Ace filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s 25th film, Kaatru Veliyidai, which was released earlier this year, marked the 25 years of professional association between Mani Ratnam and Academy Award-winner AR Rahman. But, on the flip side, it also marked Ratnam’s over two decades of professional separation from maestro Ilaiyaraaja.
Ratnam celebrated his 62nd birthday and Ilaiyaraaja turned 74 on Friday. While Ratnam is a genius writer and director, Ilaiyaraaja’s genius lies in producing timeless music. Ilaiyaraaja was Ratnam’s favourite music composer to work with at one point of time in his career. Starting from his debut film Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983), until Thalapathi (1991), Ratnam had worked with Ilaiyaraaja in about 11 films for over a decade. It was the golden period of Tamil cinema.
But, something happened between them and they both stopped collaborating with each other. Ratnam approached Rahman for his film Roja (1992) and he hasn’t worked with any other music composer since. The reason behind their fallout remains unclear as both Ratnam and Ilaiyaraaja have maintained silence as to why they stopped working with each other. We may never know. But, together they have delivered enough musical blockbusters which will be cherished by South Indian film fans for forever.
Mani Ratnam’s gangster drama was released in 1987 and he is the only Indian filmmaker till date who had managed to create an experience that was so close to Hollywood’s Godfather on the Indian celluloid. 25 years after it was released, the film was selected as one of Time magazine’s 100 greatest films of all time. And Ilaiyaraaja had a major contribution in creating that experience with his unforgettable tunes. Who can forget the classic, Thenpaandi Cheemayile? Or how his background score that enlarged Ratnam’s screenplay and Kamal Haasan’s acting, in the scene where Velu Naicker is told about the death of his son.
Ratnam was arguably the last director who explored the actor in superstar Rajinikanth after K Balachander. While directors in Tamil cinema made careers by exploiting the Thalaivar’s stardom to its hilt, Ratnam chose to make a memorable film that reintroduced Rajinikanth, the actor, to the audience. Ilaiyaraaja’s music added layers to the performances of the actors in the film. Be it the romance or the emotional scenes, without Ilaiyaraaja’s tunes, Thalapathi would not have been the same.
Kids who grew up in the 1990s will never forget this summer blockbuster, Anjali. The film was Ilaiyaraaja’s 500th film and was selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars in 1991. The film was a musical hit too. The title track, Anjali Anjali, was children’s anthem of sorts back then.
The 1988 film was about the conflict between two half-brothers whose enmity stems from their bitterness at their father and hatred for each other. The blockbuster Raaja Raajathi number was a tribute of sorts to Ilaiyaraaja from Ilaiyaraaja himself. The romantic numbers Oru Poonga Vanam and Thoongatha Vizhigal should be on your playlist.
Ratnam has always written every powerful and coming-of-age movie in Tamil cinema with strong female characters. This 1986 romantic drama is one of the examples. The leading female played by Revathy is a rebel and who makes no secret about her past relationship with her newly wedded husband. The film also shows Ratman was way ahead of his contemporaries when it comes to portraying sensible onscreen romance and giving equal importance to the woman in a relationship. Ilaiyaraaja would have captured the whole emotion of the film in Nilavae Vaa song.
Which one is your favourite?