Lessons from Ilayaraja’s Singapore Concert

If you haven’t checked out yet, I highly recommend the following playlist

This was a concert conducted by Ilayaraja in Singapore in 2018. The quality of the show is simply awesome and the post production quality to bring it to youtube is even more awesome for people like me who missed watching this live.

I have now seen the videos in this playlist many number of times. Beyond the awesome performance, there were quite a few important life lessons that I learnt.

Always give your best

This was a show that badly needed S.P.B. But unfortunately Ilayaraja and SPB hadn’t made truce yet (I am glad they ironed their differences in 2019) and Mano was singing all S.P.B songs. Of course, every single person who listened to the songs live that day and on YouTube would compare the performance with S.P.B. Not just this performance, any peformance where Mano had sung a S.P.B song would attract comments like “Not even 10% of S.P.B”.

But that didn’t stop Mano from giving his best. Just listen to this portion of “Pani Vizhum Malar Vanam”. Mano perfectly imitates S.P.B’s laugh and Ilayaraja was completely surprised (his reaction and the laugh that follows is simply awesome)

I am sure Mano always knew that he would be compared with S.P.B. But that didn’t stop him from giving his best. And your Guru is surprised that you are performing to perfection – what else is required?

Staying Humble and Having Fun

Mano again. Take a look at the following and you will understand what I mean. Mano has sung well over 30,000 songs (some 2000 songs for Ilayaraja alone). Yet, he stays humble and has some fun too!! He brought an instant smile and laughter amongst Ilayaraja, other singers on stage, the audience and the foreign orchestrator!!!

Take a bow Mano!! I still like the S.P.B version of these songs any day 🙂 But as a human being you are simply awesome!!!

Perfection is always appreciated

Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil – the song from Mouna Ragam. This song was recorded 30 years ago!!! But there is a specific point where Chitra finishes and couple of small beats play to perfection. Ilayaraja signals and has a small smile on his face that it all synchronized well. Take a look:

The greatest entertainer is the Music

Spend next 7 minutes of your life listening to the following. It is very likely that you will play this multiple times and spend more than 7 minutes. There was just so many happening in this performance:

  • Right from the beginning, everyone who is singing is absolutely happy to sing this song
  • There are multiple places in this song where the drums catch a specific nerve amongst the audience that you instantly start dancing
  • The drummer plays with a superb perfection that audience ask for once more (where Ilayaraja makes fun of Mano :)) and the drummer again performs to perfection!!
  • The song is simply timeless. The song was recorded 33 years ago!!! It’s no wonder all the middle aged people were so happy to listen to this song. But just look at the numbe of 20 something people who thoroughly enjoyed this song. It makes even a 5 year old go crazy!!!
  • And what a finish – I am guessing this was the last song of the concert. Everyone who had turned up that day would have left so happy!!! I wish I experienced it live

Without any further due, here are those 7 minutes of happiniess to you

How To Name It?

I have an Ilayaraja specific bucket list. Starting to write blogs about his music was one. There are few more:

  1. A monumental wish of digitally re-recording his popular creations (both songs and BGM so that all of us can appreciate the true depth in his compositions)
  2. Being in his studio and watching a composition come alive
  3. Time-travel to 80s and do point 2. Stay put in his studio and never bother to do anything else

But one of the things that I had been longing for and couldn’t somehow do it so far – watch one of his concerts live. Because I am quite aware that being in his studio is a far fetched wish – watching at least a full orchestra performance is pragmatic. And that wish came true. Yes, I managed to visit the temple and get a proper darshan – at the Isai Celebrates Isai event that was organized (pretty poorly; more on that later) to celebrate his 76th birthday and raise funds for the “Cine Musicians Association”.

The orchestra

Hearing the orchestration of a song live is a completely “elevating” experience that cannot be expressed in words. The perfection with which every person of the orchestra plays to bring the composition is something that needs to be experienced in person. It’s not just the instruments, even the singers sing to the notes that’s been handed over to them (of course singers like SPB would add their touch in between). The best example of the perfection was this – one of the songs was halted in between when Ilayaraja got upset with a security guard who apparently came to the stage and disturbed the proceedings (it sounded pretty silly on Ilarayaja to me). Ilayaraja said “stop, stop” and everyone stopped playing. It got stopped at the middle of the second interlude of the song. After all the commotion got over, Ilayaraja asked to resume. That’s when I realized the magic – the entire orchestra just continued from where they paused. It was as if you hit the pause button of your music player and resume a while later.

