Saturday February 18, 2012

The best of Ilayaraja in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam?

Posted by Karthik

Let me start with a confession.

Despite having been a massive fan of Ilayaraja ever since I remember, I heard ‘Jotheyali’ from the 1980 Kannada film Geetha…for the first time in my life…in 2008. Yes, *ashamed*. Wait, there’s more.

I heard ‘Emani ne’ from the 1983 Telugu film Mantrigari Viyyankudu…in 2011. Yes, last year…for the first time in my life.

I’m not very pleased with this serious lapse, obviously, since I was hooked to both these songs, hopelessly, for weeks. As is my usual habit, I went on a massive hunt of other songs from these films and other Ilayaraja songs from the same time period…in the silly hope of recreating my childhood memory of listening to a wonderful, new Ilayaraja song for the first time, but with the complete awareness of everything I have heard since. Think of like how Marty McFly felt when he traveled back to the past, in Back To The Future.

But, my enthusiasm was short-lived. Yes, I did love Geetha’s entire soundtrack, but could not find as many gems as these songs…though, I have to admit – Geetha’s title song went ahead of Jotheyali in my mind! The problem was that there are way too many songs to sift through and it was like trying to live a 20 year period in 1 day, with a lot of bad, average songs thrown in. I couldn’t find another Jotheyali or Emani ne and this could be entirely my wrong choices in random sampling. And I haven’t even entered Raja’s Malayalam repertoire yet!

Just to give you an example of the way I found the random search disappointing – I stumbled on this song, ‘Chiki chiki cha…’ on YouTube, after searching for desperate keywords like ‘Ilayaraja Telugu hit song list’ (amongst others). I could not find it again now (and couldn’t find the film’s name either!), but I recall it featured Chiranjeevi, Radha and a horse, if my memory serves right. This is a song that I would have gone ga-ga over…I could smell Nizhalgal’s ‘Poongadhave’ from a distance, when I heard the opening music. But it was a bit too similar to many, many Raja songs for comfort…with my current awareness of his Tamil range. Had I listened to it for the first time when it released, it would have been my anthem. Still, I did like the song for nostalgia’s sake, but it wasn’t a stand-out song for me, like the 2 songs mentioned above.

So, that brings me to the point of this very selfish post. I seem to be gleefully unaware of many Ilayaraja gems only because I haven’t explored his music beyond Tamil. And this means 3 more languages – Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Don’t bother including Hindi, by the way.

If you consider the above 2 songs as a yardstick, which non-Tamil Ilayaraja songs should I not miss before I die?

I may not have the time to instantly or immediately listen to all that you list, but I WILL listen to them all somehow or someday…one of these days. There’s nothing more joyous than reliving the blissful past with the complete knowledge and awareness of the present. What I aim to do, eventually, for my personal benefit and to the benefit of others like me who care enough, is to make a personal favorite list of Raja’s non-Tamil range.

I know that is a lofty goal, but I have got to start somewhere, right?

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