Classical Ilayaraja 15

This is the 15th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

Dharmavathi is the 59th melakartha raagam. Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma2 Pa Da2 Ni3 Sa as arohanam and the converse as avarohanam. It is the prathimadhyamam of Gowrimanohari (23rd melam). About couple of years ago Rahman tuned a superb Dharmavathi song in Vandicholai Chinnarasu. The song is sugam sugam vendum. I think the singer of the song is Vani Jayaram. It is one of the best songs that Rahman has tuned in his short career so far. It is a very sexy song. He starts the tune in the madhyama sthayi like Sa Ga Sa Ga, with a very very prominent chord sequences in the background. While another song from the same movie became a good hit (senthamizh naatu thamizhacheeyE sung by the late Shahul Ameed), this lovely song based on a pure classical raagam did not become a hit. Earlier, Rahman has tuned one more Dharmavathi in the movie Gentleman. The song is ottagathai kattikko, which came as an unbelievable melody in that movie with a fantastic rhythm played in the pukka South Indian instrument “thavil”.

Of course, Rahman had exhibited the usual (predictable) “cinema musician’s tendency” of deviating from the raagam by using some foreign swaras in both the above songs. Even though there is predominant use of Da2 in sugam sugam, in the charanam he uses Da3 Ni3 prayogam like Neethimathi raagam (60th melam). In ottagathai kattikko, he very liberally uses both Ni2 and Ni3, making it difficult to bring it under either Hemavathi (58th melam) or Dharmavathi. For our purposes to discuss Dharmavathi, I called ottagathai kattiko as Dharmavathi in this essay.

Rahman said in one of his early interviews that he avoided listening to contemporary music as did not want to get influenced by that music. He wants his music to be original and new! Alright bro, make music without the influence of your forefathers! Let us see, if you can!

This is an ever changing world. People are born constantly and people are dead similarly. We all have come into the world not like Mr. Jesus Christ without a father. We have our roots strongly based on our immediate previous generation, and less significantly on the innumerable generations in-between from the ages of origin of man to now. Newtonian concept of gravity was put to disuse by the “nascent” Einsteinian concept in the 20th century. The important thing to remember and appreciate is that Newton did prominent work on gravity before, and his ideas pre-existed the period of Einstein. If it were not for Newton to intrigue Einstein, the latter would not have become such a great scientist. If it were not for the stimulus of advaitha of Sankara, neither would have Ramanujam come up with his visishtadvaitha, nor Madvacharya with his dvaitha philosophy. Nature requires a pre-existent state to progress to the next state. It sends Nagesh first in the time window to do his comedy and then Vadivelu. It sends Shatrugan Sinha first and then later Rajnikanth. We are all a small part of the continuously self-propagating enormous force that originated in the big bang. Nobody can molt the profound ancestral influence to become a “new” creator (in absolute terms).

Ilayaraja too, has tuned wonderful Dharmavathi’s. His first was probably in the movie Vikram. The song is meendum meendum vaa. S.P.Balasubramaniam and S.Janaki! He starts his song in madhya sthayi like Sa Sa Sa Sa (meendum meendum) and then all of a sudden jumps one octave to the thara sthayi Sa (vaa). He has used Mridhangam as a wonderful rhythm support in that song. In the charanam the tune is just excellent. Pa Pa Pa Ma2 Da2 (thekku marathil) Pa Pa Pa Ma2 Da2 (sedhukki vaitha) Pa Pa Ma2 Pa Ga2 Ma2 Pa (dhegam idhu thaana). Even in the charanam he frequently jumps from madhyama sthayi Sa to thara sthayi Sa. To me, it seems like Rahman got the idea to tune his sugam sugam from meendum meendum vaa. Both are very sexy, romantic playboy channel duets! Both of them are great in their own aspects.

