“One could work on a lot of albums such as ‘Thiruvasagam in Symphony,’ but with issues such as illegal downloading from the internet and piracy, it is difficult,” says music composer Ilaiyaraja, who recently entered into an agreement with Malaysia-based Agi Music to administrate all of his work before the year 2000.
In an interview to The Hindu on Tuesday, he says: “If a big company comes forward to take care of these matters, one could. I am doing music for myself and I don’t have the time and inclination to address these issues.”
On how ‘Paa’ happened, Mr. Ilaiyaraja says: “Balki [director of Paa] is a big fan of mine, and he asked me if I could give some of my older songs for the film, saying that the audiences in the north had not heard this kind of music.” But the composer told Balki that he would think about what kind of music would be suitable for the subject of the film. “A mother cooking exclusively for her child might be preparing just rice and buttermilk, but it will be immensely tasty. Fast food, on the other hand, may be very tasty, but it has not been prepared exclusively for you, you see.” Asked if raga-based compositions were becoming scarce in film music, he quickly intercepts: “It is not our duty to worry about trends. We cannot criticise anybody’s music. Each one works according to a requirement,” and it was not necessary to sit in judgement over music. “If some prefer fast food, what’s wrong?”
On some kinds of music being branded as having appeal to the youth, he says: “Branding music as “for the youth” is only an escapist tendency. Preference in music is only about restrictions of the mind. On singing for his son in the film ‘Goa’, he smiles and says “I only do my role. In fact, I have not taught my children anything.” Sometimes, he does make suggestions on the lyrics.
“I often ask them why they use lyrics that explain the visuals on the screen when the sequence is self-explanatory? We could avoid redundant lyrics,” he notes. “I have had the opportunity to see how the lyrics complement the tune during my experience of working with greats like Kavignar Kannadsan.”
Emphasising the need for a “natural sense of aesthetics” in the arts and films, he says: “Theory or vidwat might appeal to the intellect, but it is what you experience that will touch the heart…no one can form any rule for the arts. It’s all in the way you look things.”
“Good compositions are those that seem fresh even years after they were composed. When you listen to a song, it should make you sit up and wonder, “Hey, what is this!” or give you an inexplicable feeling of joy or relate beautifully to the music in you. Without any of these three, it would be sheer noise.”
On what appeals to him about his own music in retrospect, he says: “Everything has to. I should have first enjoyed it myself before it came out. When the note ‘sa’ synchronises with the pitch, my identity simply vanishes. Then there is no question of “I composed it.” It just comes!” Mr. Ilaiyaraja also speaks about Ramana Maharishi, whom he has been reading and thinking about. He has also made some compositions on the subject.
“Some are complicated venbaas. I don’t know how, but the lyrics just happen,” he says signing off with a recently-composed song, playing his dear harmonium.