F)
19 Ennai Oruvan Kumbakkarai Thangaiah (F)
20 Kaatril Varum Geethame Oru Naal Oru Kanavu (F)
21 Yamunai Aatrile Thalapathi (F)
22 Nirpadhuve Nadappadhuve Bharathi (F)
23 Kalaivaaniye Sindhu Bhairavi (F)
24 Malaiyoram Mayile Oruvar Vazhum Alayam (F)
25 Nadhiyil Aadum Poovanam Kaadhal Oviyam (F)
26 Naan Paada Varuvaai Udhiri Pookkal (F)
27 Vaidehi Raman Pagal Nilavu


The songs for cinematic/light:

Songs Film
1/2 Vellai Pura Ondru (Happy/Sad) Pudhu Kavidhai
3 Naan Enbadhu Nee Allavo Soorasamharam
4 Panchami Thingal Friends (Malayalam)
5 Kottaara Kettile Friends (Malayalam)
6 Oru Koottula Paandi Naattu Thangam
7 Ee Naade Edo Ayyindi Prema (Telugu)
8 Aadi Thiradhannil Bhagyadevatha (Malayalam)
9 Konjam Sangeetham Veettula Viseshanga
10 Kannaale Kaadhal Kavidhai Aathma
11 Sundari Kannaal Oru Sedhi Thalapathi
12 Vaanathu Thaaragayo Poonthottam
13 Nanna Jeeva Nenu Geetha (Kannada)
14 Poovaadikaiyil Alayum Vyamoham (Malayalam)
15 Aaraaro Aaraaro Anand
16 Manjal Veyyil Nandu
17 Marangal Tharum Dhuruva Natchathiram
18 Adhisaya Nadamidum Siraiyil Pootha Chinna Malar
19 Poonkaatinodam Poomukhapadiyil Ninneyum Kaathu (Malayalam)
20 Mizhiyil Meen Pidanju Sandhyakku Virinja Poovu (Malayalam)
21 Vaanam Vaazhthida Chinna Maappilai
22 Mandhaara Poo Mooli Vinodhayathra (Malayalam)
23 Radha Azhaikkiraal Therkathi Kallan
24 Paarthen Pon Manam Agni Paarvai
25/26 Unnai Naan Paarkkaiyil (SPB-Asha/KJY) Kannukkoru Vanna Kili
27 Vaa Kaathirukka Kaathirukka Neramillai
28 Vaana Enge Nenjil Aadum Poo Ondru
29 Iniya Gaanam Paatu Paadava
30 Maalai Chandiran Unnai Vaazhthi Paadugiren
31 Tholi Choopu Rajkumar (Telugu)
32 Amruthamaay Abhamaay Snehaveedu (Malayalam)
33 Akkuthikku Kaliyoonjal (Malayalam)
34 Mudhal Mutham Pudhir
35 Baba Mar Gaya (BGM) Nayagan
36 Title Track BGM Suryan (Malayalam)


136 Ilayaraaja and The Various Lyricists


Recently, I made a playlist on youtube of Gangai Amaran written – Ilayaraaja composed songs. This set me thinking. Online, there are quite a few opinions. A prominent exercise involves trying to putting into perspective Raaja’s music with the various lyricists. You may consider this to be one such attempt. I shall try to be as objective as possible. Some of the popularly held beliefs in this topic include, “Raaja owed much of his success in the 80s to his partnership with Vairamuthu”, “Raaja’s humongous successes are with Vairamuthu and Vaali”, “Vaali and Vairamuthu have written the maximum songs for Raaja”. I’m just trying to put all of that to test.

Numbers first. Raaja has composed close to 5,000 songs in roughly 950 movies, mostly all by himself (he has worked with MSV on occasions). This is a humongous achievement in itself. That aside, he has composed music for about 180 films in other languages (roughly 80 in Telugu, 55 in Malayalam 25 odd in Kannada and not more than 15 in Hindi and 2 in Marathi). He was the commercial numer uno in Telugu in the 80s, was briefly a commercial star in Malayalam and Kannada in the early 80s and a commercial colossus in Tamil through the late 70s down to the early 90s. So to pin a person with such a career record down to any one lyricist (who is limited to the language he writes) is questionable.

But having said this is an objective analysis, I intend not to stop with such a superficial statement. Vaali has written more than 1000 songs for Raaja, this being the most prolific association for Ilayaraaja as far as lyric-music goes. Their combination began with Bhadrakali in 1976 and they have worked all the way to a yet-to-be-released film on Ramanujacharya. This was a playlist of 52 songs I did of Vaali’s with IR. A disclaimer I wish to enter here (and this holds to every lyricist I am going to list) is that the playlists I share here are by no means exhaustive in an oeuvre of thousands of songs. However, these can offer a fine bird’s eye view of a track record over the years. A blog post would be insufficient to list and discuss the pros and cons of every single song and I guess the reader understands this obvious caveat and the bird’s eye view stats I provide should suffice as you shall see.

Vaali – Ilayaraaja:

These songs are for leisurely listening pleasure, for every playlist I intend to share runs into a few hours. The Vaali – IR playlist that I have is listed:



