When the maestro of the South Indian music world, Ilaiyaraaja, turned 80 on Friday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin was the first among a galaxy of visitors who paid rich tributes to the ‘Isaignani’ on his birthday.
Taking to Twitter, Stalin wrote in Tamil: “He does not string musical instruments, he caresses our hearts.” The Chief Minister said that his late father, M Karunanidhi, greatly appreciated the music of Ilayaraja and spoke of him as the ‘Isaignani’, or the sage of music.
South Indian superstar Kamal Haasan also took to Twitter and hailed Ilaiyaraaja as the ‘Emperor of Music’.
Ilaiyaraaja’s music essentially mirrors the richness of Tamil culture. Many of his followers have even commented on Twitter about how his music expresses a wide range of emotions.
The music maestro was born at Pannaipuram village in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu and during his carrier spanning six decades (and counting!), he has worked in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi films.
The song ‘Amma entrazhaikath uyirillaye’, in P. Vasu’s 1992 movie ‘Mannan’, on a mother and her love, was one of the best compositions by the mastero. ‘Vaa Ponmayile’ in ‘Poonthalir’ is an outstanding love song tinged with sadness.
The music of Ilaiyaraaja evokes both an elevated spirit and a sense of melancholy, giving it an ageless quality, which is evident in ‘Modern Love Chennai’, an anthology of short films streaming on Amazon Prime Video since May 18.
It has 13 tracks composed by the maestro. The anthology has 18 tracks – the remaining five have been composed by young music directors such as Yuvan Shankar Raja (Ilaiyaraaja’s highly talented son), Sean Roldan and G V Prakash Kumar.
The 1980s and 1990s were clearly Ilayaraaja’s decades in the Tamil music industry. He wrote the music for more than 40 films a year in the 1980s, ending the decade with 400 films carrying his credit line.
Beyond Tamil cinema, Ilaiyaraaja’s music was an indispensable part of the success of the Malayalam movies ‘Manasinakkare’, ‘Raasathanthram’ and ‘Pazhasi Raja’. Little wonder then that the maestro has won five national awards and host regional and state awards, including honours bestowed upon him by several state governments.