Tag Archives: Music Composers

Ilaiyaraja:Raja of Raagas-I

21 Jan

One of many reasons why Ilaiyaraja is considered a genius is because his songs are a perfect example for showcasing the beauty of a raaga. Take any song in a raaga, we can see that the song explores all the dimensions within a raaga within the 5 minutes of the song. Also, multiple songs in the same raaga do not sound same at all! It takes God-gifted genius to do this repeatedly for 3 decades! Many other great composers have also done this but the sheer number of raagas used by Raja (more than 120) places him in a higher pedestal. One of the seeds for this post was that I had a raaga-obsession every week when I felt like listening to specific raagas and invariably Raja’s song’s satiated my thirst the most.

Let’s see some raagas where the song composed by Raja is THE perfect demonstration of the essence of that raaga. I have also included a few raagas where other composers’ songs stand out as they too have done a wonderful job. Read it as Raaga-Song-Movie.

  1. HAMSADHWANI-Poo Mudithu-En Purushandhaan Enakku Mattumdhaan-Not a simple song (a relatively common raaga) as the notes touched by Raja are as usual complex but P.Jayachandran has sung it with alarming ease!
  2. KEERAVANI-Malaiyoram Veesum-Paadu Nilave-A very tough choice as Raja has composed a zillion Keeravani’s but according to me this one beats all. The maestro uses minimal orchestration in the charanams to show the genius of SPB. What a rendition!
  3. DHARMAVATHY-Meendum Meendum Vaa-Vikram-When I first heard this song a few years ago, I dismissed it as another love song but recently I went back to this and started loving it. This song is a sheer beauty oozing Dharmavathy.
  4. PANTHUVARALI-Enna Varam Vendum-Nandavana Theru-Panthuvarali is a very intense raaga and this song with a great tune and greater backing vocals presents Panthuvarali in all its splendour.
  5. CHARUKESI-Thaiyatha Thaiyatha-Thiruttu Payale-Composed beautifully by Bharadwaj and sung very well by Sadhna Sargam. Another equally good Charukesi is Aahista Aahista by A.R.Rahman from Swades.
  6. MADHYAMAVATHY-Kuyile Kuyile-Aan Paavam-A nectarine song that makes you imagine the countryside!
  7. SHANMUGAPRIYA-Thakita Thakita-Saagara Sangamam-A legendary song showing why SPB is one of the greatest singers ever.
  8. AMRUTHAVARSHINI-Thoongaadha Vizhigal-Agni Nakshathram-This song has become synonymous with the Amruthavarshini raaga. Raja has composed a few more in this raaga, KaathirundhaMalli and Vaanin Devi both of which are also very good. Not many composers have not touched this raaga as its quite complex.
  9. VASANTHA-Minsaara Kanna-Padayappa-The one song that shows that Rahman CAN compose classical tunes and do it very well too. This song is unique also because the 2 tunes in the charanams are different. If you don’t get goosebumps after hearing this song then there should be something wrong with you!

I will take up more songs in the next part of this post.


Vidyasagar—Versatility is his forte

23 Dec

To compose in a music industry where you have stalwarts like M.S.Vishwanathan, Ilaiyaraja and A.R.Rahman is not an easy job. You have a great legacy to maintain! Vidyasagar is one such music director, whom I would like to write about today. What I like about him is that he has the ability to make even fast songs sound melodious. His melodies are one of the best I have heard as they have intricate tunes backed by soothing orchestration. His music has many qualities of his predecessors- great tunes, multilayered charanam, amazing orchestration, bass guitar usage, use of a variety of raagas, great background scores (an often ignored yardstick to measure talent) etc. The fact that he is compared to these stalwarts in it itself shows he has great talent. Moreover apart from Tamil, Vidyasagar has composed many great tunes even in Malayalam & Telugu (his mother tongue). I personally feel Vidyasagar has not been given his due at all. Many a time, his soundtracks have been dismissed as below par even when there were one or two fantastic tunes in them. Like most other music composers, Vidyasagar too has his share of terrible tunes but they are much less as compared to Srikanth Deva, Imaan, Deva, S.A.Rajkumar, Sirpy etc.