I had a mixed feeling at that moment. I was completely floored – amazing set of professionals (both the Hungarian/Indian musicians and the singers). And I felt “nothing” as a professional. That I never had aimed for the level of perfection that these people exhibited. Exhibited live. L.I.V.E. In front of 1000s of fans. As a Software Engineer, we fret doing live demos. Like simple “Hello World” demos. We even keep a recording of the demo as a backup.


When I started writing this post, I wanted to keep the SPB section towards the end – like eating your favorite dish at the end. But what lingers in my memory now about the show is S.P.B. Or rather the deadly S.P.B and Ilayaraja combination. This show got S.P.B and Ilayaraja together again – after all the drama between them on the “copyright” part (watch Rajini’s way of making fun of it here). And what a difference S.P.B makes to Ilayaraja’s compositions was right on display during the show. And here’s the breakdown:

Madai Thirandhu

The first song that S.P.B sang was the infamous Madai Thirandhu. I realized the magic of S.P.B when he sang the “Pa…Pa…Pa…PaPa” portion (listen to the original here) just after the first interlude. The first interlude itself is an amazing composition with so much of voilins, guitar and keyboard. And then S.P.B does so much modulation of his voice during the “Pa…Pa…” portion. He did that portion exactly (in fact I would even say better than the original recording) during the show. I was blown away on how at this age, he could do those modulations. And I was like “Man…we are on for a S.P.B magic tonight…”

There were couple of important emotional moments. Specifically when he sang these lines:

“காலம் கனிந்தது கதவுகள் திறந்தது
ஞானம் விளைந்தது நல்லிசை பிறந்தது

புது ராகம் படைப்பதாலே நானும் இறைவனே
விரலிலும் குரலிலும் ஸ்வரங்களின் நாட்டியம்
அமைத்தேன் நான்”


“வருங்காலம் வசந்த காலம் நாளும் மங்கலம்
இசைகென இசைகின்ற ரசிகர்கள் ராஜ்ஜியம்
எனக்கே தான்”

Definitely “காலம் கனிந்தது” for S.P.B and Ilayaraja to be back together. The lines “விரலிலும் குரலிலும் ஸ்வரங்களின் நாட்டியம்” and “இசைகென இசைகின்ற ரசிகர்கள் ராஜ்ஜியம்” are very apt for the duo. Apparently the lyrics was originally written by Manivannan (http://www.envazhi.com/manivannan-a-lyricist-too/). If so, what a “dheega dharisi” he was!!

Nilavae Vaa

This was his next one. To be honest, this didn’t create much of an impact. May be because we have listened to this song a million times and take it for granted.

Oh Butterfly!!

When S.P.B finished singing this one, I had tears in my eyes and was speechless for few moments. I think it was one of the “Oliyum Oliyum” where I heard this song first and I was may be 10-12 years back then. This song has this character of making one to be at peace the moment they listen to it. Just like one watching a Butterfly!! And if you listen closely, the second interlude really has music arranged like a Butterfly flying (watch Ilayaraja explain it here: https://youtu.be/O4s9Vbs0McU?t=56).

The magic that S.P.B performed live were these:

  • Listen to the start of the song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny2zQpgvWqA). He utters the word Butterfly 4 times. He starts with “Oh Butterfly! Butterfly!”. And then the third line goes “Wow! Wow!! Oh Butterfly! Butterfly!” The 3rd and 4th utterances of Butterfly has a distinct sootheness in it. He sang exactly like that on stage. Exactly!!! Some 35 years (37 to be exact) since the original was recorded
  • Immediately after that the song goes “அருகில் நீ வருவாயோ
    உனக்காக திறந்தேன் மனதின் கதவை”. He sings the “அ” in “அருகில்” from the bottom of his voice giving it the required emotion. And its sung in a high pitch. During the live performance, I would say that he even went a higher pitch than the original. And did that completely effortless. What a sight it was!!! No matter how hard I try, its very difficult to express it in words
  • S.P.B and Yesudhas sang together Kattu Kuyilu Manasukulla song from Thalapathy. It was so refreshing to hear the song come alive again on stage. It was pretty emotional as well as the lyrics itself is about the friendship between the main characters in the movie. But it looked as if the song was even apt for the friendship between S.P.B and Yesudhas. In fact Yesudhas even called out saying that S.P.B is more like a younger brother even though they weren’t born to the same mother. The specific line “பாசம் வெக்க நேசம் வெக்க தோழன் உண்டு வாழவெக்க
    அவனைத்தவிர உறவுக்காரன் யாரும் இங்கில்லே” was pretty emotional – in fact that portion was sung by Yesudhas and S.P.B gave a hug to Yesudhas

My respect for S.P.B has gone up manyfolds after this live show. I am now listening more carefully to all of his songs to enjoy the magical touch that be brings to the genius composition from Ilayaraja. Though Ilayaraja has certain pride about himself (which I feel has become intolerable for me), he should be thankful to almighty that he had someone like S.P.B all along with him to bring all those compositions the life it deserves.


