Born On: June 2, 1943 Born In: Theni district, Tamil Nadu Nationality: Indian Career: Music Director
Ilayaraja is a veteran music director of South Indian film industry. The music maestro has composed over 4000 songs and worked in over 800 films, in a career spanning over three decades. He is accredited with setting a trend for film music in South India, by introducing Western musical nuances into songs. Apart from Tamil, he has also worked in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi films as a music director. The musician has been awarded the title of Isaignani ('savant of music'). BRIEF HISTORY
Ilaiyaraaja was born on June 2, 1943 in a poor family living in a small village “Pannaipuram”, located in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, India. He was originally named Gnanadesikan by his father Ramaswamy and mother Chinnathayammal. Ilaiyaraaja spent his childhood in the rural area of Pannaipuram, which sowed the seeds of music in him. He was well acquainted with the range of Tamil folk music prevalent in the place. CHILDHOOD:
At the age of 14, Ilaiyaraaja joined the musical troupe owned by his elder step-brother, Pavalar Varadarajan, and was associated with it for the next ten years. Ilayaraja composed his first song - an elegy written by veteran Tamil poet Kannadasan - when he was still working with the troupe. In 1968, Ilayaraja collaborated with Professor Dhanraj to start a music course in Madras. The course concentrated at the overview of Western classical music, study of techniques related to composition of music and instrumental performance. After specializing in classical guitar, Ilayaraja went on to pursue a course in the same, at the Trinity College of Music, London. EARLY LIFE:
Ilayaraja worked with a band-for-hire in Chennai, as a guitarist in the 1970s. Thereafter, he worked as a session guitarist, keyboardist and conducted the orchestra for renowned film music directors, including Salil Chowdhury. Later on, Ilayaraja worked as an assistant to Kannada music director G K Venkatesh, with whom he worked on around 200 films. While working with him, Ilayaraja penned his own music compositions as well. He listened to his own compositions by asking the session musicians to play excerpts from his scores. In the meantime, he also hired instruments from R K Shekhar (AR Rahman’s father), who later on joined the orchestra as its keyboardist.
As An Instrumentalist
As A Music Director Ilayaraja made an entry into film music direction in 1976, by composing the songs and background score for the Tamil film “Annakkili”. His music reached wide across the Tamil audience. He used the technique of the modern film music orchestration to breathe life into the Tamil poetry written by the lyricists. Folk song melodies composed by Ilayaraja became a big hit amongst the music lovers soon. The songs of his films, including “Pathinaru Vayathinile” (1977), “Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri” (1977) and “Annai Oru Aalayam” (1979), were amongst the super hits during the initial years of his career as a music director.
Contd………., During the mid 1980s, Ilaiyaraaja composed film songs that proved to be the evergreen hits of the period. The songs composed by Ilaiyaraaja in “Moondram Pirai” (1982), “Payanangal Mudivathillai” (1982), “Munthanai Mudichu” (1984), “Sagara Sangamam” (1983), “Nallavanukku Nallavan” (1984), “Muthal Mariyathai” (1985), “Padikkathavan” (1985), “Sindhu Bhairavi” (1986), “Mouna Ragam” (1986), “Punnagai Mannan” (1986), “Nayakan” (1987), “Apoorva Sahodarargal” (1989) and “Rudra Veenai” (1989) are still fresh in the minds of music lovers. Slowly, he started gaining repute amongst the topmost music composers of South Indian film industry.
Contd………., The early 1990s fetched same accolade for Ilayaraja. Some of his best works in the 1990s include “Anjali” (1990), “Thalapathi” (1991), “Michael Madana Kamarajan” (1991), “Guna” (1992), “Thevar Magan” (1992), “Magalir Mattum” (1994), “Sirai Chaalai” (1996) and “Sethu” (1999). With the advent of the new millennium, although Ilayaraja reduced his countless number of movies in a year to a handful, the magic in his songs continued. Apart from showing his dexterity as a composer in Tamil films, Ilayaraja also composed the music for several Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and a few Hindi films as well.
Ilayaraja is married to Jeeva and has two sons and a daughter. His sons, Karthik Raaja and Yuvan Shankar Raaja are regarded as two of the best music directors of the present generation. His daughter, Bhavathaarini, is a playback singer. Ilayaraja’s brother - Gangai Amaran - is a renowned director-lyricist and music composer. PERSONAL LIFE:
National Film Award for Best Music Direction : “Saagara Sangamam” (1984), “Sindhu Bhairavi” (1986) and “Rudraveena” (1989) Gold Remi Award for Best Music Score : “Vishwa Thulasi” (2005) Kalaimamani Award from the Government of the State of Tamil Nadu, India State Government Award from Government of Kerala in 1995 Madhya Pradesh State Award in 1998 NTR National Award in 2004 AWARDS: