Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ilaiyaraaja and I

By a strange coincidence the Maestro and my father were both born the same year. The coincidence does not stop there – the same year that I was born, Ilaiyaraaja made his debut in Tamil cinema! One does not need these coincidences to feel a deep connection with the compositions of this genius. Ilaiyaraaja has the capability to enrich one's life not by enslaving you to his great work, but by opening the doors to a whole wide range of music.

When I was a child I was under the mistaken impression that all “new songs” were “bad”. That impression was because my parents would listen only to Thyagaraja Bhagavadhar, Seerkazhi Govindarajan, and other songs of yesteryears. Although I developed a taste for those classics (albeit reluctantly), I could not deny the immense pleasure I derived from the compositions of Isaignani. At that time I did not even know that there was such a composer named Ilaiyaraaja. I would just hear his songs wafting from the radios in the neighboring houses and I would sit listening to them mesmerized by the depth of feeling and melody in the tune.

As I got older and started asserting my independent taste in music, I started collecting Echo cassette compilations. Nothing was dearer to me than those pink cassettes stacked up on my shelf. I would play them for hours on end. I would lie on the couch and arrange the speakers on either side of my head and listen to the intricacies of the doyen’s compositions. Invariably I stumbled upon “How to name it?” and “Nothing but Wind” – the albums that widened my horizon to appreciate the beauty of classical music. Through these albums I understood why Ilaiyaraaja welcomes Thyagaraja, loves Mozart and has his talk with Bach….and a whole new fascination with classical music began. This is what I mean by Ilaiyaraaja opening the doors to a wide range of music. In my opinion, a good composer should whet your appetite for great music – I am greatly indebted to Ilaiyaraaja for doing just that for me and probably millions of his fans.


I had always wanted to see Ilaiyaraaja in person. Imagine my surprise and great joy when a contact I got through a friend told me that I could do that when Raja comes to felicitate MSV and Ramamurthy at Kamarajar arangam in Chennai! It has been my dream to paint some portraits of Raja and I was not going to pass up this opportunity to shoot my own reference photos of the maestro. I promptly bought tickets to the function. I was fortunate enough to take several close-up photographs of the composer. I have used two of those for the sketches displayed here. I am not going to go into details of the function, suffice it to say that it was one heady experience for me to see him, hear him speak and break into a short spontaneous song.

During the recent live concert in Chennai, when the M.C praised Ilaiyaraaja to the skies, in all modesty the composer had replied, “.....apdi ellaam onnum illa, isai kadalil alai pola, alaiyil nurai pola, nuraiyil thuzhi pola, vandhuttu pora thuzhi naan” (.......nothing like that, I am just a speck of dust afloat the froth on a wave in the ocean of Music). That may be true according to him, but that speck is what enhances the beauty of the mighty ocean for me.

25 comments:

Balaji S Rajan said...

Arvindh,
You have sketched excellently portraits of the maestro. What a coincidence ! Even today, I hear his song in the same way as you have mentioned. Those days it was Echo tapes and now that CD's have come, I make it a point to buy all his collection when I visit India. I have a friend here in UK, who has a good knowledge of music, and since his favourite is also the Maestro, we have a very good conversation sometimes talking about his music. I listen to the great, very often. A good write up. I liked both the sketches.

CRV said...

Arvindh,
Nice post. I also share my wedding day with Maestro's birthday, which makes me always proud. Do write more about his music.

Suji said...

Wonderful sketches and wonderful post. Its always a pleasure to read ur posts. Keep posting. Unfortunately, I don't have much knowledge about Illayaraja's music. :(

Dr J Vijay Venkatraman said...

Dear Arvindh,

When I read through your childhood experience, it was like I went down my memory lane! Yes, it was the same that I felt at that time too. I guess it would be the same for any typical fan of Ilaiyaraaja.

Needless to say, your portraits are exceptional - not only because of your skill but also due to the extent to which the Maestro has dissolved you in His music! Carry on with your good work. Keep posting here and also in 'Ilaiyaraaja' Yahoo group!

Yours Always Musically,
Dr J Vijay Venkatraman.


Founder & Moderator, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ilaiyaraaja

Have a look at my articles on http://drjvvr.blogspot.com

Did you visit http://www.tamilmm.com & http://www.tis-usa.com?