Kannan Oru Kaikuzhandhai Bhadrakali
Ore Naal Unnai Naan Ilamai Oonjal Aadugiradhu
Naane Naana Yaaro Dhaana Azhage Unnai Aradhikkiren
Chella Pillai Saravanan Pen Jenmam
Appane Appane Pillaiyaar Appane Annai Oru Aalayam
Vaanam Enge Megam Enge Nenjil Aadum Poo Ondru
Ninaivo Oru Paravai Sigappu Rojakkal
Madai Thirandhu Nizhalgal
Naan Dhaan Ungappanda Ram Lakshman
Sandhana Kaatre Thani Kaattu Raaja
Ilamai Idho Idho Sagalakkala Vallavan
Janani Janani Thaai Mookaambikai
Vaanam Keezhe Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongadhe
Naanaaga Naan Illai Thaaye Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongadhe
Kadavul Ullame Anbulla Rajinikanth
Maalai Soodum Velai Naan Mahan Alla
Raasathi Unna Kaanadha Nenju Vaidehi Kaathirundhaal
Kadhal Kasakkudhaiyya Aan Paavam
Oororama Aathu Pakkam Idhaya Kovil
Nilavu Thoongum Neram Kungumachimizh
Ennama Kannu Sowkyama Mr. Bharath
Aadal Kalaiye Devan Thandhadhu Sri Raghavendra
Thene Then Paandi Meene Udhayageetham
Namma Singari Sarakku Kakki Chattai
Vandhaal Mahalakshmiye Uyarndha Ullam
Kuzhal Oodhum Kannanukku Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu
Mandram Vandha Thendralukku Mouna Ragam
Poove Sempoove Solla Thudikkudhu Manasu
Meendum Meendum Vaa Vikram
Oru Poongavanam Agni Nakshatram
Unna Nenachen Paattu Padichen Aboorva Sagodharargal
Unnai Naan Paarkkaiyil Kannukkoru Vanakkili
Kanna Varuvaaya Manadhil Urudhi Vendum
Yen Patharamaathu Chithira Ponne En Bommukutty Ammavukku
Vaa Vaa Vanji Ilam Maane Guru Sishyan
Malayala Karai Oram Rajadhi Raja
Malaiyil Yaaro Chathriyan
Anjali Anjali Anjali Anjali
Sundari Kannaal Oru Sedhi Thalapathi
Amma Endrazhaikaadha Mannan
Potri Paadadi Ponne (All versions) Thevar Magan
Endhan Nenjil Neengaadha Kalaignan
Karava Maadu Moonu Magalir Mattum
Maadathile Kanni Maadathile Veera
Kai Veenaiyai Vietnam Colony
Kaadhal Vaanile Raasaiyya
Kaatril Varum Geethame Oru Naal Oru Kanavu
Kaattu Vazhi Kaalnadaiyaa Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam

As you can see from the listed 52 songs (a few of the not-so-popular ones are my all-time favorites), 45+ are all time classics. And for most of the films, Vaali would have written all the songs like Bhadrakali (where Kettele Ange was the bigger chartbuster), Ilamai Oonjalaadugiradhu, Azhage Unnai Aradhikkiren, Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongadhe, Sagakalavallavan, Mouna Ragam, Agni Nakshatram, Aboorva Sagodharargal,Thalapathi, Thevar Magan where almost every song was a superhit and I have not included songs from other chartbuster albums from Chittukuruvi onwards for the case of brevity. If I were to list every hit of this combination, it would take me a 600+ songs playlist. Most definitely a superhit combination and one does stand awed at the range of genres handled by the two.


Another prolific combination, which in its heydays for 6 years, quite dominated but did not monopolize Tamil Film Music:

This is a list with 50 songs, which I list below (would take the same few hours to listen to every song again. At your leisure). The list of Vairamuthu – Ilayaraaja I have as a playlist:



Idhu oru Pon Maalai Pozhudhu Nizhalgal
Aayiram Thaamarai Mottukkale Alaigal Oyvadhillai
Andhi Mazhai Rajapaarvai
Pani Vizhum Malarvanam Ninaivellaam Nithya
Kadhal Panpaadu Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal
Vaanengum Thanga Vinmeengal Moondram Pirai
Ilaya Nila Pozhigiradhe Payanangal Mudivadhillai
Poo Malarndhida Nadandhidum Tik Tik Tik
Nadhiyil Aadum Poovanam Kadhal Oviyam
Manidha Manidha Kann Sivandhaal Mann Sivakkum
Pothi Vecha Malliga Mottu Man Vaasanai
Vellai Pura Ondru (Both versions) Pudhu Kavidhai
Thakida Thadhimi Salangai Oli
Thanga Changili Minnum Paingili Thooral Ninnu Pochu
Poove Ilaya Poove Kozhi Koovudhu
Geedham Sangeedham Kokkarakko
Kanavu Ondru Thondrudhe Oru Odai Nadhiyaagiradhu
Vizhigal Meeno Raagangal Maaruvadhillai
Kanavodu Yengum Anbe Odi Vaa
Megam Kottattum Enakkul Oruvan
Poovaadai Kaatre My Dear Kuttichaathaan
Paadava Un Paadalai Naan Paadum Paadal
Unnaithaane Thanjam Endru Nallavanukku Nallavan
Pillai Nila Irandum Vellai Nila Neengal Kettavai
Aathaadi Paavaada Kaathaada Poovilangu
Kasthuri Maane Kalyana Thene Pudhumai Penn
Kaalam Maaralaam Vaazhkai
Chittu Kuruvi Vetka Padudhu Chinna Veedu
Oru Jeevan Azhaithadhu Geethanjali
Pon Maane Kobam Yeno Oru Kaidhiyin Diary
Vetti Veru Vaasam Mudhal Mariyadhai
Raasaave Unna Nambi Mudhal Mariyadhai
Poove Poochoodava (Both Versions) Poove Poochoodava
Naan Oru Sindhu Sindhu Bairavi
Poo Maalai Vaangi Vandhaan Sindhu Bairavi
Kalaivaaniye Sindhu Bairavi
Enna Satham Indha Neram Punnagai Mannan
Edhedho Ennam Valarthen Punnagai Mannan
Vaan Megam Poopoovaai Punnagai Mannan
Vanithamani Vanamohini Vikram
Aaraariro Paadiyadhaaro Thaaikku Oru Thaalaattu
Enge En Jeevane Kadhal Parisu
Ye Unnai Thaane Kadhal Parisu
Laali Laali Sippikkul Muthu
Thendral Vandhu Ennai Thodum Thendrale Ennai Thodu
Adi Aathaadi Kadalora Kavidhaigal
Kodiyile Malliyapoo Kadalora Kavidhaigal
Pogudhe Pogudhe Kadalora Kavidhaigal

As you will see, all are classic songs and out of those, 45+ are all-time hits. However, this was a combination that did not last very long. r_inba has worked an extensive analysis of all the songs created by the Vairamuthu – Ilayaraaja combination and discussed every hit song objectively in a much deeper analysis in an Ilayaraaja forum. One may access it through r_inba’s twitter page linked above. This combination worked in less than 350 out of Raaja’s 5000 songs and has an overall hit number of 198 to be precise (from r_inba’s extensive knowledge of IR’s hit ratio from the 1980s). Also, a clarification here. Hit ratio is an objective number. It does not take into account quality of the songs that went unnoticed. So objectivity to this extent is overrated. But however, it does provide an input into mass popularity accurately.

