Preethi’s Weblog


Isai Gnani Ilayaraja

177630749_8a74fa2897.jpg  Born and brought up in an obscure village near Kambam in Southern Tamil Nadu, Ilayaraja became the first Asian to score a       symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, besides scoring over 500 feature films in a period of 20 years. Raja, as he is popularly known and affectionately called, comes from a family of musicians. His mother, a huge repository of Tamil folk songs, seems to be a very strong influence in his music. He learned to play the harmonium, the typical musical instrument used in street performances. The team of the brothers, the eldest being Pavalar Varadharajan, a poet, worked as a group of musicians traveling across the state, accompanying theater artists. Raja picked up most of his acumen for audience tastes during this period.

 In 1969, Raja migrated to the city of Madras, the Southern Movie capital, when he was 29 years old, looking for a break into music making for the public. He studied under Dhanraj Master, playing the guitar and piano in the Western style. He later earned a diploma in music from Trinity College in London. Ilayaraja’s break into music for films came with Annakili (1976). The film dealt with a village story, to which Ilayaraja composed great melodies. The songs offered simplicity and musicality typical of Tamil folk in an authentic way, and they offered new sounds–rich orchestration typical of Western music. The songs became an instant hit, the most popular being “Machchana Partheengala” sung by a female voice, S. Janaki. This was followed by a series of films that portrayed contemporary Tamil villages in an authentic way, against stylistic shallow portrayals before. For all of these films Raja created memorable songs. Most popular were the songs “Senthoorappove” and “Aatukkutti Mutaiyittu” from Pathinaru Vayathinile (1977), and “Samakkozhi” and “Oram Po” from Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu (1979).

 Raja soon proved his abilities in other styles as well. Classical Karnatic melodies were used in Kannan Oru Kai Kuzhandhai (1978) (Rag Mohanam), Mayile Mayile (Ragam Hamsadhwani), and Chinna Kannan Azhaikiran (Reethi Gowlai). Raja’s grasp of Western classical structure became evident with his masterful use of the piano, guitar, and string ensembles. Some of the numbers that show his orchestral genius are “Pon malai Pozhudu” and “Poongadhave” from Nizhalgal (1980), Kanmaniye Kadhal from Aarilirindhu Aruvathu Varai (1979), “Ramanin Mohanam” from Netri Kann (1981), “En Iniya Pon nilave from Moodupani (1980), “Paruvame Pudhiya” from Nenjathai Killathe (1981), and “Edho Moham” from Kozhi Koovuthu (1982). These songs could literally be heard coming from every doorstep in Tamil Nadu state every day for at least a year after being released. Raja composed film music prolifically for the next fifteen years, at a rate of as many as three new songs a day. After a few years as a film composer, he could write all the parts to a score as they came to him, and his assistants would make fair copies, which would be recorded immediately.

Raja went for a trip abroad to Europe, partly to visit places where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Ludwig van Beethoven lived. They were his Gurus or non-physical teachers, he wrote once. He also met contemporary composers and arrangers including Paul Mauriat. His listeners were awestruck by the quality and quantity of his musical output. He also scored a few films abroad. Ilayaraja’s image grew to be a unique one in the history of Tamil cinema: stories, themes, and castes would be changed to fit his music, which swept away the minds of millions of Indians in hundreds of films.

Ilayaraja also recorded non-film albums, such as “How to Name It” and “Nothing But Wind,” which were well-received in India and abroad. In 1993, he wrote a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra in an amazing one-month span. To many people who know him, Raja represents more than his music. He is a mark of great achievement that is possible by hard work, yet he is seen in most of his interviews as talking very philosophically. He is very much attracted by the philosophy of Ramana Maharishi of Thiruvanna Malai, who lived in the early 20th Century. Raja once referred to Ramana as “our Zen master.”

He has composed music for close to 900 movies and has sung more than 200 songs. Illayaraja introduced many new talents to the music field like Chitra, Mano, Malayasia Vasudevan, Dipan Chakravarthy, Jency, SP Sailaja, Sujatha etc. Illayaraja brought the best out of S Janaki and showcased her talent in a multi-dimentional way. Same holds good with Sadhana Sargam. She won National award last year for the song ‘Pattu cholli’ in Azagi. He has won many awards like the Best Background Music for the film Hey Ram, Best Music Director awards for films like Rudra Veenai, Sindhu Bhairavi etc.