After the show I read more about Yesudhas’ career. Apparently he has sung more than 80,000 songs in a career spanning 40 years. Thats about 5 songs a day. And he slowed down towards the end of his career. I think we take Yesudhas for granted that we don’t even realize the scale of his contribution to music. There can only be one version of Harivarasanam. So much devotion by him in every song that he sang. So much that even “Maasi Maasam” sounds more divine than sensual 🙂

Unlike S.P.B, age shows up in Yesudhas’ voice. But the divinity hasn’t gone down even a bit. In fact, after he sung few songs, he was narrating incidents about the friendship with S.P.B and spoke great about the collaboration between Ilayaraja and S.P.B. He then concluded with some sloka. The whole episode felt as if some divine power came down to earth and blessed two souls.

The other side of the show

While I was happy to witness all of the above, there was tremendous frustration with the way the show was organized. The number of issues that happened that day will make me think a thousand times before I go to any other live show in the future.

  1. Seating Issues: For the start, there was complete chaos with respect to the seating arrangement. I had got a Rs.2000 ticket. However, the event layout allowed even folks who had got 500/1000Rs ticket to be seated in the same zone. By the time (a good 1.5 hours ahead of schedule on a hot sunday evening) we reached our zone, all the good seats in the 2000Rs zone were already taken by folks who had bought 500/1000Rs ticket. Despite a few of us fighting against this, the organizers did not bother. And the police personnel as well. I wouldn’t blame the police folks. And wouldn’t blame people as well (there were no signages or volunteers to guide). It was a terrible mis-management by the organizers. And they simply didn’t want to fix it. They were just happy to take the money that day
  2. Delayed Start: While the about seating issue was going on, the start of the show kept getting delayed. There was some lady who was supposed to be an anchor for the show and she couldn’t stand for 5 minutes on stage and keep the people’s mood going. She disappeared in the next minute. Singer Mano came and apologised and cited traffic as a reason for the singers to get delayed. As audience we were instructed by the booking portal to plan for traffic. Why can’t the singers do the same? It’s the people who pay money for the show who should plan ahead and wait for hours together in the scorching sun. By the time the show started it was delayed by 1h45mins
  3. Terrible Nadhaswaram Filler: It appears that Ilayaraja loves Nadhaswaram and they had organized a troupe of 75 Nadhaswaram artists to start the show. As the singers were getting delayed, the Nadhswaram artists were used as a filler. The overall performance of the troupe was some 10 notch below the Nadhaswaram and Thavil one would arrange for a wedding. It was super irritating (on top of the seating issues and the delay). It was super irritating even for the lead Nadhaswaram player that he made reactions (that were telecasted in giant screens) asking his fellow players to play the instrument better. So much to a point that Mano came on stage and asked them to stop
  4. People’s civic sense: People who were supposed to be seated behind us, started bringing chairs from the back and formed additional columns. So much that even the walking space were occupied by people. Had there been any need for evacuation, 100s of people would have just died by stampede. The heights of this was a person who brought some 5 chairs and asked someone sitting behind us to take care of those 5 chairs while he goes and brings his family. When he brought back the family, he got upset with this other person for not taking proper care of those 5 chairs

And the biggest of all issues: song selections. Except the ones I have mentioned above, and a couple more like “Hey Ram!” and “Hara Hara Mahadev!!”, the other ones were some of the unpopular songs. In a show like this, I would expect “Ilaya Nila”, “Poove Sempoove”, “Nila Adhu Vaanathu Mela”, “En Jodi Manja Kuruvi” at the minimum. To me the bar is the Singapore show that was organized last year. Hear this playlist in your best headphones and you will understand what I am talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeXeiMKRYB8&list=RDQMqFP3ojdgtXg&start_radio=1

That’s the bar. That’s the bar for a properly organized musical evening. That’s the experience the audience should get.

