Ilaiyaraaja’s tech-savvy drummer, R. Purusothaman, dies

Mr. Purusothaman, who died in Chennai on Tuesday, was 70 and is survived by two sons

Updated - May 19, 2020 03:55 pm IST

Published - May 19, 2020 03:30 pm IST - CHENNAI

R. Purusothaman, the drummer and conductor of maestro Ilayaraja

R. Purusothaman, the drummer and conductor of maestro Ilayaraja

R. Purusothaman, the drummer and conductor of maestro Ilayaraja, died here on Tuesday. “He died of blood cancer,” said his elder brother and guitarist R. Chandrasekar. He was 70 and is survived by two sons.

Purusothaman, Purus as he was known in the film world, and Mr. Chandrasekar, started working for Ilayaraja from the maestro’s first film Annakili . Chandrasekar played for the song, Ilaya Nila Pozhigirathey in the film Payanangal Mudivathillai .

“We worked with music directors Divakar, K.V. Mahadevan, M.S. Viswanthan and Sankar-Ganesh, before joining Ilayaraja,” said Mr. Chandrasekar.

Natives of Mannargudi, Purusothaman and Chandrasekar, came to Chennai when their father Ranganathan, an electronic engineer shifted business to the city. “We are self-taught musicians. Purusothaman would always be seen playing a beat on a bench or table,” recalled Mr. Chandrasekar, an engineering graduate who introduced computers to South Indian film music. Purusothaman studied Mathematics at Vivekananda College.

In an interview, Purusothaman had said his association with Ilayaraja begun even before Annakili while they worked for other music directors like G.K. Venkatesh and Govardhan Master. The songs of the film Varaprasadam exhibited their talents even though Govardhan Master was the music director.

The arrival of Annakili proved to the world that here was a team of great musicians, who excelled in their chosen instruments. Purosothaman also appeared in a role playing the drums for the song, Madai Thiranthu Thavum Nathi Alay , in the film Nizhalgal .

Purosothaman used to be seen conducting the orchestra in all programmes of Ilayaraja, but kept away from them for the last few years because of ill health.

“He was a celebrated percussionist and was a pioneer when it came to rhythm-machine in Tamil film world. You have to feed the rhythm into the machine and one could see his brilliance in the song, Raja Rajathi Rajan Intha Raja . He was tech-savvy and always updated his knowledge of modern technology, adapting it for our cinema. He worked together with Ilayaraja in his innovations,” said cello player V. Sekar, who has worked with Purusothaman since 1977.

“Whether it was the drum pad or sampler or roto drum, he was a guru to other percussionists. Above all he was a great human being,” Mr Sekar said.

Mr. Chandrasekar said Purusothaman’s talent could be explained by the fact that he remained a conductor for Ilayaraja for many years even as he was performing his role as a drummer. “Ilayaraja is a perfectionist and it is not easy to satisfy him. Purusothaman always measured up to his expectation,” he said.

Ilayaraja, once, after asking his musicians to play a few preludes during a performance, introduced Purusothaman to the audience and said, “It is Puru who is bringing together everyone.”

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