The musical prowess of Ilaiyaraja is well known. While reading this collection of poems penned by him, I realised that his poetry too is of a very high order. I can say this having read all his works, both poetry and prose.

Experiences make a man. Ilaiyaraja’s poems reflect his mindset which is constantly searching for the truth. In the poem, ‘Ondrumillaar Mattum Kovilukkul Chellalam...’ (page 65), he uses only four lines to describe God -- for Him all are one. In the next page, he declares his realisation of life after getting to know Ramana Maharishi with yet another four liner – ‘Yaridamum Edaiyum Yaasikkaadhu...’.

An eight-line poem on Charanagathi is the highlight here, particularly the ending ‘Naan Thotraen - Endru Unnidam Charanagathi adaivadhaiya Nee virumbugirai.’(page 128)

Ilaiyaraja’s style is deceptively simple, for a cursory reading will never reveal the poet’s thought process. Pondering over each line again and again might help the reader in his search for Truth.

Paal Nilaa Paadhai: This book showcases Ilaiyaraja, the man who always speaks his mind. But the philosopher in him rules his writing as is evident from the titles of many chapters – ‘Maanavan Guruvaagalaam - Guru Maanavanaaga Mudiyaadhu’ and ‘Buddhimadhi — Buddhiyum Madhiyum Onrudhaan,’ to name a couple.

Adding value is a brilliant line-drawing of the composer by actor-painter Sivakumar. The forewords by Bharathirajaa and Kamal Hassan are impressive, compelling you to travel further. Rare photographs featuring Raja with people from the film fraternity and the Western Music world offer a visual treat.

This book, which is the compilation of a series published in the Tamil weekly, Kumudam, has interesting anecdotes. His admiration for pioneers in the Indian film music field is expressed in a chapter where he talks about music directors such as Hasanlal Bhagathram, Hemchandraprakash, C. Ramachandra and Naushad.

His guru Dhanraj Master’s dislike for film music and annoyance at Raja joining the film industry are revealed. Also, how Raja cleared the 8th Grade Theory and Practical Music Exam on his own without any help only shows how determined this man was in achieving the goals he set for himself. A person who never compromises on his principles, he even shocked MGR during the awards ceremony of the film, ‘Mundhanai Mudichchu,’ where he refused to take the gift - a gold ring. An angry MGR pushed it into Raja’s hand, who promptly returned the gift to the producers the following day.

Raja’s confrontation with MGR’s secretary when he could not get his dates for presiding over the fund-raising concerts for the Srirangam Rajagopuram, is another case in point. MGR, however, never harboured any ill-feelings and in fact, lit the lamp at the grihapravesam of Raja’s new house.

The chapter, ‘Blowing My Own Trumpet,’ details how the conductor of the Budapest Orchestra, Lazlo, admired Raja’s ability to write music, his approach and his demeanour when he was there to record music for Kamal Hassan’s ‘Hey Ram.’

“What we recorded in those five days is really Hollywood standard of music,” Lazlo’s words sum it all up.

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