I just realize that if I start writing about other issues (a bright yellow light blinding the audience, unwanted/irritating fireworks after every song, 20Rs water bottle sold for 100Rs), it would warrant a blog post of its own. A modified version of Master Card Advt is what I would use to sum up:

A latest Android Smartphone. Rs. 5999/-

2GB of 4G data per day. Rs. 249/- per month

Getting value as a customer. Can’t expect

There are certain things that even MasterCard cannot buy.

Mouna Ragam Chase

One of the things that makes me extremely sad is this – the fact that digital recording, technologies like Dolby and theatres with amazing audio setups weren’t there when we had Ilayaraja music. Especially those background scores that has so much depth in them. While without Digital recording and Dolby mixing we were able to get so impacted through his background scores, imagine the level of impact those would have had on us with such a setup. I have always wondered how would it his BGMs sound if we are to completely record them today, digitally remaster the film, mix them again and watch it in theatres such as Satyam Cinemas or Jazz Cinemas in Chennai.

I recently stumbled upon a Youtube video by High Octavez where there was a live performance of the Mouna Ragam chase sequence. Here’s the video (do listen in a good quality headphones):

That was some awesome live performance of the BGM. What a depth when you re-create it today, capture the sound digitally and listen through a headphone.

I was wondering how the scene would have been in theatre if you are to mix these today. So here we go. The first one is the original – sourced through Youtube. And the second one is the same sequence mixed with the version that High Octavez live performed. If you listen to the second version, you would be able to appreciate the depth of the background score – the magic that Ilayaraja creates with all those voilins, the double base and the cello.

So, plug in your headphones and get into the wonderland of Ilayaraja. And once you finish seeing the second video, imagine for a moment watching the movie again in a theatre like Satyam, with this kind of digital recording. We would have laughed so much with all the pranks that Karthik does and when this sequence finishes in the screen, we would be in a mix of emotions – the magical writing from Mani Ratnam and an amazing score from Ilayaraja.

The original:

And the version mixed with audio from High Octavez’ recreation:


By now, I have lost count of number of times I have watched this movie. And somehow I cannot resist myself going back to watch this one whenever I get a chance. I saw this again in the theatre (thanks to Jazz Cinemas to bring this back in IMAX). When the movie was released, there were lot of discussions about how close the movie was with respect to the science of Interstellar travel. And even the scientific community went crazy about the visualization of the wormhole and the Gargantua (the black hole). Apparently Kip Thorne, the renowned Physicist provided the math and the special effects team turned that math visually (and here we are calling Shankar as India’s sci-fi director, India’s James Cameron and all!!!)

Beyond all the science and the fiction in the movie, I went back to this movie multiple times because of how “emotional” this movie is. Towards the end of the movie, Murph (the grown up one trying to solve the equation), hugs her brother and says “Daddy’s gonna save us!!!” after looking at the data being passed through the watch given by Cooper.


To me, that was the defining moment in the movie, even though it comes towards the end of the movie. It’s that love between the daugther and the father that really makes this movie so good and so different. She has always been so connected to her father that she could feel something in that room!!! Cooper, on the other hand, always wants to go back to his kids (I think its just Murph, he doesn’t care a damn about his son :)) and has always prioritized that before everything else. Every decision that he makes in the mision (including choosing Dr.Mann’s planet which causes less time delay vs Dr.Edmunds which is closer to the black hole) is backed by some data and more importantly the urge to go back to his daughter.

There are so many such examples throughout the movie. Take for instance the scene where Cooper leaves on his car to get on to the mission without able to convince Murph enough. He lifts those clothes on the passenger side of the car to check if Murph is hiding inside.


Or the scene where Cooper comes back from Miller’s planet having wasted 23 years, plays all the video messages from his kids and starts crying – I literally cried along!!!



The scene where Cooper is trapped inside the Tesseract and goes back to the timeline of him walking out of Murph’s bedroom when Murph is showing that she deciphered the ghost saying as “Stay”. Cooper, caught behind the bookshelf, cries “Make him stay Murph”, “Dont let me leave, Murph!!!” and keeps crying helplessly. My heart was so heavy by this time and may be I cried again in the theatre!!!


What about the dialogues?

Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your children’s future.” – has such a deep connect with every parent and Cooper was literally Murph’s ghost in the bookshelf 🙂

Love is the one thing that transcends time and space” – Amelia says this in the ship and explains how she has a connect with Dr.Edmunds who is somewhere out there and she doesn’t even know if Dr.Edmunds is alive or not. All of us have some kind of connect with people who have passed away!!! While the NASA folks in the movie explained it as a gravitational anamoly and how gravity can transcend space-time, a layman like me do not understand all these. However, how brilliant it was of Nolan to translate that into something like “Love” which all of us can instinctly understand!!!

