He composed the music for Telugu superstar Nagarjuna’s breakout movie ‘Shiva’ — a movie that was remade in many languages and set many careers rolling in multiple Indian film industries. 33 years later, Ilayaraja returns for ‘Custody’, which stars Nagarjuna’s son Naga Chaitanya in the lead.
‘Shiva’, which released in 1989, marked the directorial debut of Ram Gopal Varma, and comprised a star-studded cast, including Amala, Raghuvaran, Chakravarty and Kota Srinivasa Rao. The movie explored the themes of violence and politics on college campuses and its aspects like elevating heroism with little fuss or muted lighting ensured it was a blockbuster. It was remade in Hindi and tasted similar success. To this day, it has a special place in Telugu film history. Ilayaraja scored the songs and an effervescent background score for this epochal movie. While Varma would go on to direct hits like ‘Rangeela’, ‘Satya’ and ‘Gaayam’, Nagarjuna become an established actor, fall in love with Amala and get married to her. The flamboyant Telugu star was last seen in the Bollywood movie 'Brahmastra: Part One - Shiva'.
The importance of this movie must have weighed on Chaitanya’s mind, who tweeted that the composer’s music “took him through many journeys in life”. “.. so many times have I played out a scene in my head , pictured a script with his reference .. to now rajasir composing for #custody . Truly grateful!!,” Chaitanya, who separated from actress Samantha in 2021, wrote on twitter. It should come as no surprise, then, that Chaitanya’s character in the movie is named Shiva.
‘Custody’, a Tamil-Telugu bilingual, is directed by Venkat Prabhu, who’s directed the quirky and acclaimed hits like ‘Chennai 600028’, ‘Saroja’ and ‘Maanadu’. The movie stars Kriti Shetty as its heroine and includes veterans like Aravind Swamy, R Sarath Kumar, Priyamani, Vennela Kishore and Sampath Raj. Ilayaraja’s son Yuvan Shankar Raja is assisting his father with the music. The teaser for the movie, which predicts a police procedural thriller, dropped online last week and has raked in over 6 million views as on date.
Another highlight of the movie has to be Aravind Swamy’s role as the antagonist. Swamy, known for his lover-boy roles in yesteryear hits such as ‘Roja’ and ‘Bombay’, plays a gangster as seen in the teaser. Swamy aced the evil turn in the Tamil movie ‘Thani Oruvan’, starring Jayam Ravi and Nayanthara; and the Malayalam movie ‘Ottu’, with Kunchako Boban and Jackie Shroff in the lead.
For some, it might seem like a transition far too much, but in May, viewers can decide for themselves whether he nailed it.