Many of his melodies are as good as the ones we have ever heard. A true test for any music director are the classical tunes (both Indian & Western styles) and even here Vidyasagar has shown his class. If he has got a good script, Vidyasagar has done great justice to it. Here is a list of my favourite Vidyasagar songs in Tamil. I will write another post on his Malayalam melodies soon.


  1. Malare Mounama (Karna)—One of the best songs you will ever hear in Darbari raaga.
  2. Nee Katru (Nilave Vaa)
  3. Yaar Yaar Shivam/Poovaasam/Mouname (Anbe Shivam)—A wonderful movie with wonderful music.
  4. Poi Solla Koodathu (Run)—Superb orchestration and great singing by Hariharan.
  5. Thavamindri (Anbu)—One of my favourite songs of Vidyasagar, this is in Gowrimanohari raaga.
  6. Azhagooril/Neeya Pesiyathu (Thirumalai)
  7. Un Samaiyal Araiyil (Dhill)—What a song!
  8. Orey Manam (Villan)—A fantastic tune.
  9. Gilli songs—Loved almost all the songs. This is intelligent music making, fast songs but with high repeat value, they make you tap your feet!
  10. Ding Dong (Ji)—A superb song in a rarely heard Rasikapriya raaga.
  11. Kandaen Kandaen (Madurey)—Splendid tune in Brindavanasaranga raaga. Stunning mandolin interludes!
  12. Konja Neram/Raa Raa (Chandramukhi)—The former is a great song in Baageshri raaga and the latter was a great classical composition though ONLY the first line was taken from a Kannada song.
  13. Kaalai Arumbi (Kana Kandaen)—What a song!
  14. Vennilaa (Ponniyin Selvan)
  15. Iruvar Vaazhum/Athiathikka (Aadhi)—The former is an amazing tune which was never was noticed.
  16. Kana Kandaenadi/Aalankuyil (Parthipan Kanavu)—The former is a beauty in Anandabhairavi raaga with amazing sax and bass guitar interludes!
  17. Chithiraiyil Yenna/Atrai Thingal (Sivapathigaaram)—The former is a great folk tune and the latter an amazing melody.
  18. Mozhi songs—Should I say something here? I even loved the bit songs which were pure melodies.
  19. Pirivom Sandippom songs—I loved ALL the songs, each melody is amazing with high repeat value.
  20. Vizhiyum Vizhiyum/Engaey (Chathurangam)—Unfortunately, this movie is not yet released. Vizhiyum is a masterpiece.
  21. Naan Varaindhu/Adai Mazhaikaalam (Jeyam Kondaan)
  22. Ippavae/Mazhai Nindra/Vaanathai (Raman Thediya Seethai)—Fantastic songs!
  23. Pallanadhu/Thaen Thaen (Kuruvi)—I loved Pallanadhu especially, it makes me dance!
  24. Vaa Vaa (Abiyum Naanum)—What a beautiful charanam!
  25. En Uyirukkul (Mahesh Saranya Matrum Palar)—A duet song in a supposedly sober Sindhubhairavi raaga!

Vishal Bharadwaj—A rare talent

25 Nov

If there is any composer in India who has continuously defied stereotypes it is Vishal Bharadwaj. He made his debut with Maachis in the 90’s and it was a refreshing musical score at a time when Hindi film music was largely sounding like pop music. I loved the sound that Vishal created in Maachis in the songs Chhod Aaye Hum (a song that makes you imagine the mountains) and Chhappa Chhappa (great hilly folk tune) and his choice of singers too was spot-on—Hariharan, Suresh Wadkar, Lata Mangeshkar etc. Since then Vishal has proved that his promising debut was no flash-in-the-pan. Though he composes for only 2-3 movies in a year, you can be sure that most of the songs would be radically different. Be it the frenzied energy in Beedi or the lilting O Saathi Re (both from Omkara) or the boisterous Kash Laga (No Smoking) or the symphonic Aasmaan Chhathri (Blue Umbrella), Vishal has shown his mettle in diverse genres. I hope we get to listen to more wonderful scores from this unsung composer, who definitely deserves more chances than he gets now!