The very scene where Cooper plays 23 years of video tapes, he is listening to updates from his son. The last message from his son goes something like “You are not listening to this. Aren’t you. All these messages are just sent into darkness“. While it just sounds fairly logical, there is this deep aspect of human lives in it. Isn’t it? How many times have we looked up the sky and spoken to lost loved ones. We do want to talk to them and be connected only to come back in time and realize that it was just meaningless. Something that we just spoke to someone who didn’t exist anymore and was just sent into a void!!!

I love Nolan’s movies for this emotional aspect of his movies. Beyond the fiction and the larger than life aspects, almost every movie that he has made has this emotional aspect that connects so deeply with the audience. If you think of Inception, Dark Knight series, the emotional aspect runs throughout these movies. And its probaby the reason why I would consider Nolan as one of the best directors of our time. Spielberg used to do it – I cried for E.T as a kid 🙂 But in the recent times, and the times when I had the maturity to understand movies deeper, I would say Nolan does it better for me these days!!!

I would keep going back to Interstellar, Inception, Dark Knight series – I don’t think I will ever be “done” with these movies in this life. And if at all, “they”, the fifth dimension people choose me, I request them to fill the Tesseract with these movies

Kadhal Oviyam | Alaigal Oivadhillai

The song in itself is kind of composed as a fusion. A fusion between carnatic and western depicting the situation – a couple from two different caste falling in love. The song starts off with a fusion between a vedic recital and a church coir. However, what was super interesting to me was the interlude 2 in the song.

A base Guitar is supported right from the beginning of the interlude till the end. The interlude starts off with a vocal (like sung in a coir). While the vocal is being sung, a bunch of Voilins start supporting them in the background. At around 0:16, a Veena starts playing and that’s when the fusion really starts to blend in. As the Veena continues to play, the support from the base Guitar continues bringing in the fusion. And then, two sets of Voilins take over. One in the foreground receiving ample support from a bunch of Voilins in the backround along with Cello/Double Base.

I have listened to the Veena/Guitar fusion portion and the Voilins that follow countless number of times. There is no complexity in the composition. Not like 8 layers of music that we are used to these days. A Veena and a Base Guitar. Every one of those countless times I have listened to this, it instantly a sense of aweness and some eternal connect. Something that you cannot describe. Something that I get only from Ilayaraja’s compositions.

I saw this movie may be 25 years ago and didn’t really appreciate it. Never bothered to see it again. But the movie in itself was one of the top rated Tamil movies bagging a lot of awards. And of course the album is still hugely popular. I guess “Aayiram Thamarai” and “Putham Pudhu Kalai” (which was recently reproduced digitally for “Megha”) are popular amongst fans. But “Kadhal Oviyam” still stands out to me for its beautiful composition, the fusion it brings and of course great singing by Ilayaraja and Jency.

Vetri Nichayam

I think this is easily the best “inspiration” song for me. Every other time I stumble upon this song, it instantly lifts off my mood and inspires. And I definitely listen to this song more than once. I am fairly confident that for many people who grew up in the 80s “Annamalai” is one of their all time favorites – definitely for Rajini fans.

As the music starts off in Vetri Nichayam, you can instantly imagine the conversation between “Vinu Chakravarthy” and “Rajini” just before the start of the song. The scene cuts into the next one where the banker (who had originally rejected Rajini’s loan request) provides the money due to pressure from “Vinu Chakravarthy”. Till this moment it’s no big deal. These are some of the typical scenes that has appeared in umpteen Tamil movies. It’s the cut that happens now and the next scene that unfolds in front of us.

Rajini gets up from a chair. The camera starts zooming into his eyes. For about 3 seconds, Rajini stares at the camera with a look. Instantly he gives a look that has a mix of vengeance, the war that he is going to unleash on his best friend. The music (one of Deva’s best) is absolutely lifting the scene. It’s a little wonder if it’s simple writing of Suresh Krishna, or the music or Rajini – I would personally attribute it to Rajini. He just takes over that scene. Anybody would miss this one – just watch Rajini’s reaction when he smashes the coconut at the beginning – he shows the vengeance, the “veri” there. These are the small moments that shows Rajini’s acting, his involvement in the script – though for us his walk is just enough. 

