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Music magic on a rewind

The "Legends" series features the evergreen melodies of maestro Ilaiyaraja


EVER SINCE former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi awarded him the title "Isaignani" (music saint), it has in a way become a nom de plume that has come to stay. Ilaiyaraja, the composing maestro, is more often than not referred to as Isaignani. Saregama India's "Legends" series — melodies in a milestone collection — features a repertoire of gems of veterans — P. B. Sreenivas, Kannadasan, K. J. Yesudas, Sivaji Ganesan and Ghantasala. The latest release is a five-CD collection of Ilaiyaraja's inimitable songs from the days of his first film, "Annakkili."

M. S. Viswanathan, the evergreen master of many numbers, was slowly losing hold and the time was just right for the next capable composer. Ilaiyaraja came in to fill the bill ... and how! Beginning 1976, the next decade and more was another golden era for Tamil film music, thanks to the Isaignani. And it is the melodies of that period that Saregama has now compiled.

Though S. Janaki had rendered many a challenging number with incredible ease and her fluidity in the higher octaves won much appreciation long before Ilaiyaraja entered the scene, she was never in the race for the top position — P. Susheela was almost invincible. Ilaiyaraja came in to change all that. Volume I of the CD does contain a couple of Susheela's scintillating strains such as "Thaenil Aadum Roja" (film: "Avar Enakkae Sondham" — 1977) but it is the Janaki-Raja combo that monopolised his music throughout two decades of success that began with "Annakkili." The volumes have voices of the frontline artistes of the day singing for Ilaiyaraja but they would fade away once he began to reign supreme — P. B. Sreenivas ("Thendralae Nee Paesu") and T. M. Soundararajan ("Katta Pullae"; "Kanakku Paarthu") to name a few.

There are also some timeless duets of SPB and Susheela. "Maegamae Thoothagavaa ... " from the film, "Kannan Oru Kaikuzhandhai" is bound to entice the youth of today just as it did three decades ago. Warming the cockles of your heart is "En Kanmani ... " With the singers' voices superimposed with the help of the then new multi-track system and with SPB's honey-soaked expression to boot, the song was and still is an out-of-the-world composition. To soothe your senses and refresh you after a day of drudgery is many a Yesudas song in the collection — "Senthaazham Poovil ... " is one such.

Superb enactment by Kamal Haasan, a fresh, young and bubbly Madhavi, the rain, the transparent umbrella, Carnatic musician T. V. Gopalakrishnan's humming tone in the background, the delectable voices of SPB and Janaki all these strung together in a mesmerising melody — "Andhi Mazhai Pozhigiradhu" is an aural fiesta that has the listener floored every time he listens to it. Rightly it heads the list in Volume 5.

A connoisseur drunk with the music of this Pannaipuram wizard can go on in the same vein because the CDs offer every discerning music lover a sumptuous fare to satiate his appetite.

Aural or visual promos were unheard of then. But the sway Ilaiyaraja held was unbelievable. Glued to the radio sets or rushing to cinema halls to listen to the mellifluous strains were music aficionados of the 1970s and 1980s, waiting for a "Oru Naal Unnodu Oru Naal ... " or "Poongadhavae ... " Bringing the experience back to your homes is this "Legends" offering from Saregama.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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