#Ilayaraja75 – His lesser-known songs for Tamil heroes

Posted on February 2, 2019


Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/southern-lights-illaiyaraaja-ilaiyaraaja-75-his-lesser-known-songs-for-tamil-heroes/

If you take Rajinikanth films, you’ve probably heard the ‘Guru Sishyan’ numbers, or the ones from ‘Veera’. But ‘Sodi kili enge’? Read on.

I wanted to write something to commemorate the Ilayaraja 75 concert, but I kept getting stuck. Given that an orchestra from Hungary will be playing, should I make a list of my favourite non-vocal parts (i.e., the preludes and interludes) from his songs? Should I make it even more personal, recalling how I used to record his songs on cassettes in five-year groups (because the ‘76-‘81 songs sound different from the ‘81-‘86 songs, and so on)? I thought about listing some of the popular songs that don’t work for me (like Vandhaal vandhaal rajakumari) and yet I admire at various levels, but that was negative-sounding and hardly celebratory.

And then, the recent Sid Sriram interview gave me the idea. He’s an entire generation removed from me, and when I asked him to talk about Ilayaraja’s music, he picked Kanne kalaimaane and Thenpaandi cheemayile. It’s fantastic music, of course – but it felt a little like remembering Beethoven only through the Fifth Symphony or The Police only through Every breath you take. It’s a bit of a paradox. The reason these songs/compositions spring instantly to mind is because they are so legendary, so defining, so popular – and yet, they “restrict” the perception of an artist (or a band), when the work contains so much more than just these Greatest Hits.

Take Kann Sivanthaal Mann Sivakkum. Everyone knows the fire-spewing anthem, Manidha manidha – but what about the gentler Vandhaale alli poo? (See clip below.) I don’t know if this is true for some of you, but the songs that are too familiar, the ones that you’ve heard some 5000 times, they are lodged in your mind in their entirety. Manidha manidha was such a hit during my schooldays, it was played so often that I sometimes feel I don’t need to actually listen to it anymore. I know its every bend, every nook and corner. And sometimes, you need to stay off a song – so that the listening gap makes it sound even better when you return to it. But the (relative) lack of exposure of something like Vandhaale alli poo, still allows for little surprises and discoveries.

Continued at the link above.

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