The song has very powerful lyrics that instantly connects with you when you feel that you were taken for a ride, feeling low in life or just feeling helpless. While the lyrics are powerful enough, you got to give due credits to SPB on this one – It is the singing by SPB that takes it to a completely different level. The emotions that he brings in his singing is simply mind blowing – just listen to the way he sings “Raththamum Vervaiyum enadhu raajaangamae…” and “Adaee Nanba…”

And the “WOWness” in this song wouldn’t be complete without this – Rajini’s walk at “Enadhu nadaiyil unadhu padaigal podi padumae”. I mean, literally he just walked. The director would have probably said “Sir, neenga nadandhu vareenga…” and Rajini would have just walked. But look at what has transpired on screen and the impact that it creates on you – the goosebump moment that only Rajini can create. Hence the Super Star 🙂

Go ahead. Watch this one. A few times. Get inspired. Do not miss 4:07.

Vada Chennai

As the end credits rolled over and I started walking down the stairs to exit the theatre, I had a “wierd” feeling. I wanted to probably stay for a few more mins till the credits completed to “consume” the movie completely. But at the same time I felt there was something missing in the movie that wanted me to start walking out. When I reflect after a day now, I think I would probably say this: Vada Chennai is a tipping point for Tamil Cinema and would even go one step further and say “Tamil Cinema has arrived”.

I had always felt bad that I was not old enough when directors like Mani Ratnam and Balu Mahendra were young enough making movies like Anjali, Nayagan, Moondram Pirai that fundamentally changed the movie landscape back in late 80s and early 90s. I missed seeing those movies in theatre (I was just old enough to watch Mowgli in DD :)) and I still imagine what it would have been to be immersed in those movies for 3 hours in a theatre. With Vada Chennai, I now have a sense of satisfaction that I am witnessing that fundamental change again. And I can imagine 30 years from now, someone is going to say “How I wish I was in the times when Vada Chennai and Vetrimaran was happening”.

Towards the middle of first half, I felt I was completely lost. The narrative was non-linear and I was wondering where all these are going and if I came to another “hyped” movie. It was in the second half I realized what Vetrimaran was doing – he was laying out a vast landscape in front of us and beautifully connected everything in the second half. That’s when you feel that there was not even a single shot that existed in the movie without a reason. That’s when you pause for a moment and you are not able to digest how he would have written all of these and what would have gone through in his mind. And suddenly the respect for this writer just goes up manyfolds. He is different, a great thinker and a great writer and is slowly changing the landscape of Tamil cinema.

Another reason why I feel that we are witnessing a tipping point in Tamil cinema is because of the “A” certificate for the film. Unlike every other Tamil cinema which looks for a “U/UA” certificate for producer’s tax benefits and attracting famil audience, here’s a movie which is for the Adults (I would rather say “grown ups”). Hats off for the production house (Dhanush in this case) for not comprimising on this one – this movie will not have certain type of audience and the producer/director is OK with it and its a big deal today.

Beyond the producer/director, I have huge respect for the censor board on this one. You typically get a U/A for uttering a “cuss” word (which also gets muted) or showing a murder scene with blood/body blurred. However in Vada Chennai, the opening scene itself had enough explicit blood (and I think I saw skin too) that indicated that this movie is definitely “A”. And then you hear the characters frequently using a cuss word that refers to mother. It’s when the female lead uses the same cuss word (I think it’s the first or second word she utters in the movie) you settle down and accept the fact that this movie is going to be a different experience altogether. Btw, the audience (including me) went crazy when she said that word 🙂 And just to be clear, I am not celebrating citation of cuss words in mainstream cinema just for the sake of it. But what was more satisfying was that here’s a movie which did not compromise anything.

Dhanush: Let me admit this. When I he did movies like “Sullan”, I was like “Here’s an example of what industry background can do. If you have money, you can back anybody and make them a star”. But as he did movies like Kadhal Kondaen, Pudhupettai and later Mayakkam Enna, there were signs about his potential. But I was thinking it as more like the “Selvaraghavan” effect. With Aadukalam and commercial ones like VIP, it really showed up that this guy has some genuine talent as an actor. And Vada Chennai, really brings that talent out. There are many scenes where he has pulled off effortlessly. Specifically, the scene where Kishore’s wife and Samuthrakani’s wife (Andrea) have a conversation in a family function about revealing the identity of the person (Dhanush) who stabbed Kishore. Dhanush is in the backdrop and figures what’s actually going on around him. He has no dialogue and just silently emotes. That was just enough. I would watch that scene many times over; what a true performance that was.