Vijay Antony

11 Nov

Vijay Antony is one of the newer composers in Tamil, who made his debut with Sukran (a horrible movie) about 3 years back. It was a forgettable debut in my opinion and when I heard the commercial songs of Sukran (director S.A. Chandrashekharan, who has no place for melody songs), I dismissed Vijay as another run-of-the mill composer. But the real talent of Vijay came to the fore in the songs of Dishyum. I realized that Vijay was a composer with a bright future. Though, all the songs of Dishyum were not good, Ninjankootil was a cracker of a tune with superb orchestration. What I like about Vijay Antony is that his sound is very melodious and different. He uses an assortment of guitars, pianos and flutes.From then, Vijay has given some great tunes, though, I feel he has to get more movies which exploit his talent to compose great melodies. I hope he gets more subject-oriented movies. Here are my favourite Vijay Antony songs:

  1. Ninjaankootil-Dishyum-a song in Raaga Brindavanasaaranga
  2. Azhagaa-By 2-this movie had great songs by VA
  3. Roja Poovin-By 2
  4. Naanthaana-Ninaithaale-a song in the rare Amruthavarshini raagam, wonderful song!
  5. Thaneer Pookalaey-Ninaithaale-amazing orchestration
  6. Thozhiya-Kadhalil Vizhundhen-so catchy and peppy yet melodious!
  7. Solladi-Kadhalil Vizhundhen-superb guitars and a great tune.
  8. Natta Nadu-A Aa E Ee-what a song in raagam Hamsadhwani

Evolution of Tamil Music-Part 2

10 Jan
I am blogging again after a month owing to continuous travel. But its great to be back. Here I would like to speak about more music directors who have created memorable melodies in Tamil music.
1. A.R.Rahman-He is the obvious choice after the legendary Ilaiyaraja. Rahman burst into the Tamil music scene in 1992, composing for “Roja.” Man what an explosive debut it was!! He took the nation by storm. Until then, we had not heard such a sound that Rahman created for Roja. After that till today, Rahman has clearly shown that he is another maestro. When people compare Rahman & Ilaiyaraja, I just say Raja is like Bradman and Rahman is like Sachin. Both have their unique class. Besides being a fan of Raja, I am a fan of Rahman too. Some say that Rahman has lost his touch but I beg to disagree. He is much better than some 2nd rung composers who keep composing fast songs all the time, delivering nothing but trash. Rahman has created so many magical melodies that, we need another blog to discuss them. Besides his music, what I admire about him is his remarkable humility. If you go to www.rahmantimes.com, you can read his life story, which is so poignant and touching. He has faced so many difficulties to become what he is today. He definitely deserves this and more. I just pray that he keeps giving us great music all throughout his career.
2. Vidyasagar-I feel he is one of the most low-profile and underrated composers of today. His music is a wonderful combination of the orchestration of Ilaiyaraja and the techno-melody of Rahman. Vidyasagar has given amazing music not only in Tamil but also in Malayalam and Telugu. What I like about him is that his fast songs too are quite catchy and melodious unlike theother noisy ones. His melody songs are a class apart. I saw an interview of Vidyasagar in Asianet during Onam and was impressed with his simplicity. Many of his melodies are classical and they still appeal to the common man. Like Ilaiyaraja, he has also taken classical music to the masses. His Malayalam melodies are quite different from the Tamil ones and they show the other side of this great composer. He has the unique skill of having Carnatic keerthanas with wonderful orchestration in many of his movies. I still wait for every music release of Vidyasagar, as I feel he is another genius.