Coming to the point, a hit number of 198 out of possibly 2,500+ hit songs is a miniscule 7-8%. If one is to however take only the years 1980-1986, Ilayaraaja had already composed his 100th film, Moodupani by the time Vairamuthu entered with Nizhalgal and was the established numer uno in Tamil. Vairamuthu hence did not have a part to play in Raaja’s prolific rise. From ’80-’86, Raaja approximately composed 250 films (his 300th film was Udhayageetham in 1985 and his 400th was Nayagan in 1987, so by the time they separated, Raaja could have been in the 350s, 250 more than his 100th in 1980), making for about 1100 odd songs in those 7 years. Going by the same 55% ‘commercial’ hit ratio which we see consistently from 1976-1994, that would mean about 600+ hit songs (again, only commercial hits and I am not even entering into a subjective analysis of quality) only in 1980-1986, prolific without a shadow of doubt.

198 is a sizeable number here and Vairamuthu’s contribution is well acknowledged (heck, some of my all-time favorite, pantheon level songs, as you will see from the list above have been written by him). But even in his heydays in the 80s (he would have another extended peak in the 90s but that is beyond the scope of this post); Vairamuthu could pretty much contribute to roughly 30% of Raaja’s ‘hit songs’; i.e. 70% of Raaja’s ‘commercial hits’ in the early-mid-late 80s from 1980 till 1986 were still written by others. In the light of these facts, the claim of “Raaja owed his success, at least in the 80s to Vairamuthu” goes out of the window, with all due to respect to the excellent songs which Vairamuthu has written only because of the error in such a statement. Of course, Raaja would have had chartbusters in other languages, especially the other 3 South Indian ones and Vairamuthu is a Tamil lyricist. That again shows the mistake of the claim since Raaja was not restricted only to Tamil and was successful critically and commercially elsewhere too, as 3 of his 4 National Awards in Telugu and Malayalam would attest.

Gangai Amaran – Ilayaraaja:

Possibly the most underrated of Ilayaraaja’s partnerships, sharing a big chunk of the remainder of ‘70%’ from 1980-1986 and not restricted to that period alone, like Vaali in every sense. Playlist:

The playlist with 58 songs:


Sendhoora Poove 16 Vayadhinile
Thamthana Namthana Pudhiya Vaarpugal
Poovarasampoo Poothaachu Kizhakke Pogum Rayil
Raman Aandaalum Mullum Malarum
Nitham Nitham Nelli Soru Mullum Malarum
Uravugal Thodarkadhai Aval Appadithaan
Panneer Pushpangale Aval Appadithaan
Oru Iniya Manadhu Johny
Senorita I Love You Johny
Aasaya Kaathula Thoodhu Vittu Johny
Kaatril Endhan Geetham Johny
En Iniya Pon Nilave Moodupani
Poonkadhave Thaazh Thiravaai Nizhalgal
Siru Pon Mani Kallukkul Eeram
Vizhiyorathu Kanavu Rajapaarvai
Kodai Kaala Kaatre Panneer Pushpangal
Aanandha Raagam Panneer Pushpangal
Poonthalir Aada Panneer Pushpangal
Kanavil Midhakkum Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal
Kalyan Raman Hey Cook Raman Karaiyellaam Shenbagapoo
Vaadi En Kappakkezhange Alaigal Oyvadhillai
Anne Anne Sippaai Anne Kozhi Koovudhu
Ei Aatha Aathorama Vaariyaa Payanangal Mudivadhillai
Vaikaraiyil Vaigai Karaiyil Payanangal Mudivadhillai
Ponmeni Urugudhe Moondraam Pirai
Indraikki Yen Indha Aanandhame Vaidehi Kaathirundhaal
Adiye Manam Nilluna Neengal Kettavai
Poo Maalaiye Thol Serava Pagal Nilavu
Maina Maina Maman Puducha Maina Pagal Nilavu
Vaidehi Raman Kaiserum Kaalam Pagal Nilavu
En Jodi Manja Kuruvi Vikram
Podi Nadayaa Poravare Kadalora Kavidhaigal
Devanin Kovil Moodiya Neram Aruvadai Naal
Chinna Ponnu Aruvadai Naal
Melatha Mella Thattu Aruvadai Naal
Ooru Sanam Thoongiruchu Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu
Un Paarvaiyil Or Aayiram Amman Kovil Kizhakkale
Chinna Mani Kuyile Amman Kovil Kizhakkale
Poova Eduthu Oru Maala Amman Kovil Kizhakkale
Seevi Sinukkedutha Vetri Vizha
Oru Kiliyin Poovizhi Vaasalile
Shenbagame Shenbagame Enga Ooru Paattukaaran
Maadi Eri Vandha Per Sollum Pillai
Aaraaro Aaraaro Anand
Naan Enbadhu Nee Allavo Soorasamhaaram
Thenpaandi Thamizhe Paasa Paravaigal
Nallorgal Unnai En Bommukutty Ammavukku
Mama Un Ponna Kodu Rajadhi Raja
Siru Koottula Ulla Kuyilukku Paandi Naattu Thangam
Un Manasula Paattuthaan Paandi Naattu Thangam
Maankuyile Poonkuyile Karagattakaaran
Indha Maan Undhan Sondha Maan Karagattakaaran
Ennoda Raasi Nalla Raasi Maapillai
Sorgame Endraalum Ooru Vittu Orru Vandhu
Oh Maharaja My Dear Marthandan
Uttalakkadi My Dear Marthandan
Aadudhu Paar My Dear Marthanda

