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Madurai gets a taste of Ilayaraja’s literary acumen

D. Karthikeyan
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WEAVING MAGIC:Maestro Ilayaraja delivering his acceptance speech at a book launch event in Madurai on Saturday.— Photo: R. Ashok
WEAVING MAGIC:Maestro Ilayaraja delivering his acceptance speech at a book launch event in Madurai on Saturday.— Photo: R. Ashok

Do you know that one of superstar Rajnikanth’s stylish solos sung with great elegance and poise by S.P.Balasubramaniam and composed by Maestro Ilayaraja was recorded in an astonishing way?

Ilayaraja had just then underwent a hernia operation and the song has to be completed immediately, he was unable to sing the track for the lead singer SPB to record the song, however, Raja known for his dedication, just by whistling the whole song recorded it in a portable tape recorder for SPB and thus came the Kadhalin Deepam Ondru Yeatrinale En Nenjil song from Thambikku Endha Ooru movie. The song SPB claimed elsewhere as the best he had sung for Rajnikanth.

The folksy title number in Malaiyur Mambattiyan Kattu Vazhi Poara Ponney Kavalapadathey was sung by Raja when he was having a severe stomach pain, all these minutiae and much more about the maestro were shared by speakers during Saturday evening’s book release function. Ilayaraja’s reminiscences about his early days Paal Nila Paadhai and his poetry collection, Enakku Edhuvo Unakkum Adhuve , these two books published by Kumudham was launched in Madurai.

The evening turned out to be a spectacular one as the audience were exposed to yet another facet of the musical genius and this time it was his literary acumen. Encomiums were showered upon by prominent Tamil scholars and lyricists on Ilayaraja’s wisdom in literature interlaced with facts about his musical wizardry.

Between the black and white keys of Ilayaraja’s harmonium, scores of Tamils across the world have spent their nights and days awe inspired and feeling that all their emotions in life have been put into musical forms, said lyricist Palani Bharathi.

He was the one who proved that a sceptre is not needed to rule the people’s hearts and a flute is enough to do that. “All that Raja Sir takes is, half-an-hour for writing notes, ten minutes to write lyrics and a mere five minutes to write a Venba ( four metres of Tamil Prosody)”, remembered Palani Bharathi in his endorsement speech.

Popular Debater K.Gnanasambandan, in his speech said that wherever Tamils live across the world you cannot escape from Ilayaraja as his songs could be heard all day 24X7 in one form of the media or the other.

Lyricist Muthulingam who had penned close to 500 songs for Ilayaraja said that he had never seen another music composer who possesses such profundity in Tamil language, literature and grammar. This exemplifies and deconstructs the norm that an expert in music will not possess such insight in literature and vice versa.

A lot of films which had no strength in its content just because of Raja’s music ran houseful for days together. Muthulingam asked the audience to read Ilayaraja’s Venba Ennum Maalai book to know about his literary skills.

Tamil Professor at Pachaiyappa’s College, K.Gnanasundaram in his speech stated that Ilayaraja is not only a Gaana Paravai but also a Gnana Paravai , he has been giving meaning to his real name Gnanadesikan in his old age with such literary contributions.

Poet Sirpi Balasubramanian gave his endorsement by reciting a poem in praise of the music maestro touching upon his literary and musical genius. Quoting a poem of Khalil Gibran which talks about the strength of silence, Sirpi attributed Ilayaraja’s success to his humility.

Tamil Scholar, P.Namachivayam, called Ilayaraja as the greatest pride of south Tamil Nadu and particularly of Madurai. In what was a speech interspersed with a great sense of humour, Mr.Namachivayam said that, Ilayaraja during the time of acute poverty in his early life worked as a construction worker during the construction of Vaigai dam. He called upon the poets here to come out with a literary creation titled Isaignani Maalai .

Tamil Orator, Nellai Kannan started his speech with a highly critical tone on the encomiums showered stating that flattery has seen the downfall of great men and lest we stop that here. “Ilayaraja is an unbending character in a better sense, otherwise could you imagine, when matinee idol and Tamil Nadu’s former Chief Minister the late M.G.Ramachandran presented him with a golden ring he refused it to take from him stating he never wears gold.” How many persons would have yearned to get a ring from MGR, but here is a guy who refused it.

Ilayaraja was a one man force who challenged the infatuation for Hindi songs and brought back the Tamil audience within his fold. Mr.Kannan criticized the state government which had over the years failed to recognize and give him his due.

Ilayaraja answered a few questions from the audience, for a question on his advice to youngsters; he quickly responded that let the youth be guided by intelligence, and for a question on lyricist Panchu Arunachalam who introduced him in Annakili, Ilaiyaraja recalled that during the mid 70s when we were struggling for chances, we got an opportunity to show case our talent when a group of directors like S. P. Muthuraman, V. C. Guganathan, Devaraj Mohan assembled in a marriage hall in Chennai and with a full orchestra we played tunes and songs to them, they all heard, appreciated the songs and music and left without saying anything. But after a few days when we met Panchu Arunachalam in his house, he said that I am making films with only comedy as a central subject but anyway lets see if we could produce a film, he then asked us to sing, just by using the table for beats with no instrument we sang songs, he was impressed and identified us and thus gave a chance in Annakili.

Then later in an interview when reporters asked Panchu Arunachalam about how he identified Raja’s talent, he humbly said that it was not me who identified his talent, if not me he would have been identified by someone, he had the capacity to come on his own. While answering a question from audience on director Fazil, Illayaraja said, he (Fazil) waited for my music for his debut film Poove Poochudava for a year.

Ilayaraja said that he never had any formal education and he just penned his experiences. Instead of giving an acceptance speech, he in his inimitable style sang a highly philosophical song critiquing the craving for fame which made the audience emotional.

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