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Pride of Tamils

Like all in the audience, R.KRISHNAMOORTHY returns spellbound experiencing Illayaraja's musical prowess.


THE JAM-PACKED Rasika Ranjana Sabha auditorium last Sunday meant something special was on. Three hours of felicitations by literary personalities in an air of perceptible silence.

The audience waiting with bated breath for the man of the moment.

And there he was with his acceptance speech -- the music maestro, Illayaraja.

He was actually there to reflect on his string of literary works: Venba Nanmalai, Gnanaganga, Paalnila Paathai, Vetta Velithanil Kottikidakkuthu, Sangeetha Kanavugal, Vazhithunai, Illayarajavin Sinthanaigal, and Thuilikkadal.

Literary personalities, including 'Perumpulavar' P. Namasivayam, S. Sathiyaseelan, A. Arivoli, A. Jeganathan, and N. Kalaichelvi, resumed their seats after offering critical insights into the literary genius of Illayaraja.

Spontaneous remarks

And then quite unsurprisingly, the musical genius in Illayaraja took over in a jiffy. For the next 30 minutes, he kept the audience spellbound with his musical prowess.

He had with him only his base and sweet voice, which age has not withered.

Like his flowing music, Illayaraja was spontaneous in his remarks too.

One of the speakers made an interlude during the course of his speech that Illayaraja was the "pride of Tamilians."

Tamil, a culture

"But music transcends such barriers," pat came the answer from the man and he went a step ahead saying, "Tamil is a culture. Not a language."

This was when he was speaking about his work on Tiruvasagam symphony, which, he announced had been completed in New York.

"Listen to the song to the accompaniment of the music and experience the transformation happening in your inner self," he said, just stopping short of saying that it was his masterpiece. "I now feel that I was born into the world to complete this mission."

Having said so, he was quick to add that it was not his achievement, "but the direction of the master above." Aghast at the same pattern of songs in Tamil cinema, Illayaraja revealed to the audience, his passion for something new.

Right balance

Having scored music for hundreds of films and worked with almost all the directors, he said he is inclined to "work with only those who provide space for maintaining the right balance between music and lyrics."

In his words, "Songs should have words that convey meaning.

Powerful messages, which otherwise do not strike the mind, can be conveyed effectively through music."

Childhood experiences

He delightfully shared his childhood experiences with the audience. The beginning was tough.

With just an initiation into the world of music, he came as a boy to Chennai from his native village, Pannaipuram in erstwhile Madurai district, with Rs. 400 and a radio his mother had given him.

The vastness of music dawned on him when he met the then famous music director, G.K. Venkatesh, who wanted Illayaraja to play guitar. He confessed that he did not know writing 'swaras', yet, knew how to repeat the tunes.

The director gave him 11 tunes and after seeing his ability was more than convinced.

The rest is history.

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