As you will note, every single song is a classic and most of the songs are chartbusters and continue to get solid airtime even today, after a few decades. Most of the songs we might not attribute to Gangai Amaran’s (GA) pen at all unless someone told us are by him. He has written 500+ songs for Raaja and is an important cog in the objective wheel of such an analysis, not to be missed at all. That he is missed often times is sad. r_inba has a parallel analysis of 100 of the superhit songs from the GA – IR combo too in the IR forum and he is responsible for awakening me to GA’s contribution. Also, from the list above, GA has written the songs for entire albums of which I have listed only 1 or 2. An exhaustive list would lack in brevity and as it is, I would be asking for extra sheets in an exam hall.

So it is clear that apart from Vairamuthu and Vaali, Gangai Amaran also shares the lyrical credits from some awesome sauce songs from the late 70s down the early 90s. This combination is occasionally active even today. So the claim of “Raaja owing most of the success to Vaali and Vairamuthu’s partnerships with him” is misinformed and not true too, as Gangai Amaran’s lyricography would prove conclusively.

So would it be possible to conclude Raaja’s partnerships with these 3 were alone critical to his success? Not quite, in my opinion, for the objective stats disagree again. These 3 roughly contribute to 2000 of IR’s overall number of songs and I am certain that is less than the total number of ‘hits’ Raaja has in career, leave alone his entire discography. That takes me to the other comparatively “lesser” but important partnerships Raaja has had in his career in Tamil till date.

Panju Arunachalam – Ilayaraaja:

The person, producer-lyricist who introduced Raaja to the film world was Panju. His playlist with Raaja which I created:

The playlist with 30 songs:


Machaana Paatheengala Annakili
Devan Thiruchabai Malargale Avar Enakke Sondham
Vizhiyile Malarndhadhu Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri
Kanmaniye Kadhal Enbadhu Aaril Irundhu Arubadhu Varai
Kaalai Paniyil Gayathri
Oru Vaanavil Pole Kaatrinile Varum Geetham
Chithirai Sevvaanam Kaatrinile Varum Geetham
Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiraan Kavikkuyil
Sugamo Aayiram Thunai Iruppaal Meenakshi
Hey Paadal Ondru Priya
Mudhal Mudhalaaga Niram Maaraadha Pookkal
Manadhil Enna Ninaivugalo Poonthalir
Kadhal Vandhiruchu Kalyanaraman
Podhuvaaga En Manasu Thangam Murattu Kaalai
Paruvame Pudhiya Paadal Paadu Nenjathai Killaadhe
Germaniyin Senthen Malare Ullasa Paravaigal
Deiveega Raagam Ullaasa Paravaigal
Kadhal Oviyam Alaigal Oyvadhillai
Kaadellaam Pichipoovu Karaiyellaam Shenbagapoo
Eriyile Elandha Maram Karaiyellaam Shenbagapoo
Pon Oviyam Kazhugu
Aasai Nooru Vagai Adutha Vaarisu
Kadhalin Deepam Ondru Thambikku Endha Ooru
Muthamizh Kaviye Varuga Dharmathin Thalaivan
Kadha Kelu Kadha Kelu Michale Madana Kamarajan
Sundari Neeyum Sundaran Nyaanum Michael Madana Kamarajan
Othaiyila Ninnadhenna Vanaja Girija
Konji Konji Alaigal Oda Veera
Naan Porandhu Vandhadhu Maya Bazaar (1995)

Again, as you will see, most of the songs listed here are cult classics. Panju has written 500+ songs for Raaja which would have a similar hit ratio of 50+%. I have merely included a sample of 30 superb songs to show this combination’s range. Many of the films listed here have all the songs, with mostly every song being superhits, written by Panju. So it becomes apparent that Raaja’s hit combinations extend beyond just one or two or even 3.

Kannadasan – Ilayaraaja:

Arguably the greatest lyricist Tamil film music has seen and one of the very few genuine poets it has had. His combination with Raaja was brief, successful and filled with some everlasting classics. Hence, in addition to the above the list, this great poet too will have to have his say here. The list:

The playlist with 25 songs:


Naan Pesa Vandhen Paalootti Valartha Kili
Sevvadhi Poo Muducha 16 Vayadhinile
Aattukutty Muttaiyittu 16 Vayadhinile
Sorgam Madhuvile Sattam En Kaiyil
Moga Sangeedham Kannan Oru Kai Kuzhandhai
Senthaazham Poovil Mullum Malarum
Indha Miniminikku Sigappu Rojakkal
Oru Thanga Radhathil Dharma Yudham
Aayiram Malargale Malarungal Niram Maaradha Pookkal
Ilamai Ennum Poongaatru Pagalil Oru Iravu
Vaan Megangale Pudhiya Vaarpugal
Azhagiya Kanne Udhiri Pookkal
Endhan Kannil Guru
Aadungal Paadungal Guru
En Vaanile Ore Vennila Johny
Chinnnchiru Vayadhil Meendum Kokila
Kaathodu Poovurasa Anbukku Naan Adimai
Oru Ooril Oru Maharani Garjanai
Thaalaattudhe Vaanam Kadal Meengal
Ramanin Mohanam Netrikkan
Maapilaikki Maman Manasu Netrikkan
Azhage Azhagu Rajapaarvai
Devan Thandha Veenai Unnai Naan Paarkkiren
Poongatru Pudhidhandhu Moondram Pirai
Kanne Kalaimaane Moondram Pirai

As I need not say again, mostly iconic songs in the list, kept to 25 for brevity, but amounting to 100+ overall. Some evergreen superhits again.