Ilayaraja’s possibly second Dharmavathi is illam cholai poothadha in the movie Unakkagave Vazhgiren. This was not a big hit like kanna unai thedugirEn vaa in the same movie. However, illam cholai is one of the milestones in his career. I would say that it is one of his top bests. It has been sung by S.P.B. He starts like Ma2 Pa Sa (illam cholai) Sa Ri2 Sa Ni3 (poothadhaa). He prolongs the kaakali nishadham and beautifully gives a gamakam and then travels down to panchamam. Initially he uses tabla for accompaniment and then in the charanam there is wonderful mridhangam, the usage of which is very typical of him. Listening to this song is one of the best musical experience that I have had in my life! In Varusham Padhinaaru his E aiyyaasaami is a kind of Dharmavathi with lot of mixture of Ma1. In Veera, his konji konji is quite a pure Dharmavathi. Maragadhamani has given a very pure Dharmavathi in thaththithom in Azhagan. He has excellently used keyboard with fantastic gamakams in that song.

Dharmavathi has two very melodious janya raagas. One is Ranjani. Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma2 Da2 Ni3 Sa; Sa Ni3 Da2 Ma2 Ga2 Sa. The best song in Ranjani in cinema is muthupandhalil rathina oonjalil sung by T.N.Seshagopalan in the movie Thodi Raagam. Kunnakudi has tuned it in an unparalleled manner. MSV has used Ranjani in few of his cinema raaga-malikas (Ezhuswarangalukkul has a bit of Ranjani in Aboorva Raagangal, and also ranjaniyai azhaithEn in the movie Mrudhanga Chakravarthi). The other popular janyam of Dharmavathi is Madhuvanthi. There is a subtle Ma1 usage in this raagam. In the movie Nandha En Nila, obscure music director V.Dhakshinamurthy has tuned one excellent Madhuvanthi song. The song also starts like nandha en nila. My Houston room-mate Karthik used to repeatedly listen to this song again and again for hours. If you listened to this song, you will know the addictive potential of this song. Like “heroin addict”, “ganja addict”, we can proudly call ourselves as “nandha en nila addict”! It is one of the best ever recorded Thamizh cinema song!

The 10th chakram (in other words, the 4th chakram of the prathimadhyama melaraagas) has probably the more popular raagas among the prathimadhyama melams. The 55th is Shatvidhamargini, 56th – Shanmukhapriya, 57th – Simhendra Madhyamam, 58th – Hemavathi, 59th – Dharmavathi, 60th – Neethimathi.

Ilayaraja has given a lot of Shanmukhapriya songs. thamthanathamthana thalam was his first Shanmukhapriya (in Bharathiraja’s Pudhiya Vaarpukkal). One of his very early classical ventures that proved to the Thamizh cinema world what kind he was! It is a very fast song sung by Jency. In his earlier days he seems to have really liked tuning fast songs (like mazhai varuvadhu in Rishi Moolam)! In thamthana song, the thabla rhythm, veenai and flute interlude are mesmerising. His other Shanmukhapriya songs are kaadhal kasakkudhaiyaa (Aan Paavam), thakita thadhimi (Salangai Oli), ooru vittu ooru vandhu (Karagaattakaaran), sollaayo vaai thirandhu (Moga Mull). We have to remind ourselves of the earlier music directors contribution in this raagam that includes pazham nee appa (Thiruvilayadal), muththaitharu (Arunagiri Naadhar), kurangilirundhu (Thookuthooki), maraindhirundhu (Thillana Mohanaambal). Devendran has tuned kannukkul nooru nilava in Vedham Pudhidhu. One interesting thing to note is that even Thyagarajaswami has given only one krithi in this important raagam, while cinema fellows have been handling it quite often, the maximum number being by Ilayaraja!

