Monday, 28 March 2016

1000 & counting- A Fan's perspective on Ilaiyaraaja and the impact of his music- Part 2

In the previous blog post, we got Chandra Sekar who expressed his views and opinions on the style of Ilaiyaraaja's music and how he still co-exists amidst the other music directors present currently despite being in the industry for 40 years.

I write this after reading the news that the maestro has won a National Award for the best  background score for his 1000'th album 'Thara Thapattai'.  Although I am yet to watch the movie, people who have seen it can vouch for the outstanding level & the impact the background score was in this movie.

To celebrate and honor the legends  accomplishments , there was a big event aptly titled 'Ilaiyaraaja Aayiram' where many of  the actors, actresses, technicians, musicians, singers & directors who have got the privilege to work with this maestro shared their experiences and anecdotes associated with his compositions and how mesmerized and spellbound   they still are of Raaja's songs and background scores.

In this blog post we will get to know what the music of Ilaiyaraaja means to Chandra Sekar personally  and how it has impacted his life and shaped up his musical sensibilities. It's the love, admiration and sheer respect of fans such as these  which drives these music directors to strive harder & compose even better tunes which will please them.

When a private television channel organized an event in Chennai recently, to felicitate him on his 1000 films, I ensured I was there to thank the Maestro for all that he has given me, that will take an entire lifetime to comprehend.  

The bigger picture is that this man has survived the big bad world of cinema for four decades and still going strong. In hindsight, it is our misfortune that a world class composer has spent most of his time in the film industry composing for ‘situations’.

As a music lover I would love to see a lot more free flowing non-film work which is not bound by the constraints of films, a thought that crosses my mind whenever I listen to one of those magnificent interludes. Like this one, from the recent Telugu chart buster album ‘Abbayitho Ammayi.

Checkout the 2nd interlude (from 3:20) and the arrangements in this song in general.

Another significant reason for his longevity is his ability to transform ordinary scenes and films to a higher plane with his background scores, something I have heard almost every director who has worked with him say. His background scores are a subject of research by themselves for any music aficionado.

It is no understatement to say that he was the pioneer in re-recording (background scores) in Indian films. Maniratnam once said that, Raaja would see the scene (from the movie for which the background score is being done) once and immediately start writing music and when executed it will fit exactly to the length of the scene with all the right cues in place. This 5 minute video from 1986 is a marvel that not many would have seen and helps us visualize what Maniratnam says.

Quite fittingly, the first national award for ‘best background score’ was awarded to him for the colossal score of ‘Pazhassi Raja’. He is possibly the only composer whose leitmotifs are immediately associated with films and its characters.

There are innumerable such pieces that are etched in the memories of film buffs in this part of the world. Here is an analysis on one of his background music pieces in the film Nayagan, presented as a lec-dem (mostly in English with a little Tamil in between) by acclaimed composer Ramesh Vinayakam . You will see here how Raaja tells a story with his music.

You will also see that  Raaja’s flautist Napoleon Selvaraj, says  that Raaja hardly leaves any work for the director and sound engineer in terms of volume adjustments etc., and everything is taken care of in the written score itself.

Not many outside Tamil Nadu know that he is an accomplished writer as well. Apart from writing several songs, he is also known for coining the first lines (Pallavi in musical parlance) for many a popular song as part of the tune composing itself.

He has also authored a few books narrating his experiences in the musical and spiritual worlds that he travels parallely in. He is also an avid photographer. An exhibition of photos that he canned were exhibited a couple of years back in Chennai.

I consider myself fortunate to be living during the times of one of the greatest composers this country has ever seen. The fortune increased manifold when I got an opportunity to meet him at his studio in 2014 and he was kind enough to shower his blessings on us.

More importantly, I had wanted his blessings for my son and I will tell my son a picture story one day that he was blessed by the great man. I had carried a portrait of his that I had done a few years back and he autographed it for me, something that will be a prized possession for the rest of my life. The ‘summer of ‘14’ will always remain special!

Well for a legend to have composed music for so long, to have the same amount of awe, respect and recognition for his work is marvelous. It will definitely be tough to completely comprehend the impact of  his music on Chandra or for that matter any fan or music lover who has been touched by his  songs or background scores.

 I indeed consider myself lucky that I could bring out the gratitude , respect, admiration Chandra Sekar has for his idol 'Ilaiyaraaja' through this two part series.
As he said to me before we went about with our collaboration that he wanted to put down in words what the music of Ilaiyaraaja means to him. I am glad he could use my blog as an outlet to express his gratitude to the maestro.

I am sure everyone would have at some point of time in your lives have got touched by the music of this living legend and continue to do so. These two blog posts is a small but fitting tribute to the man people fondly call as 'Isaignani' on his astounding achievement!

I dedicate the last two blog posts to all of the fans of 'Ilaiyaraaja' and also to all music lovers around the world who know to appreciate and enjoy good music.

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