I have thus far listed only Tamil. And even in Tamil, there is Pulamaipithan, Mu. Metha and Muthulingam. I am listing their playlists with Ilayaraaja here:

Pulamaipithan – Ilayaraaja:

Mu.Metha – Ilayaraaja:

Muthulingam – Ilayaraaja:

I am listing each song from their partnerships with Raaja from the playlists. I have 22 songs of Pulamapithan’s, 20 of Muthulingam’s and 12 songs of Mu. Metha’s. Their partnerships are not that extensive as the poets mentioned above, but I feel they have their space that needs to be respected as there are chartbusters that get airtime almost every day even today in TVs and radio stations penned by these gentlemen.

Pulamaipithan – Ilayaraaja:



Maalai Sevvaanam Ilayaraajavin Rasigai
Uchi Vagundheduthu Rosapoo Ravikkaikaari
Naan Oru Ponnoviyam Kanden Kannil Theriyum Kadhaigal
Amudhe Tamizhe Kovil Pura
Vedham Nee Kovil Pura
Sangathil Paadaadha Kavidhai Auto Raja
Thazhampoove Vaasam Veesu Kai Kodukkum Kai
Oh Vasantha Raaja Neengal Kettavai
Vizhiyile Mani Vizhiyile Nooravadhu Naal
Raathiriyil Poothirukkum Thangamagan
Kanmaniye Pesu Kaakki Sattai
Maan Kanden Maan Kanden Rajarishi
Koo Koo Endru Kuyil Koovadho Kadhal Parisu
Thenpaandi Seemaiyile Nayagan
Nee Oru Kadhal Sangeedham Nayagan
Naan Sirithaal Deepavali Nayagan
Ammamma Vandhadhingu Per Sollum Pillai
Punjai Undu Nanjai Undu Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
Unnal Mudiyum Thambi Thambi Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
Mazhai Varudhu Mazhai Varudhu Raja Kaiyya Vechaa
Edhilum Ingu Iruppaan Bharathi
Maanjolai Kili Dhaano Kizhakke Pogum Rayil
Idhayam Pogudhe Pudhiya Vaarpugal
Kalyanam Paaru Udhiri Pookkal
En Purushan Dhaan Gopurangal Saaivadhillai
Raaga Deepam Etrum Neram Payanangal Mudivadhillai
Boopaalam Isaikkum Thooral Ninnu Pochu
Vaa Vaa Pakkam Vaa Thangamagan
Devan Kovil Deepam Ondru Naan Paadum Paadal
Vaan Sivandhadhu Poo Malarndhadhu Anbin Mugavari
Ada Machamulla Chinna Veedu
Kootathile Kovil Pura Idhaya Kovil
Sangeedha Megam Udhayageetham
Singaara Thaazhampoo Kanne Kalaimaane
Chinna Chinna Roja Poove Poovizhi Vaasalile
Chithirai Chittukkal En Bommukutty Ammavukku
Idhazhil Kadhai Ezhudhum Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
Pattu Poove Mettu Paadu Chembaruthi
Veena Vaani Pon Megalai
Thaalaattu Ketka Naanum Nandalala
Neeraal Udal Kazhuvi Thaandavakkone (co-written with Ilayaraaja)
Mu. Metha – Ilayaraaja:
Vaai Thiravaai Nee Thedum Bodhu
Pon Maanai Thedudhe Oh Maane Maane
Yaar Veettil Roja Idhaya kovil
Pen Maane Sangeedham Paadavaa Naan Sigappu Manidhan
Paadu Nilaave Then Kavidhai Udhayageedham
Malare Malare Ullasam Un Kannil Neer Vazhindhaal
Raaja Raaja Chozhan Naan Rettai Vaal Kuruvi
Vaa Vaa Vaa Kanna Vaa Velaikkaaran
Mamanukku Maylapore Dhaan Velaikkaaran
Pethu Eduthavadhaan Velaikkaaran
Mayil Pola Ponnu Onnu Bharathi
Onnukkonnu Thunai Irukku Nandhalala

These lists have some obscure songs I rate very highly. They however have some all-time classics too that enjoy evergreen status even today and these are songs which will count in any IR list a fan would make. Just saying here that these are penned by these gentlemen listed above and each has penned close to 100 film songs for Raaja.

I would like to end this lengthy exercise by sharing with you folks a playlist which has Ilayaraaja written and composed songs. Since I have a bias towards his devotional numbers among the ones he’s written, I have quite a few of those (which are not likely to be known outside the hardcore IR fan circle). I am hence not listing them here in this blog and will limit myself to listing his film songs, of which there are quite a few hugely popular ones. I leave you to look into and listen at leisure to his devotional songs from the playlist.

The playlist:

The list with its film songs here, numbering to 13:



Idhayam Oru Kovil Idhaya Kovil
Engirundho Azhaikkum En Jeevan Paadudhu
Nila Adhu Vaanathu Mele Nayagan
Kanne Navamaniye En Bommukutty Ammavukku
Jingidi Jingidi Guru Sishyan
Vaa Vaa Manjal Malare Rajadhi Raja
Enna Samayalo Unnal Mudiyum Thambi
Paattaale Budhi Sonnaar Karagattakkaaran
Ennai Oruvan Paada Sonnaan Kumbakkarai Thangaiah
Isaiyil Thodangudhamma Hey Ram
Un Kuthama En Kuthama Azhagi
Pichai Paathiram Endhi Vandhen Naan Kadavul
Neeraal Udal Kazhuvi Thaandavakkone (co-written with Muthulingam)

As you will note, IR himself is an excellent lyricist. This is not to say he could have written all his 5000 songs. However, songs of the caliber of Isaiyil Thodangudhamma rival the best songs ever written in Tamil Film history. Neeraal Udal Kazhuvi is the only veNpA in Tamil Films till date outside the ThirukkuraLs referenced (every kuraL is a veNpA). Raaja has written a veNpA for a film with Muthulingam, not an easy task, speaking of his virtuosity in Tamil literature and I feel mentioning this here in an objective analysis of lyricists would be quite apt.


