Before we start embarking on this journey of showcasing the musical genius of Ilayaraja, (will be referred as Raja from now on) let’s define what we mean by genius.
What ordinary people cannot do is done by the skilled. What skilled people cannot do is done by the talented. What talented people cannot do is done by a genius.
This definition of genius fits our context very well. There are many musicians who have enthralled us over the times and they have definitely been skilled and sometimes very talented. Once in a while, someone comes along and does things that even talented people never imagined. Indian film music has been blessed with very able and talented musicians all the time and ours is a country with rich musical traditions – Carnatic in the South, Hindustani in the North and West and Rabeendra Sangeet in the East. Not to mention the thousands of folk traditions that we have in our music. As they say, music has a close relationship with flowing rivers. Most composers have done fabulously well with the tools and techniques that they have come to learn traditionally from their gurus and the rules and constraints of their (local) musical systems. Very few have the ability to go outside of their traditional systems, let alone mix these with ease. Typically you get purists from both systems beating you up for breaking the rules. Musicians tend to stay away from such blatant experiments – unless you have the genius to withstand such onslaught. Raja is definitely one of them. As Kamal Hassan once said, he is ‘Isai Vignani’ and not just ‘Isaignani’.