Shanmukhapriya uses Ri2, Ga2, Ma2, Da1 and Ni2. If we change the Ni2 to Ni3 we get Simhendra Madhyamam. Probably, his first number in this raagam came in Panneer Pushpangal. The song is aanandha raagam. This song has got one of the most abnormal starts! It starts in thaara sthayi Ga! It goes likes this: Ga2 Ri2 Sa (aanandha) Sa Ri2 Ri2 Sa (raagam). A beautiful start and a wonderful job by Uma Ramanan! His second song in this raagam came in Mukta Sundar’s debut film Kodai Mazhai. The song is kaatrodu kuzhalin naadhamE. The song has been sung by Chitra. A highly classical song. The heroine gives a dance performance on stage for this song. This song also starts in a very high pitched Ga2 of thara sthayi! I first listened to this song while watching the movie in the theatre, and the song was just gripping! His next Simhendra Madhyamam came in Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam. The song is nee pournami. He starts this song in middle octave Ri2! The song goes like this: Ri2 Ga2 Ri2 Ga2 Sa (nee..) Ga2 Ma2 Pa Ma2 Pa (pournami). The swara structuring of this song is just marvellous. He uses groups of swaras up and down like a thrilling roller-coaster ride, and later in the end of the song he starts presenting alternating swaram-sahityam sequences that are just wonderful! His last Simhendra Madhyamam song is thalaattum poongaatru in Gopura VaasalilE.

We have discussed Hemavathi raagam in our earlier essays. Nobody has tuned Shatvidhamargini or Neethimathi in cinema! These are extremely rare raagas even in classical sadas. If we just change the Ga2 to Ga3 in the raagas discussed above, we get all the important raagas of the next (11th) chakram. 63rd – Lathangi, 64th – Vachaspathi, 65th – Mesakalyani (commonly, called as Kalyani). We know that Ilayaraja was the most prolific music director in tuning Kalyani in cinema. Did anybody think that he would use the other important raagams from this chakram in the nineties?!

Once upon a time there was a director called as “P.Vasu”! He used to shoot whatever perversion that came to his mind during the most uninhibited of his dreams as films! He had the extreme fortune of getting “Ilayaraja’s kadaaksham” in most of his movies, and the films would be jam-packed with superb songs! Just because of Ilayaraja, those films would “runno runnunu run” tirelessly in the theatres, with money “fallo fallunu falling” down the roofu! Mmmmm…… Did P.Vasu know that he got one of the two great Lathaangi songs ever tuned in one of his junk movies? The first popular Lathaangi is aadaadha manamum uNdO in Mannadhi Mannan. The song has been sung by T.M.S and M.L.Vasanthakumari. Great song!

The other popular Lathangi came from the harmonium of Ilayaraja! The movie is Walter Vetrivel. The song is raasavE chitterumbu. He has presented an incredibly pure Lathangi in a “tappaanguthu kind of format” in this song. It was a mega-hit song reverbrating throughout the Thamizhnadu, from the slums to the elite! Prabhu Deva and Sukhanya dance for this song. It is one of the songs, which, when a common laymen rasika listens, he just feels it as a “great” tune, while a knowledgeable rasika immediately recognizes the intelligent use of a hardcore classical raagam and becomes wonder-struck! Ilayaraja has tuned another Lathangi in eeramaana rojavE (adhO mEga oorvalam). But, that song was not a big hit. He also gave a Vachaspathi in one of his songs, nikkatumaa pOgattumaa neela karunguyilE (Periya Veetu Pannaikkaran). A beautiful song. But, it was not a big hit. I don’t think anybody else has tuned Vachaspathi in cinema.

Vijayanagari is a janyam of Hemavathi. Actually, this raagam was “discovered” by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar in this century. He just omitted Nishadham in Hemavathi and called it as Vijayanagari. There is a famous M.K.T song soppanavaazhvil magizhndhu in this raagam. Ilayaraja tuned one Vijayanagari in paadaadha thEneekkal. The song is vanna nilavE vaigai nadhiyE. He has beautifully used the Ma2 of this raagam. But, from puritans point of view, he has done a mistake. He has also used Ga3 to give a very sad appeal to the song. That is not permissible.