–> To summarize, as one may see from the stats and basic numbers above, for this is in no way exhaustive (all I’ve done is exhaust you folks with mentioning close to 250 of Raaja’s 5000 songs), the claims of “Raaja’s success is with X, Y or Z lyricist” is absurd and downright laughable for I’ve listed mostly evergreen, popular numbers and some sprinkling of obscure gems by 9 different lyricists in Tamil including Raaja himself.

–> AND this is only restricted to Tamil. If I were to go to Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu and pick on ONV Kurup, Chi. Udayashankar, Veturi, Atreya, Seetharama Sastry, not to forget Gulzar and his Sadma and Swanand Kirkire’s latest films of Balki’s, this post would not see the light of its day.

–> This is of course not to belittle any lyricist as 90% of every lyricist’s songs I have listed are accepted classics and every single song here is my personal favorite.

–> In fact, I can prepare a parallel list of 250 obscure gems overall from the lyricists listed above in Tamil and 250 ‘hits’ from other languages with other lyricists. Every lyricist’s contribution and excellence to Raaja’s discography is admirable.

–> However, Ilayaraaja has overall worked with 140+ lyricists/poets across all languages and these include iconic poets like Bharathi, saint-poets like Manickavasagar, Andaal, obscure ones like Chidambaranathan who has written Eri Kara Poongaathe for Thooral Ninnu Pochu and Poonkodiyaan who has written Malaiyoram Mayile, a chartbuster from Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam.

–> Hence, it would suffice to say that Ilayaraaja’s music for films cannot be contained within any one single lyricist. One may say that their most favorite songs of Ilayaraaja’s of all time are with Vairamuthu or Vaali or with any other lyricist and no one ought to contest it, for it is an opinion.

–> However, the claims I’ve contested which form a part of an internet opinion in wide numbers are preposterous in the light of the facts I’ve shared.

I welcome praises and brickbats. The floor is yours.

135 Elegy


, ,

Opened the internet today to the news of Balu Mahendra’s death. As sudden and hence tragic as it is, one understands powerlessness against time. He will be remembered as a great director. He should be remembered as a great cinematographer who was introduced in Nellu (1974), went on to capture all the films he directed and also filmed MuLLum Malarum (1978) for Mahendran’s debut, Pallavi Anu Pallavi for Mani Ratnam’s debut (1983), Shankarabharanam for K. Vishwanath (1979) and Seethakoka Chiluka (Alaigal Oyvadhillai‘s Telugu remake in 1981) for Bharathiraja, showing that he filmed for the top directors (or rather, directors who went to the top) after becoming a director too, telling us perhaps of the magnetism of his lens which drew serious directors of the time to him. I am a big fan of simply watching En Iniya Pon Nilave for the morning mist he captures. His characters talk through songs, literally, for that is a signature of his. He depicts mostly real, rooted characters and his sensitivity is not often matched. My most favorite film of his shall remain Sandhya Ragam (1989) which I rate as Indian cinema’s most sensitive tribute to Satyajit Ray and his Mahanagar (1963).

Balu Mahendra worked with Ilayaraaja in 19 of his 22 films and theirs is a combination that will draw unanimous respect. They started with Balu M’s 3rd and Raaja’s 100th film, Moodupani (1980), due to Salil Chowdhry’s insistence on scoring the music for the first couple of his films (Kokila in 1978 and Azhiyadha Kolangal in 1979) and broke once for Sandhya Ragam (L. Vaidyanathan). I realize a little later, now that he has made me move out of my arm chair and pen this post, that this shall also be an elegy to their combination. Ilayaraaja will not have a Balu Mahendra to work with him anymore. A cruel sentence. I think of the many classic films they’ve worked together in, the not-so-classics and all the songs. He was instrumental in Raaja composing, using and re-using his iconic Thumbi Vaa. But I shall share, in the poetic justice to the moment, a song that plays twice in a film, once from a mother to her sons and then from her son to her as an elegy.

NeengaL Kettavai may not rank among his poetic bests but it remains a fairly engaging mainstream film for me with some superb songs. PiLLai Nila IraNdum VeLLai Nila is the song I am interested in. It first appears as Poornima Jayaram, a widowed mother of two kids, leads her bitter-sweet life. There is no string section with his famous violins in this song, a method Raaja uses to rare but extremely effective means. The singer is S Janaki, who breathes life into a tune that comes with a certain ache, underlining the difficulty in the lady’s life. The interlude plays with the tribal chorus sounds that effortlessly captures the rural scene of a hill station. சூழல் and உணர்வு; both are covered here. The charanam speaks of a வசந்தம் first, due to her sons. Flute, bells and guitar fill in. Flutes gives the ache. Right from the la la la of the chorus to the bells and the guitar, the tenderness of the children is underlined. The second interlude matches a dhobi’s thwack with his folk tune as he goes about his vocation. The song ends beautifully with that mix of ache and want of a secure life, tenderness and a certain romantic optimism constantly touched upon by the composer.

This was Raaja setting us up in the gut. We now have a much older son, separated from his brother and mother, who is raped and killed by the villain, searching for his revenge and leading the profession of a singer. As if to make up for the first song, Raaja starts this song with the string section with a 1,2,3,4 and the heaviness it brings is immediately palpable. But it is the same tune with the same lyrics. The choral la la la is directly from the chorus here and strangely, it is not out of place. The violins have led us away from the tenderness and with them in tow, the la la la isn’t very tender. The interlude rushes at us, with the flute and drums as the brothers are with their mother in the flashback that hits the screens and the violins as the brothers cremate her.

As KJ Yesudas sings the charanam, the same flute, bells and guitars fill in the வசந்தம். Their memories haven’t been touched, says the composer. A certain vacuum is underlined in the other interlude as the end of his mother flashes on screen (சூன்யம் is the perhaps the best word, vacuum doesn’t quite translate it), the beating of what sounds like an ஈர்க்குச்சி with minimal orchestration making an appearance as her body is taken in a procession. The strings that are in the background come to the forefront and rush at us as the villain comes on screen. Raaja narrates a story with his wares. He isn’t quite done. As KJY sings ஆளான சிங்கம் ரெண்டும் கைவீசி நடந்தால், instead of the flute, guitars and bells, there is a string section that translates the underplayed but very real rage in the hero. When the mother sings, it is tender with her overplayed love that calls her sons lions. When the son sings the same line with a valid cause, it is real rage that hits us. Both the times, Raaja makes sure it is real.

