Aan Paavam | Contrasting use of background score

Aan Paavam is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s one of the greatest entertaining film with a very simple narrative. This is the debut for Pandiarajan as an actor and I didn’t realize for a very long time that he was the director too (his second film after Kanni Rasi).

Apart from the many comic scenes (brilliant Janakaraj, VK Ramaswamy and Kollangudi Karuppayee ) for which I keep going back to this movie, there is yet another main reason. Yes, the background score of Ilayaraja for this movie.

While this movie is appreciated for all the entertainment it provides, Ilayaraja provided a great background score for this movie (and of course the famous Kaadhal Kasukkudhayya song).

Here’s the specific score that has stayed with me ever since I heard it for the first time when I was around 15/16 years (when I saw the movie for the first time).

The Situation

Pandiyan and Seetha like each other as part of the “Pon Paakum episode“. However, the broker says Pandiyan is not the “Mapillai” he had recommended to Seetha’s father and there is a mix up. Despite Pandiyan’s attempt to meet Seetha and convince her, Seetha says she will marry only the person her parents choose. Pandiyan gives an ultimatum – “I will wait at the riverside tomorrow morning. If you don’t come to meet me, I will not bother you anymore”

Overnight Seetha’s parents talk that they also like Pandiyan and Seetha’s father will meet Pandiyan’s father next day to proceed with the wedding.

The next 5 minutes or so is an absolute masterpiece to watch. Its a great screenplay and Ilayaraja elevates it to a different level altogether.

I have broken it down into 4 parts. And these 4 parts have distinct emotions to it. Ilayaraja uses just two compositions for these 4 parts. The best part is, both the compositions are used in a contrasting way to convey exactly opposite emotions.

Part 1 – The feeling of love

After Seetha’s parents agree to talk to Pandiyan’s parents, Seetha fondly recollects the encounters with Pandiyan. Her love for Pandiyan is expressed through simple shots. She is enjoying the night anticipating her meetig with Pandiyan the next day at the riverside. She even has a “Marudhani” in her feet 🙂

Ilayaraja brings out a brilliant composition with just a flute, a bass guitar and a beat. Here you go:

Part 2 – The Joyous Passage of Time

The scene transitions into a joyous passage of time. The overnight wait and Seetha happily getting ready in the morning.

A “Veena” is all that Ilayaraja needed to compose a score for this:

Part 3 – The Painful Wait

Just as Seetha was about to step out of her house to go to the riverside, her mother forces Seetha to help her out. Seetha is frustrated. Pandiyan has arrived at the riverside.

Ilayarja uses the same composition that he used for the previous scene. With just one addition – the sound of a clock ticking. And it just works well for the painful wait that Seetha and Pandiyan are going through.

Part 4 – The Final Joy and Sorrow

Seetha finally gets relieved. She is running like crazy so that she meets Pandiyan on time. Just as Seetha arrives at the spot, Pandiyan is walking away in the distance.

As Seetha finds out Pandiyan walking away, Ilayaraja uses the same composition that was used in Part 1 to convey the sadness.

In Part 1, the composition was made up of flute and it conveyed the love and the happiness that Seetha felt (anticipating her meeting the next day). In Part 4, the same composition is now made up of voilins and it conveys the sadness and the sorrow of the situation.

Bonus: The Magical Timing

If you didn’t notice in the above clip, just watch again at 0:30 seconds. That’s when the audience is revealed that Pandiyan has actually left. The camera pans from right to left. The score exactly changes at that moment of camera panning from right to left 🙂

Ilayaraja would have composed the entire score in one go. Would have recorded it continously. No computers to edit the timing through software.

Here’s the entire clip in full. Watch it in its full glory to feel the magic again. 3 minutes of absolute bliss.

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:

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.

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!!