It isn’t that I don’t have complaints about this movie. One of my major complaints is about the length. I felt the movie “rushed” things. With a running length of close to 3 hours, it still wasn’t enough to consume the movie. For example, there were so many characters introduced in the jail episode that you didn’t have time to put all of them in your mind. Similarly in the second half when things are explained by Andrea, it was rushed (with pretty bad dubbing too). I wish this movie had another 30-45 minutes of runtime (Vetrimaran says it was originally shot for 5.5hours!) like GodFather. I am sure Vetrimaran would have loved too but had to remain within the constraints of theatres (they need to run 4 shows with breaks and all). May be in near distant future, someone will break this too.

I and my friend are great fans of Martin Scorcese and Tarantino movies and the collaboration he had with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Leonardo Di Caprio. We had always discussed how Scorcese and De Niro would have collaborated, what it would have been between them, how it would have been in the sets. Well, I didnt live in those times, but I think they changed Hollywood movies forever. I think Vetrimaran + Dhanush + Kishore combination is doing something very similar for Tamil movies now. Something tells me that this is a beginning of a different era where movies that are “raw”, that doesn’t even have one wasted scene, that does full justification for the script are going to be made. We are going to respect the writers more than the actors. And sense will prevail in the movies. And personally, I am going to go back to theatres more 🙂

Nalam Vaazha | Marupadiyum

For any Ilayaraja fan, this song definitely would be in the top list. The movie itself is a emotional one (one of my favorites of Balu Mahendra) and this song is pretty emotional too. During those tough moments in life, you can easily fall back to this song to get some emotional support. The song has some beautiful and very powerful lyrics. While the first stanza kinda focusses on how people could change over time and you should just move on, the second focusses more on how things can be better in future.

Viralgalai thaandi valarndhadhai kandu
Nagamgalai naamum narukkuvadhundu

Kadalgalil uruvagum alai aanadhu
Vizhuvadhum pinbu ezhuvadhum iyalbanadhu

It’s as if a friend is around you consoling that things would be better from now on (may be I get that feeling because of the long lasting impact of the picturization of this song)

Interlude 1

While the song in itself is so good, here’s the first interlude.

I am not going to go in to the details to describe this one. I think it’s kinda self explanatory. It’s a simple flute & voilin combo. The best part of this interlude is, it just doesn’t interfere or change the tone of the song very much. It just continues the soothing effect (the friend consoling you) which was the premise of the song in itself.

Interlude 2

This one is no different in terms of the simplicity – instead of a flute + voilin combo this one is a guitar + voilin combo. Starts out with a simple guitar composition but when the voilins start, you kinda get a chilling effect in your spine. And these are played as pretty long strokes – putting the intensity in you slowly so that it leaves a long lasting impact on you.

I am sure you have the entire song in your collection. Go ahead. Play the song in your headphones. Take that lonely walk. Lie flat and look up to the skies. You are bound to do some soul searching.

Engirundho | Brahma

Well the movie Brahma doesn’t need any introduction to tamil movie lovers. Specifically Goundamani fans. The movie is a riot with Goundamani as Valayapalayam Chinnasami creating rousu in almost every scene he is in. Who can forget the “Mother Superior…Suppariya paaku poduvangala..?” scene which ends with Sathyaraj unable to control laughter even in the final cut that got released in theatres. While that’s the first thing that everyone gets reminded about Brahma, the movie had one beautiful composition as well. The song “Engirundho Ilankuruvi…”. There are two versions of this song – a female version sung by Janaki and is the introductory song for Kushboo in the movie and a male version sung by S.P.B. This post is about the latter.


This is one of the few songs of Ilayaraja which has a beautiful prelude.

The prelude is just a simple arrangement of a Piano at the foreground and bunch of violins in the background. The piano starts the prelude and quickly a bunch of violins follow around 6 seconds. Around 10 seconds, the Cello joins them and the emphasis starts on the Cello. If you relate this to the scene, the time when the Cello plays is when the heroine gets shocked on the tune that is being played and clearly the Cello is used to emphasize that. The prelude alternates between the Piano and the Violins to alternatively depict the tune played by the hero (and what Kushboo had heard when she was a child) and the shocking moment of recollection of her memories.