As his elegy ends with the final pallavi, the violins seem to lift the song to the heavens to his mother to assure her that he will finish his business with her killer and get his brother back (ஆளான சிங்கம் ரெண்டும் I say). Raaja is at his effortless, supreme best in elevating a standard commercial fare with his depth and so long Balu Mahendra, may Raaja’s elegy sing to you in the heavens.

134 Top 10 Discoveries: 2013

Following a genius’ oeuvre during his time a little after he has created most of his works can be a demanding thrill if the genius happens to be Ilayaraaja, demanding because the amount of songs and tracks are inexhaustible and thrilling because of their quality and you never know what will hit you when. Ask me. I was ambling through life when Eera Vizhi Kaaviyangal hit me unannounced swallowing a better part of my 2011’s playlist. But the demand and thrill is so worth it at ‘that moment’ where you discover a gem. You understand my excitement when you realize I could be talking about a failed film from the early 80s which has some obscure God-outstanding song which I find God-outstanding. Again most of this travel is personal, making it a straight connect between you and the creator and I feel I do connect with the hardcore fans when I say you will chuckle as you read this. This can apply to any creator-fan and is not necessarily restricted to Raaja. But the amount of such discoveries are bound to be more with IR due to the quantity and obscure nature of some of the films he’s composed music for. And the additional bonus in such a travel is the nuances you might chance across in any of the songs you discover. While the former is down to the prolific nature of the composer, the latter boils down to his genius. Thus far, I have been a very satisfied fan. But then, like Nehru recalled a wise man’s travel through the woods in his death bed, “… and miles to go before I sleep”, I’ve got some travelling to do.

This being the end of the year, I’d like to share 10 songs of Raaja that I discovered in 2013 and liked immensely and talk a few words on those songs. There were a few songs like the delightful Alippazham Perukkan and Minnaminangum from My Dear Kuttichathan which blasted from the past, as in I’ve have seen the film as a child and gotten back to realizing it had music by Raaja this year and rehearing the songs after more than a decade was akin to catching up with a long lost friend, I mean the delight such chance meetings bring. But I’m listing songs I’ve heard for the first time this year. Here they are and I begin with an invocation song to please the Almighty, as they’d like to begin down here.

  1. Song: Pala Jenma Jenmandhara, Singer: SP Shailaja, Film: Azhagiya Kanne, Year: 1982.

Directed by Mahendran, this song is superficially an invocation. The situation in the film however is ghostly. Raaja’s music straddles and addresses both themes. It makes use of raga Simmhendramadhyamam and the flute pleads for the soul of the dead lover coming through the hero’s daughter. The invocation to Mookambika is all serious in its semi classical journey with Vaali’s lyrics doing lovely justice. Beneath that supplication is the yearning of the soul which comes through magically in the music. As the song ends and the shot freezes on the spirit of the lover walking into the woods, Raaja stops the music and lets the emptiness fill with the ambient sound of wind blowing into our ears. That nails the eeriness more effectively than any music did.

2. Song: Vel Muruganukku, Singer: Malaysia Vasudevan, Film: Puyal Paadum Paattu, Year: 1987.

A Gopalakrishna Bharathi song in Vasantha to start a possible college event being met with catcalls. The hero possibly following it with a contemporary rendition of a semi classical tune with mundane lyrics in Mohanam. The song suddenly breaks into rock, the fun and wackiness going through the roof that you’d have to listen to experience it and the charanam goes folk and comes back to rock in one seamless travel through the lead melody. Trust Raaja to interweave the genres so tightly between pixels and yet hold the fun quotient. Oh and unwittingly, another invocation, just that this is way zany.

3. Song: Solla Solla Enna Perumai, Singer: SP Balasubramaniam, Film: Ellaam Inba Mayam, Year: 1981.

I discovered this song via Finders Keepers, which has a couple of albums of Raaja’s peppy stuff from the early 80s titled after this song. Insane song with elements of Indian sounds everywhere (like the outrageous unpredictability in placing a veena for a second in between guitars at 1:03 sounding exotic) and the unbelievably trippy basslines marks this out as an eargasm from some other world for a first timer. This song is quite a rage on youtube among a bunch of Brits and I shall highlight a few comments here and leave you with the song.

“More musical ideas in this song on its own than any current top 10 chart around the world.”

“Just brilliant, so many things going on, random as fuck, amazing.”

“Who is this band? Does anyone know? They are out-a-sight.”

“Shit, the bassline is wicked, as are the drum breaks. Oh yeah, the Afro-desiac guy is pretty entertaining too.”

“Ok so this guy is not Rafi. Then who the flip is he? What is the film, where can I buy it and I want to see more like it. The music, dancing and joy of this whole piece lifts me from the repeated moronic monotony of the crap that fills the UK airways and music video channels.”

4. Song: Randi Randi, Singers: Mano, SP Shailaja, SPB, Chorus, Film: Rudraveena, Year: 1988.

The Telugu version of Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi, this song is their Enna Samayalo. The Tamil song was first composed by IR in an unreleased late 70s film, Manipur Mamiyar, and reused in UMT with lyrics by Raaja himself. The Tamil song is a masterpiece. It uses ambient noise of blowing the stove, clanking vessels and boiling rice to prop the music and the lyrics marries the tune in sublime ways called swarAksharam, where the tune and lyrics (swaram and aksharam) mean the same. “ச த ம க தா ம த மா” winding itself as சாதமாக தாமதமா, “த ம தா மதனி, சாதம் ரெடியா?” where the word மதனி is both the word and the respective swaram, “க ரி க ரி க ரி கரிகாய்களும் எங்கே? கறிவேப்பிலை எங்கே?” where the swaram becomes the origin for a word and such intricate genius level nuances in the lyrics and tune that blow the mind away.