His music is so soothing to the ears. Every composition of his is unique. He has composed many catchy melodies and there is a way in which this song flows like with preludes and interludes. He uses instruments such as Veena, Nadaswaram, Mridangam and tabla along with electric guitars, keyboards, rhythm boxes etc. The fusions are sooo good that one can repeat it so many times and it still fells new. He has a very distinct voice too. It sounds kind of nasal and especially the song Thendral Vandhu from the film Aavatahram, I just fly away into a different world. You can listen to Ilayaraja’s music through Youtube and if you know his songs, should be the best choice.

His official website:

Sources: IMDB, Maxpages, Wikipedia



February 6, 2008 - Posted by | Entertainment | , , , ,


  1. […] the two biggest Music Directors in Tamil Industry are non other than the great Maestro Ilayaraja and the unbeatable A.R.Rahman. These two have not just contributed to Tamil industry. Their music […]

    Pingback by Best Music Directors in Tamil Industry « Preethi’s Weblog | February 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. Ilayaraja’s songs are relished by music lovers round the globe even today. This proves that music has no barriers!

    Comment by Chockalingam | April 16, 2008 | Reply

  3. hi preeti

    good work…abt illayaraja the musical meastro. i too in the crowd as a awid fan for him.

    keep the nice work goin


    Comment by Anand Srinivasan | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  4. isai gnani ilayaraja the best in indian cinema .songs and bgm are best .his songs are evergreen .even today it is refreshing .
    thank you and good work preeti
    from all fans

    Comment by tamil | May 10, 2008 | Reply

  5. Hi,

    I stumbled upon your blog. You have done a gr8 job!!! Kudos!


    Comment by Sudharshan | May 10, 2008 | Reply

  6. hi

    Comment by kumar | May 14, 2008 | Reply

  7. Great Job. Any amount of appreciation is not enough, when it comes to our Raaja. Please see my blog when you have time: dedicated to Music.

    Comment by Mohan | May 18, 2008 | Reply

  8. only one sun only one moon at the same time onely one music god iasi gani ILLAYARAJA

    Comment by PUGALG | June 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. According to Hindu scripts, Goddess Saraswati is the abode for Music. Accordingly, the art of Music preserved by Her incarnated itself in Human form – ILAYARAJA. Great work Ms Preeti! Please continue, for, nothing is enough to ovate the noble soul, Ilayaraja.

    Comment by Vishnu M N | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  10. This is naresh.bandi ILAYARAJA garu is the most populous in the music. i was liste

    Comment by Naresh.Bandi | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  11. ilayaraja is my alltime favourite musician.i thanks to god for wondorful gift for the musical world

    Comment by RANGANATH S.V | December 31, 2008 | Reply

  12. hi preethi..
    iam a big fan of IR. He is the master of music.. in 80’s many films got hit because of music only.. some un popularised songs of him are very nice… some of my favorite of him are..

    5. METTI OLI..

    Comment by Anonymous | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  13. my favorite & my heart feel music god
    he is such a great music ledgent

    Comment by rajasekar | January 13, 2009 | Reply

  14. the living legend…….he is my inspiration & music teacher & everything…because of him i love music….

    Comment by ilaya-dinesh | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  15. the living legend…….he is my inspiration & music teacher & everything…because of him i love music….my faviorate songs are ‘
    ilami ennum…
    en iniya pon nilavae…
    pothi vacha…
    etc etc etc etc etc

    Comment by ilaya-dinesh | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  16. g – great .geenius and guiness that is raja….i dont now wat to say…………about raja

    Comment by p .senthil kumar | March 6, 2009 | Reply

  17. realy appreaciate ur job preethie

    Comment by p .senthil kumar | March 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks a lot!!!

      Comment by preethika | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  18. Hey some useful info about our mastro dude.. I aappreciat ur work..

    Comment by Vignesh | May 31, 2009 | Reply

  19. Hi Preethi, Your info about Maestro is really superb. Iam a great fan of ilayaraja. He is a god of music and music genius. He is equivalent to 100s of A.R.Rahman.

    Comment by Radha | June 23, 2009 | Reply

  20. Hi preethi

    This is the link in orkut for ilayaraja owned by me,pz join.Thankx.


    Comment by thamizh kumar | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  21. ilaraja is the god of music in the 20th centuary

    Comment by n.thirunavukkarasu | July 1, 2009 | Reply


    Comment by ramu | July 25, 2009 | Reply

  23. He is evergreen for music… There is no such award found in this universe which rewards to him.. He is not an ordinary human, somewhat more than God. He is the music, Library, anything else.
    Nobody will equalise himself in the name of music. He is the god of music.
    Music is under his control, somebody uder the control of music.
    Like myself are under the direct control of IR’s music

    E. Sivasamy

    Comment by Sivasamy. E | August 1, 2009 | Reply

  24. He is the music of tamil history.
    He exposed the music through tamil culture.
    He is a legend in indian music.

