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Ilaiyaraaja performs at Jubilee Stage, Expo 2020 Dubai. Image Credit: Suneesh Sudhakaran/Expo 2020 Dubai

Dubai: Legendary Indian composer Ilaiyaraaja’s songs have stood the test of time and are still loved by millions after several decades. The maestro attributes his success to the ability of his songs to touch the hearts of the listeners and says he doesn’t create music, it flows like a breeze.

“I cannot canvas like a politician seeking votes or force my audience to listen to my songs. Once the songs or the music go into the heart of the listeners, there is no need for any explanation. Even I am amused how it’s happening. Everyone is composing with the same notes, but I don’t understand why people like my songs,” said the composer of 7,000 songs in more than 1,400 movies. “May be the feel-good factor that my music creates in them.”

It’s been 45 years since Ilaiyaraaja, famously known as Raaja, first scored for the film ‘Annakili’. Since then his journey has been meteoric until another phenomenon called AR Rahman hit the Tamil music industry in the early 1990s to challenge the Maestro’s supremacy.

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Image Credit: Suneesh Sudhakaran/Expo 2020 Dubai

How does Ilaiyaraaja describe the journey?

“It’s not a journey. If anybody works in an office, then their work will become a job. I am not doing my job, I am not doing my journey. It happens automatically. Music should happen on its own,” he told Gulf News in an email interview ahead of his concert at Expo 2020 Dubai on March 5.

“You should not make music. If you make music, your mental state will reflect in it. Then it won’t be a true music. Music should happen just like a bird taking to wings or the water flowing down the streams. Like a breeze, it should happen naturally. So I don’t consider it as journey, but it’s just a phenomenon. These phenomena happen at the appropriate time,” said Raaja, putting it simply about all those masterpieces and classics that he has ‘created’.

Raaja kept the audience spell-bound during the three-hour show at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Talking about the performance, the 78-year-old said: “The last few years have been gloomy and dark days for the musicians, singers and all due to the pandemic. But now they have a feeling that they will be seeing a brighter days in the future.”

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Image Credit: Suneesh Sudhakaran/Expo 2020 Dubai

The Maestro despite scoring so many numbers and also performing at more than 20,000 concerts, listens to different types of songs from various composers. Raaja even accepted an offer by Rahman to compose music after visiting the Oscar-winner’s Firdaus Studio. It will be the second time that the two will join hands after ‘Punnagai Mannan’, where Rahman did the theme song for Raaja.

Mohan scores big on Raaja’s classics
Ilaiyaraaja has done thousands of songs in several genres, but his songs hit a crescendo with the fans in the 1980s. One person to ride the wave of Raaja’s music was actor Mohan, more acclaimed to be known as ‘Silver Jubilee’ star as most of his movies ran for more than 200 days at least — thanks to Raaja’s scores.
In most of his movies, Mohan would play the role of a singer or an aspiring singer and Raaja would do the rest along with the voice of SP Balasubrahmanyam and occasionally by S.N. Surendar, the maternal uncle of Tamil star Vijay. Incidentally, it was Surendar who dubbed for Mohan.
Even today, Mohan’s songs — rather Rajaa’s — starting from ‘Payanangal Mudivathillai’, ‘Naan Paadum Paadal’, ‘Udaya Geetham’, ‘Idhaya Koil’, ‘Mouna Raagam’ (which gave director Mani Ratnam a big break), ‘Mella Thiranthuthu Kathavu’ and ‘Paadu Nilave’ were all musical albums with most of them breaking the box office record.
Rajaa’s magic still lives on from the innumerable movie songs he has done in various languages, but no one other than Mohan reaped the benefits the most.

Raaja’s concert, coming a week after composer and singer Anirudh Ravichandran’s at Expo 2020 Dubai, satiated the needs of the Tamil audience as they are two ends of the spectrum — the former a melody star and the latter a rock star.

Raaja even promised to comeback sometime in October to wow the audience again. “I want to come to Dubai often and perform for my people and my audience,” he added. Raaja’s fans are waiting.