A Brief Snapshot of the Evolution of Tamil Film Music-Part I

11 Dec
It is my personal opinion that Tamil music is one of the technically better ones in the overall Indian Music Industry. I say this because many geniuses and maestros have left their mark here and have created some astounding melodies ever heard in Indian Cinema. I would like to trace the growth of Tamil Film music in this way:
1. One of the earliest stalwarts were K.V. Mahadevan and M.S. Vishwanathan (who composed for many films individually and along with Ramamoorthy). MSV is till today, the composer who has composed for the maximum number of films in India, over 1000 movies!! In Hindi, I recently read that Laxmikant-Pyarelal held the record with about 450 movies. (Thats a mind-boggling 550 short!!!). This is what I know about these composers, who were the earliest trend setters.
2. Tamil cinema in the mid-70’s was blown over by a phenomenon called Ilaiyaraja. What can I write about him?? From that time till today (he is still going strong with about 4 projects in hand at the age of 63), there is no branch of music where Ilaiyaraja has not shown his class. Last year in Chennai I attended his concert “Andrum Indrum Endrum”, where I was surprised to see his colossal fan following. Morever, what really stunned me was that most of the crowd were people in the age group 20-40. Ilaiyaraja’s music contains almost all the elements that one can think of: Western classical, carnatic raga-based songs, jazzy songs with great beats, folk songs etc etc. The achievement of Ilaiyaraja is very great also because most of his great music came in an era when there was live recording and he has done unimaginable things in spite of the constraints of live recording. Apart from redefining Tamil music, Ilaiyaraja also set a new benchmark in the film background scores. Even today, I feel there is nobody in the Indian music scene who has surpassed that benchmark, though some individual BGM’S of movies are very good. Today, Ilaiyaraja is a legend. His music has become immortal-even today people listen to his songs and feel the same freshness. IR’s biography makes a staggering read-I would just focus on one thing that he is a gold medallist in piano and guitar from Trinity College of music, London.

I leave this post here and will continue about the other geniuses in the next part.

Talented Music Directors not getting their due

8 Dec
There have been a lot of music directors, who I feel have not got the chances they deserved. The first one who comes to my mind is Ismail Darbar who composed great music for Hindi movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. There are not many movies to his name as he did not get many opportunities. His music for both the mentioned films were awesome. He treaded a path which many modern Hindi film composers did not-classical music. His classical numbers like Albela Sajanwa(HDDCS), Silsilsa yeh chahat ka, Bairi piya, Hamesha Tumko Chaha (all from Devdas)were wonderful.

The second composer is the extremely talented Sharath, who has composed for a few malayalam movies and one Tamil movie. His songs were technically brilliant and the orchestration was too good. Still, he has only a handful of movies and a couple of albums to his credit. His tamil song in June R, Mazhaiye Mazhaiye (an amazing rendition by Hariharan) still haunts me. Harish’s blog has a very thoughful post on Sharath.

From the Tamil music industry, Ramesh Vinayagam has not got the respect he deserves. He has composed great melodious numbers (some Hindustani classical ones too like Kasturi Manirame in Azhagiya Theeye). Some of his good songs apart from the former one were Vizhigalil Aruginil (Azhagiya Theeye), Enna idhu (Nala Damayanthi), Nenje Thullipo (University) and En Swasathil (Jery). All these are wonderful songs and Ramesh also has a nice music style (not Rahmanish; I don’t mean Rahman’s style is bad, its just that some composers sound just like him, I too love Rahman). Ramesh’s songs have an Indian sound apart from having good percussion and bass guitars.

In retrospect, what I felt especially in the case of Ismail and Ramesh is that they got lost because of the overemphasis on “dance-based songs.” Directors want popular and peppy numbers which don’t have much melody but only loud music. In Tamil, there is a craze for “gaana” songs, having 1 or 2 gaana songs is fine but almost all the songs fast. The solitary slow song is dull, boring sad number(where the hero cries for his mother or lover).

The trend is slowly changing today. Music directors like the legendary Ilaiyaraja, Rahman and Vidyasagar are putting their foot down saying they would want to compose more melody-based numbers. They have every right to say that because they should be the ultimate decision-makers as they are the creators of the music, though the situations are given by the directors. There are innumerable numbers of these 3 genius music dirs which are very melodious and yet satisfy the situations.

My only wish and prayer is that we get to hear more melodious music than the fast-paced ones.