Ilayaraja talks about performing live for ‘Dhoni', his choice of films and why he doesn't follow trends. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo tunes in
It isn't often that Ilayaraja performs live to launch an audio of a film he has composed for. His ardent music lovers were pleasantly surprised when Ilayaraja launched the audio of Tamil-Telugu bilingual Dhoni with a live orchestra in Chennai recently.
In Hyderabad for the launch of the Telugu album of Dhoni, the maestro spoke to us in an exclusive interview and asks us with a smile, “A lot of people have been asking me why I performed live to launch the album. Did I do something wrong?” Time constraints prevented him from doing a similar feat for the launch of the Telugu album, but he did take time off to grace the audio launch, understanding the need to be part of the film's promotion. But beyond the demands of promotion and marketing, Ilayaraja made an exception for Prakash Raj, who makes his directorial debut with Dhoni.
There have been requests in the past to perform live for movies, Ilayaraja discloses. “But I don't accept each invitation. I saw the interest Prakash Raj showed towards the compositions. He is also a huge fan of live orchestra. His passion towards live music made me accept the offer,” says the composer.
When Ilayaraja accepts a film, he is more than just a composer. Actor Prakash chips in with lively anecdotes on how the maestro guided him and nudged him when he noticed flaws one tends to make as an indulgent filmmaker. “If you see a scene before the re-recording happened and then the final result, the transformation is evident,” says the actor.
Ilayaraja explains, “When I look back at the first few films I worked for, I notice how I had fallen short in re-recording. It is easy, as a composer, to go with the flow and do what everyone is doing. For instance, the climax or a crucial scene in a hospital are associated with loud music. At times, silence works powerfully than loud notes. Along the way, I learnt how to make my re-recording different from that of the others.”
In the recent months, we've been treated to soul-stirring compositions for Sri Ramarajyam. And post Dhoni, Ilayaraja will also be working on Gundello Godari and Gautam Menon's next, Neethane En Ponvasantham. Thirty six years after composing for his first film Annakili, Ilayaraja emphasises that he believes in melody and doesn't go by commercial diktats of what works and what doesn't. His decision to accept a film lies with the story and the makers. “There are no hard and fast rules. At that moment, if I like the concept of the film, I take it up,” he says. But there are occasions when he has hesitated to take up a film. One of the recent Tamil films he has worked for, Sengathu Bhoomiyile, falls in this category. “The director (A.M. Ratnakumar) came to me with a story steeped in violence. The youngster looks up to me like his father. So I chided him during the discussion stage and during the stage of composition and asked him not to make a movie that glorifies blood and gore. Somewhere down the line, he paid heed to my words and introspected. In the final cut, he toned down the violence and the film conveys a strong message against resorting to violence,” says Ilayaraja.
The 80s and 90s were considered the golden era of music in south India. Ilayaraja ruled with his melodies. Ask him if melody has taken a backseat now and he questions us, “Has it? It is for people to decide.”
He prefers not to talk much about film music of today and says, “I haven't listened to many of the latest compositions.” He warms up to talking about his daughter Bhavatharani, sons Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja. “My children did not learn music from me. Neither do they ask for my suggestions nor do I try to mentor them. I am happy they are doing good work. As a father, I love my children and naturally I appreciate their work.”