    K.Satheesh kumar

    Comment by K. Satheesh Kumar | August 5, 2009 | Reply

  25. sarasvathi kalaivani issai thai in mainthan RAJA

    Comment by balaji | July 11, 2010 | Reply

  26. As far as I am concerned Illaiyaraja Sir is the greatest music director ever to have graced the Indian film industry. None of the past masters can match his overall output which is simply phenomenal. His music has been an inseparable part of my college years and continues to fascinate me to this date.

    Good to know that a weblog has been dedicated to him. Wishing you all the best.

    Comment by Jay Subramanyam | August 31, 2010 | Reply

  27. ilayaraja is a non-pareil musical genius. he is the few among the music composers who could elevate ordinary film to new heights with his soothing music. iam proud to be an ardent afn of him. his music alone has the capability to produce a lasting impact on the listeners by taking u to a world of new doubt, his music will continue to be played in all the days to come. his music is immortal. no can replace him.

    Comment by jeyaram | September 10, 2010 | Reply

  28. ilayaraja is a music of god

    Comment by siva | December 23, 2010 | Reply

  29. Good job Preethi.

    Raja is a legend.

    Comment by Santhakumar | February 15, 2011 | Reply

  30. Thanks for this refreshing article. Raaja sir would a great master of music without doubt. dLong Live Raaja Sir.

    Comment by Rakesh Sivan | February 16, 2011 | Reply

  31. Ilayaraja is my soul and Living God to Tamil people.

    Comment by Glad Win | June 10, 2011 | Reply

  32. ilayaraja the only composer in the indian cinema.he compose by writing notes.all others r simply run to keyboard.they play music for feelings.ilayaraja only, compose the feeling as music.nowadays arrahman harris and others are technically join the musical bits and deliver as back ground music, till today, no one even touch the jippa of ilayaraja.

    Comment by mano | October 30, 2011 | Reply

  33. Raja music superb n good melodies

    Comment by M thevar | December 22, 2011 | Reply

  34. ilayaraja has composed only few tunes which he has repeated in many songs. classic example is vayalum vaazhvum music in naane naana……………..the chamchaas of ilayaraja think he is a maestro..but he is no match on MSV…God and luck has been merciful to him and his sons….they shd thank their stars and the blind fans. perhaps if u you look at the earlier period..his songs are so repetative and monotonous…that they border on boredom….examples are sollai kuyilae and entha pattu paada…………….God is so merciful that he also blesses people with little talent and not great talent…………..he can call himself a maestro and try to act like a maestro…but he is no more than a local village musician

    Comment by isai dean | March 12, 2012 | Reply

  35. Keep up the good work Preethi!
    Illaiyaraaja sir’s Music still survives in this DIGITAL music world. Thats the power of his music knowledge. The way he composes a song or a BGM… wow completes a beautiful song in “lightening speed” (May be this makes some people think how is it possible, it is just for publicity..)…
    May be few people are against his music talent is because they are jealous, they might have tried music and failed to succeed..! Music that Illaiyaraaja has earned is not just a size of an ocean , its some thing bigger than universe…My blog

    Comment by Anonymous | March 15, 2012 | Reply

  36. Haai…preethi,i am Aruljothi.R.Great aplause to you for the excellent essay about the Music God Ilaiyaraja.

    Comment by Aruljothi.R | July 23, 2012 | Reply

  37. no one can beat RAJA never..

    Comment by Anonymous | July 26, 2012 | Reply

  38. ketka inimaiyaga irupathu than isai.. inimaiyana isaiendral iayarajavin isai mattumae.. RAJA-THE GREAT.

    Comment by Anonymous | August 13, 2012 | Reply

  39. limit ur words.. pazahya drum ah urutuvathu pola irukum MSV music.. ketkavvae mudiyathu.. lurics muttum ilaina athelam padalae kidayathu.. nee MSV fan ah irukalam, but this not place to show that u r a MSV fan.. ilayarajavooda yaraum compare panna mudiyathu… “EVER GREEN ILAYARAJA”

    Comment by Anonymous | August 26, 2012 | Reply


    Comment by T.MURALIKUMAR | June 20, 2013 | Reply

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    Comment by Cedric | October 9, 2014 | Reply

  42. hi preeti I am also one of the big mad for raja music.. raja sir having a some magicial voice. such a wonderful gift for us you done a good job..

    Comment by viji | December 9, 2014 | Reply

  43. Great information about the legend Ilayaraja sir. Thanks a lot 🙂

    Comment by Kannan | March 28, 2016 | Reply

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