En Vaanilae | Johny

I think Johny had one of the best sound tracks in those times. Every song in the album was a hit (and is still) including the famous “Aasaya Kaathula”. The song “Kaatril endhan geetham” was one of the best songs sung by Janaki. While the songs themselves were good, I am particularly intrigued by the interludes of the song “En Vaanilae…”

Interlude 1

Here’s the first one. Just give a full listen to this one. May be couple of times

This one starts with just few gentle piano strikes and the solo voilin takes over. And for the next few seconds there is a good healthy exchange of this voilin and flute. At around 14 seconds is when the magic in the composition starts to happen. The solo voilin plays for a good 5-6 seconds. If you listen around 20 seconds, the solo voilin plays a quite longish stride and as it does that, there 3 to 4 different sets of voilins in the background play alternatively. This form is repeated once more where the solo voilin completes it stride and then the background voilins finish too leading to a naugthy play between the piano and the voilins finally ending with the piano strikes. This is the kind of magical composition that Ilayaraja was doing back in those days. This, in my opinion is the type of orchestration that simply made him the genius he is. This kind of orchestration in songs doesn’t happen these days anymore. And in the western world, these type of orchestration happen for background scores primarily. Ilayaraja was doing these back in those days and people seldom outside the film fraternity (and that too who took very close of his music) appreciated these.

Interlude 2

This one is quite good too. Not as good as the first one for me. The initial flute portion is just awesome in this one. It’s one of his romantic high tune I would say. It’s just a tune that instantly conveys the feeling of either both or one of the lovers are feeling the ecstasy of being in love. That’s followed by a voilin orchestration that is so typical of Ilayaraja. Of course, that portion is awesome too. It’s just that he has set such a high bar for himself and the music that he creates that these type of composition just feels normal to the listener.

Both these interludes still remain one of my favorites. Imagine yourself witnessing these creations happening in his studio. Especially the interlude 1. Imagine you witnessing Ilayaraja providing notes to all his orchestra members. Each of the members practicing their part. Ilayaraja asking may be each one to play their part (I am assuming that’s how its done. I could be completely wrong). You are an observer just observin all of these and figuring out where all these individual pieces are going. And then the magical moment starts unfolding there – a take where everyone plays their part as they were instructed and you witness one of the magical creations. How I wish, I could go back in time and witness these in person. If I had a choice, I would just plead Ilayaraja to just let me be an observer in his recording studio every other day.

ps: While I loved these interludes and the song in itself, I felt the way the song was picturized didn’t do enough justice to this. Yes, the movie was directed by Mahendran but somehow felt that the picturization was just lame. Showing flowers, mountains and Rajni running in slow-mo? Here’s the video of the song in case you want to see how the interludes appeared in the movie. I am fairly confident nobody would have even given a damn to those magical pieces of music


Paruvamae | Nenjathai Killadhae

When it comes to interludes, the first thing that comes to my mind is the song Paruvamae from Nenjathai Killadhae movie. Of course, this song is one of the cherished songs by Ilayaraja fans. It just instantly refreshes you, especially if you hear it in the morning. You would just be taken off in to that morning “jog in the fog” moment. While the song in itself is awesome, both the interludes in this song is even more awesome.

Before you read further, a quick disclaimer. I do not know the specific terms used in music – like I haven’t learnt it professionally to write the description/analysis using specific terms. I would write them in plain English as if a layman would describe it in-person. I am fairly confident that I would probably be miserable in describing everything that happens in these interludes (there is always so much happening) in plain English. It’s pretty difficult to describe feelings in writing; for his music are more of feelings anyways.

Interlude 1

Here’s the first interlude:

It starts with a gentle guitar for few seconds and while the guitar is playing the foreground, the violins start in the background and then eventually the violins take over (as in most of his songs). When the violins take over, while you hear them, there are Cellos and Double Bass joining in the background. How I wish that Stereo, Digital Recording were present during Ilayaraja days. Most of the base sounds are completely lost in his recordings and its left to the careful listener’s imagination to absorb those. The theatres in those days were also not equipped with great sound systems and nobody would have had the pleasure of listening to these.

Interlude 2

Here’s the second interlude:

The second interlude is even more interesting. The violins start the interlude and starts fading out in about 10 seconds. The keyboard strokes continue for few more seconds and they fade away. The flute takes over and a Cello or Double Bass tapped through fingers join the background. While the flute continues to play in the foreground, the violins start in the background eventually leading up to an awesome mixing of two set of violins – one set starts and peaks, the other one start from the peak and reach the base.

I think these interludes independently are a great listen. You interject them into a romantic tune, the song becomes one the classic that would linger in the listener’s mind forever. And that’s probably what had happened to “Paruvamae…”.