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Monday, June 21, 2021

Happy Birthday Ilaiyaraaja: When the genius composer spoke about picking old tunes for new songs

Ilaiyaraaja had revealed that Kamal cited Haasan the example of Naan Paarthathilae from MGR's 1966 film Anbe Vaa while explaining his expectations for a musical sequence in Apoorva Sagodharargal.

By: Entertainment Desk | Bengaluru |
June 2, 2021 8:14:48 am
Ilaiyaraaja is celebrating his 78th birthday today. (Photo: Facebook/ Ilaiyaraaja)

Music legend Ilaiyaraaja is celebrating his 78th birthday on Wednesday. In a decorated career spanning more than four decades, Ilaiyaraaja had composed numerous songs. And you would have read numerous articles analyzing and dissecting his music notes. However, did you know Ilaiyaraaja was a postmodernist? He believes that nothing is new in art, which is the bedrock of an artistic system of thought known as postmodernism.

Ilaiyaraaja has churned out thousands of songs and the last thing you would ever imagine is he lifts from the songs of other composers. Many years ago, while performing one of the live shows, late singing legend SP Balasubrahmanyam asked Ilaiyaraaja to share his experience of filmmakers giving him reference of past songs and asking him to deliver similar tunes. “It will happen in the career of every music composer,” Ilaiyaraaja said.

He further explained, “Kamal Haasan, while making Apoorva Sagodharargal, gave me a situation and I composed a tune for that. But, he was not satisfied with it. He told me that the tune is good but it was not what he was expecting. And he then gave me an example of an old song. And based on that I composed the song called Puthu Maappillaikku. I went ahead and recorded the song even before showing it to Kamal. And when he heard it, he appreciated the song.”

Apoorva Sagodharargal came out in 1989, starring Kamal Haasan in a double role. And Puthu Maappillaikku song pops up in the film when Kamal’s dwarf character falls in love with a girl. “I altered very little of the original song. But, nobody could find out. Composing music is very similar to the job of a magician,” he said.

Ilaiyaraaja said that like magicians, at times, even musicians should pull a pigeon out of a mango. “We all know that humans can’t create a pigeon. But, at least for that one second, we fall for that trick. Likewise, I believe that even music is a kind of deception. And those who managed to deceive a lot became popular in this country. And I am no exception to it, including Balasubrahmanyam. Because he composes songs and he is also influenced by many composers,” he added.

Ilaiyaraaja had revealed that Kamal Haasan cited the example of Naan Paarthathilae from MGR’s 1966 film Anbe Vaa while explaining his expectations for a musical sequence in Apoorva Sagodharargal. The iconic romantic song, Naan Paarthathilae, was scored by legendary composer M. S. Viswanathan.

Mind it, Ilaiyaraaja did not take tunes of MSV and reused them as it is. He took the bits and pieces from the song that inspired him and fashioned it into something new and extraordinary by adding dollops of his ingenuity, individuality and creativity. He had an inspiration, and he worked on it to the extent that it became his own. And that is the line that separates inspiration from plagiarism, a genius from a copycat.

One can’t help but wonder what are the other classic songs of Ilaiyaraaja, which were inspired by works of other composers.

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