Here are both the interludes:


Both the interludes use one of the highly underrated aspects of Ilayaraja’s music – chorus. He uses chorus in songs and also in BGMs (remember the scene in Nayagan when Kamal loses his wife from the balcony and the scene where he sees his son’s body from the same balcony?). These interludes also use chorus extensively to convey the intensity of the flashback scenes. The first interlude starts with the chorus playing a longish “Aaaaah…” with very simple use of trumpets. And it is this chorus which occupies most of the first interlude.

The first one to me is just another Ilayaraja affair. But it is the second one which I am big fan of. The first 10 seconds are just a standard guitar/drums/trumphet combinations that is widely used by many composers and isn’t such a big deal. But just give a close listen around 13 seconds when the trumphets finish off. You will hear a bunch of voilins at the background adding to the emphasis and around 19 seconds is when the magic starts unfolding. A chorus of “Ha ha haa haa ha ha…” sung at a base tone adequately supported by the Cellos starts. This is pure magic created by simple use of Chorus that creates a profounding impact on the listener. The chorus instantly communicates an intense situation in the song which is later shot as a scene where the child is in danger of getting killed by the villains.

Obviously, we may not appreciate this when we listen to this separately. The impact of the effect is realized when you see it along with the picturization. Most people appreciate Ilayaraja for BGMs. While composing BGMs the composer would have seen the footage, would have understood the entire scene and then composes the BGM (I am nowhere under estimating Ilayaraja here btw). Where it blows my mind is this: these are interludes, which are present in songs that are composed before the scenes are shot. The composer has the opportunity to listen to what the director describes as a scene and has to come up with something as powerful as these. I think this is where Ilayaraja the genius really shines – the ability to grasp what the director imagines as a scene and comes up with a song that becomes a classic of its own. And those times were his peak where he would have recorded an entire movie’s songs in couple of days.

Go ahead and see the song again in YouTube (linked below) to get the impact. Did search quite a bit for a good resolution video with a good audio but this is what I could manage to find:

Ennullae…Ennullae… | Valli

Well, I am not a fan of this particular movie even though it had Superstar in it (who wrote the script and screenplay). I remember the hype around the movie as it was written and produced by Superstar, Latha Rajinikanth had sung in the movie (and guess she composed a song as well). It bombed in the box office!! But it had one beautiful song composed by Ilayaraja. “Ennullae Ennullae” is such a beautiful song and an emotional one sung by Swarnalatha (How I wish she had sung more and lived longer!!). While the song captivated me the very first time I had listened to it back in the 90s, I got even more addicted to it very recently due to the composition of the interludes.

Interlude 1

As a bunch of violins start, there is a gentle play of either a Cello or a Double Bass in the background. And around 11 seconds when the violins in the foreground starts peaking, the background starts getting filled with those taps of Cello/Double Bass. The flute joins them. And around 28 seconds all of the come together. The Cello/Double Bass give a wonderful finish to the composition. Yet another brilliant composition. The best part is, these compositions were done in the the digital/stereo era and we are now able to hear the nuances of the composition very well (unlike the ones he composed in 70s and 80s which were recorded in mono)

Interlude 2

This one is as good as the first one. The pattern is just awesome – a few violins start and as they hit towards the end of their portion, the Cello/Double Bass further extends by playing like a quick “Sine Wave”. A long Sine Wave by the violins followed by a short Sine Wave by the Cello/Double Bass 🙂 This gets repeated twice. Around 12 seconds, as the violins hit the peak, the gentle taps on the Cello/Double Bass happen just like Interlude 1. A Trumpet/Shehnai type vocal instrument joins to give a perfect finish to the composition.

To me, both the above compositions are definitely in the levels of “Symphony Orchestra” that gets immensely appreciated. These feel divine when you listen and can be composed by someone who is completely at peace inside. These compositions had originated in his mind, he has translated them as notes and given to individuals who just played their part. And for him this song would have been “just another song composed on yet another day”

ps: There is actually a pretty lengthy prelude in the song itself which is mainly composed of the traditional Kerala “Chenda Melam”

pps: Both the interludes end with a female chorus. Despite multiple listens, I somehow didn’t like both the chorus. I feel it lowers the overall quality of the entire composition (like a Dhrishti). Of course, he is the master and the genius and he would have every reason to have that. Just that I didnt like it. I included in the first one above (so that you can listen and form your opinion :)) and deliberately removed in the second

Here’s the full song if you are interested in listening:

pps2: What a lame picturization for the song (try watching it in Youtube). And how such a genius composition gets lost in a crappy movie like Valli!!