Click on www.ktvr.com & www.vijaydeepa.com for healthcare & housing in Coimbatore!

Always wear a helmet - the only ‘head weight’ that saves you!

arvindh said...

Balaji,
Thank you for the compliments! I understand how it much fun it must be to discuss Ilaiyaraaja with someone knowledgeable in the field of music.
When someone points out a technicality/nuance that you might have missed hearing in a musical work, your appreciation for the piece increases.

CRV,
It is an honour that you visited this blog. I am very impressed with all the work you do as part of the Maestromagic group you founded.
Thank you very much for your comments.

Suji,
Thank you very much. IR has composed music for several Malayalam pictures - you may want to try listening to "Kala Pani" (The name popped into my head at random - phenomenal music without doubt).

Vijay,
It is an honour that you visited this blog. You have done a great service by bringing together IR fans around the world through your yahoogroup.
Thank you very much for your encouraging words.

Suji said...

Yes I love all the songs of Kaala Paani. IR has also given music for the movie Guru which are wonderful too. Don't know if you have heard them.

revatechnic said...

Hi Arvindh... Gosh, first time to your blog and I am amazed with all the art work!!... very nice!

Both your sketches are fantastic.
Keep it up!
Looking forward for more...

arvindh said...

Thank you very much Revatechnic! Your blog is impressive too - good luck with your work with short films.

Alexis Leon said...

Excellent portraits to accompany a well written piece. It was very interesting to read your musical experiences. Even though, I don't understand the nuances of the music as my knowledge of classical music is very limited, I love IR songs. He is one of my favourite music composers. Sheer genius... I salute the great man.

himavant said...

hi arvindh, thanks for the comment. you have a really nice blog too. like your sketches. are you a professional artist or just for fun? sorry if i missed the info cos i haven't had thru all postings. cheers!

arvindh said...

Suji,
Yes, Guru has great music by IR. After you mentioned that I again listened to the songs and enjoyed them.
Alexis,
Thank you. Yes he is a great genius!
Himavant,
I am not a professionally trained artist. However, I am very passionate about the Arts and would love to do this full time someday.

Jo said...

Superb sketch, Aravindh!!!

Way to go buddy!

arvindh said...

Thank you jo!

bingo and betty said...

... ya your an artist! excellent drawings.

arvindh said...

Thank you very much!

Dan Read said...

It seems to me that the warmth you feel toward your subjects comes through very strongly.

arvindh said...

Dan Read,
Thank you very much for your encouraging words! I find your blog and your paintings very arresting.

Mad Guru said...

These are really nice. I love reading the stories that go with your work as well. Very heartfelt. Great to see/read the passions of a fellow artist so capable of appreciating what is around him.

arvindh said...

Thank you very much mad guru! I see that you have many sketches of people singing/singers in your blog.
Enjoyed going through your blog.

nirmala said...

Great post about u& illayaraja ,and the sketches,iam also a great fan of his ..they are my all time favorites, i dont know much about him but..luv his music ..and listen.ur blog is intresting.

arvindh said...

NIrmala,
Thank you. It is difficult not to be moved by Ilaiyaraaja!

anitha shalini said...

Hi Aravindh - Meeting Isaignani was one of my dreams too...and you cannot imagine how extremely fortunate I was. I met him with my mom at his own house 4 years back (Bhavatharini served Coffee!!). He sat 3 feet away from me and gave me 10 minutes of his time and listened to me stumbling through "Gajavadhana Karuna.." I was mostly closing my eyes while singing...at one point I sneeked a peak to gauge his reaction and I found him listening with his eyes closed...I would say that it was one of the best and worst moments of my life - best, you obviously know why - but worst because my voice box was frozen and I could not give my best during this once in a life time opportunity.

arvindh said...

I sincerely hope that you get another opportunity to show the genius your talents. Could you write in great detail about the visit to his house (maybe in a personal mail)?

Anonymous said...

HELLO ARAVINDHAN...

U HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB...
KUDOS FOR UR EFFORT OF SKETCHING OUR MASTERO-ISAYIN RAJA...

Rama said...

late arrival here

when i read your post on the maestro, it was almost like how i feel. a very good post and very nice sketches.