This sets the bar high for the Telugu version. You cannot have the same tune because the whole point is lost since Tamil was married to ‘that’ tune. The situation too is different here. The hero visits the heroine’s house and is greeted by all the animate beings there. Right from the beginning where Kalyani ragam weaves into a counterpoint of high speed and precision, Raaja is on the gun with Sirivennilla Seetarama Sastry bringing in raga names like Darbar for the raga used, to pun them with the surroundings. As we go further, hints on raga names are dropped along the way (Kanakaangi, Keeravani) and ambient noise of the stringed curtains, cushion spring reproduced through instrumentation to KB’s very own இருமல் தாத்தா and parrots singing a la Mandana Misra’s home to the postman’s steps likened to the aarOhaNam and avarOhaNam ease into the melody effortlessly giving the rather trite terms “musical house” and a “musical” as a movie an unbelievably apt description. There is more swarAksharam here as well, inputs in all likelihood from Raaja to Seetarama Sastri (considering the Tamil version and that it is a decade older), at pa ni panisariga. The way Raaja harmonizes Indian Classical Music here with his Western Classical orchestration is for the ages and this song is sheer inventive genius. Find of the year for me.

5. Song: Dilwale Raat Hai Jawaan, Singer: Asha Bhosle, Film: Mahadev, Year: 1987.

Sung by my most favorite Hindi singer of all time, it gains my curiosity. Being an original Hindi song by Raaja and not a revamped version of a regional classic gains it my attention. Instruments overshadow the melody at times that it captivates. The brass section is on a roll and the synth with the kick in Asha’s playful tone of rendering a very trippy but drowsy tune is just wow. I mean the final pallavi as she touches on aawaara as though she’s playing running and catch with a lover who she’s just tricked. Wow! This song also has my respect.

6. Song: Sakkarakatti, Singer: SP Balasubramaniam, S Janaki, Film: Ulle Veliye, Year: 1993.

A my takku moment for me, like it happens with a lot of Raaja songs. The string sections, bass guitar and nadhaswaram do it quite beautifully with an out-of-the-box tune for the situation. The second interlude with the shehnai and claps providing rhythm give it an awesome beat, so this song ends up strangely as a soulful celebration of love and lust.

The song is set to Charukesi, a raga normally evoking love and bhakti. He has also composed Aadal Kalaiye Deivam Thandhadhu in the same raga. A wonder for a lot of fans is how he composes songs for contrasting emotions using the same raga. This song is a duet between a corrupt individual and his girl. He is a womanizer to boot. Aadal Kalaiye on the other hand is Raghavendra’s expression of bhakti. How is it possible? Raaja once answered any emotion is relative to ‘that’ individual expressing it and never absolute. A common man’s bhakti will end in the pooja room of his house whereas bhakti for a saint might have an entirely different meaning. Similarly, Raghavendra’s bhakti and love towards God finds vent with Charukesi in Aadal kalaiye while a womanizer’s love or devotion towards his lover, லௌகீகம் in all its glory, nevertheless love and devotion, finds vent with the same Charukesi in Sakarakatti. QED.

7. Song: Adadada Maamara KiLiyE, Singer: S Janaki, Film: Chittukuruvi, Year: 1978.

A woman’s freedom to marry her man is given vent through this song and she, in the hoary tradition of Tamil women given to அச்சம் and நாணம், sends the message through a parrot with her man beside her. She makes her feelings clear as she sugarcoats them with words. Raaja’s music doesn’t hide anything; it is a geyser of joy in folk. S Janaki is outstanding and the way the charanam ends, adadada maadhuLam kaniyE… is something that can put me out of any mood and keep my batteries on for a day in joyous reverie.

8. Song: Tholi Choopu, Singer: SP Balasubramaniam, S Janaki, Film: Rajkumar, Year: 1983.

The Telugu original of the Tamil song, Alai Meedhu, this wins my heart musically. A lovely composition in Kalyani, S Janaki’s Hindi one-words between lines are endearing and Raaja is in sublime orchestral form. The second interlude for me will rank among top 10 Raaja interludes of all time. He is not a Western Classical Maestro for nothing as the veena talks an Indian Classical language with string sections going on with WCM passages in a counterpoint in the first interlude. But in the second interlude, he outdoes himself as pianos carry on even as SJ is finishing leading us to cellos humming and a section of violins to add over the cellos for a counterpoint and just there, a solo violin comes briefly scintillating us for a few seconds with a 3 tune-counterpoint with pace and precision akin to a Rolls Royce on a European speedway. Seamless thing of beauty winning my heart hands down.

9. Thangaliyalli Nannu, Singer: S Janaki, Film: Janma Janma Anubandha, Year: 1980.

A haunting song as the lost hero searches for his love in a barren landscape leading him nowhere is rendered rather ironically by the heroine herself, possibly taking us into the hero’s mind. The song is S Janaki’s to own as the video below itself is titled. The heavy drum bringing at once a tribal feel and desperation in one stroke is taken to another level by SJ at nannanu sEralu, baba and just that pause between sEralu and baba is inexplicable. Ownage all the way from Raaja and S Janaki as just listening this is enough to pump us with the required emotions.

10. Song: Vaanampaadi, Singer: Ilayaraaja, Film: Thalaiyanai Mandhiram, Year: 1984.

I am ending my post with a song sung by Raaja himself. I feel this is an apt song considering the turbulence his health has gone through recently. The connect between a separating bunch of college students in their பசுமை நிறைந்த நினைவுகளே moment inexpressibly holds true for me and Raaja singing this song. The second interlude with its flute, electric and bass guitars with the tune and Vairamuthu’s lyrics is quite a tonic for the soul and I’m glad I came across this.

விடை பெரும் வேளை, வார்த்தை வரவில்லை.