For many of us reading through this, the faint tickle of an Ilayaraja in the mind is generally beyond the mellifluous musical out pours that initiated in the late 1970’s. It’s a part of us, something we have carried all along, from our carefree childhood to our restless musings as an adult.
They’ve been there to offer crisp company to the family while sipping a cup of warm tea in the evenings, tuning to the FM stations, also when we went past our teenage-love, experienced hope, friendship, betrayal and needed solace in the process and they didn’t disappoint the ones just needing that bit of energy to spring up a dull day either.
Every phase in life, we carry a song along and for a major chunk of our generation, Ilayaraja has taken the honours with a handful of them to tag along the lines. Here, on his 73rd birthday, we celebrate his legacy over the years.
The one to make music more reachable to crowds
Most of his songs, ranging from his first straight Telugu album, Vayasu Pilichindi to an Ulavacharu Biryani or an Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu in the recent times, they continue to be a medium for the common man to identify with. Beneath all the intricacies and the depths of his sound, they possess a lullaby-like flavour, bearing a rare mix of melody, oomph and classical touches to the way they proceed, aided by simpleton lyrics with the instrument not dominating but complementing the singers’ voices.
Moving on from Ghantasala and Suseela to S P Balasubramanyam and Janaki
Ghantasala’s shocking exit from the musical scene could have been a void that the Telugu film industry never recovered from, but for the collaborations of S P Balasubramanyam, Janaki and the maestro in the subsequent years. When you hear a Sirimalle Puvva from Padaharella Vayasu or a Jilibili Palukula O Maina or even a child-like Chukkalanti Ammayi from Abhinandana, you know that the industry just earned its worthy successor to the Pendyala’s and the S. Rajeswar Rao’s. Their musical geniuses with Suseela, Leela can’t be ignored either, but you even can’t deny the fact that he’s the one to make an era take the next and the right step alongside a K V Mahadevan.
Springing with consistency all along
Considering the knowhow of Ilayaraja in terms of music, although it has been no surprising that he churned out albums one after other with an amazing sense of spontaneity in his 80’s highs, the consistency in terms of the quality is an aspect that continues to amaze music enthusiasts. Working with the likes of Bapu, Mani Ratnam, Vamsi, K Vishwanath, K Raghavendra Rao, Dasari and Bharatiraja in their career-peaks, there have been albums those have been ‘less-understood’ but hardly did any of them dare to touch even the doorsteps of mediocrity. Full of variety but barely anything formulaic or lazy about the efforts put in.
Staying in-tune with the times
There was little suspicion in the fact of Roja marking a generation change from Ilayaraja as a benchmark to A R Rahman as somone to look forward to. But, surprisingly, the man has still continued to be a force and in the subsequent two-decades post the 90’s phase, he has worked with prominent makers including Ramgopal Verma, R Balki, Kamal Haasan, Bala, Gautham Menon, Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao and Prakash Raj.
Another factor that pushes him towards the legendary front is the presence of his trademark in spite of the change in times. The modernity is present, but the wave of nostalgic connect when you hear a Koti Koti Tarallona still warms the ear like no other.
Some of his best works over the years in Telugu include:
• Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari
• Seethakoka Chiluka
• Sri Rama Rajyam
• Swathi Muthyam
Of his works with Mani Ratnam, with whom he shares his birthday today, it’s fitting that we include their best collaborations here too :
• Mouna Ragam