Vijayanagari is very closely related to Sivaranjani. While Sivaranjani is a janyam of the 22nd melam (Karaharapriya), Vijayanagari is a janyam of the 58th (the prathimadhyamam of the 22nd). Sivaranjani is also a very “soga” raagam. Kadalai urundai is called the poor man’s meat, as it has reasonably all the essential amino acids as meat, but at a lesser cost! Like that, we could call Sivaranjani as the “cinema rasika’s Mukhari or Bhairavi” as it has the same dose of “sadness”, but, in a lighter form. Sivaranjani’s arohanam and avarohanam are: Sa Ri2 Ga2 Pa Da2 Sa; Sa Da2 Pa Ga2 Ri2 Sa. Nowadays musicians liberally use Ga3 to add beauty to this raagam.

To list all the Sivaranjani songs of Ilayaraja is impossible. To list a few that comes to the mind immediately: adi aathaadi (Kadalora Kavidhaigal), unnai thaanE (Nallavanukku Nallavan), poovaNNam pOla nenjam (Azhiyaadha Kolangal), solai pushpangalE (Ingeyum Oru Gangai), kaathirundhu (Vaidehi Kaathirundhal), pon manE (oru kaidhiyin dairy), vaa vaa anbE (Agni nakshatiram), valli valli Ena (Deiva Vaaku), adhikaalai nera kanavu (Naan Sonnadhe Sattam), kuyil paatu (en raasavin manasilE) etc. Also, Sivaranjani is one of the unique raagas in the sense that, it is probably the only raagam that has been handled by every Tom, Dick and Harry calling himself as a music director. Manoj-Kiyan tuned tholvi nilayEna (oomai vizhigal), S.A.Rajkumar tuned paattu oNNu naan paadattuma (Pudhu Vasantham), Shankar Ganesh tuned aval oru menagai (Nakshathiram), lately Rahman has tuned kannum kannum (Thiruda Thiruda), thannerai kaadhalikkum (Mr.Romeo). In Karuthamma, Rahman has scored a fantastic song (poraalE ponnuthayee). It is also Sivaranjani based, with weightage given to Ga3 (like Mohanam) in the happy version, and to Ga2 in the sad version. This song unquestionably proves that Rahman is one among the most remarkable music directors in Thamizh cinema now.

The present continuous success in the Indian filmdom might make Rahman feel as though he has gone to the top of the globe. The total ouster of Ilayaraja from the #1 position might give a feeling of superiority than other creators now. Perhaps, that is the reason why he said that he avoided listening to contemporary music! Ilayaraja had the same status once upon a time. He behaved like a narcist then! He quarrelled with everybody in the cinema field because of his superioritic complex. He spoke ill of Vairamuthu on air when both he and Vairamuthu had been selected for national award! This behavior pattern is not unique to Ilayaraja! Almost everybody who comes to the limelight for some reason seems to become gripped by the evil “conceit”! Jayalalitha performed the marriage of her step son in such a grand manner only because of “conceit”! The mind seems to constantly work with the central thought “I”, “ME”, “MINE”! Nothing else matters to the mind!

Pigs like Jayalalitha and Sasikala, Maestro’s like Ilayaraja, Rahman, superhuman beings like Mother Teresa, billionaires like Bill Gates, and all of us would be dead and sleeping in our graves in just another millennium from now! We will all be forgotten and even our own progeny would not know us! When that be the likely practical eventuality, then why conceit? 65 million years ago, in the Jurassic age, the dinosaurs ruled the earth! Where are they now? 65 million years from now, the homo-sapiens species might be extinct, and even Ilayaraja’s microgram worth of dust might not be found in that world! Then, why conceit? In the inconceivably large space-time co-ordinates of Mother Nature, the infinitesimally small human being fails to realize his mortality during his life time. He dances proudly for “HIS” achievement, fails to acknowledge other’s talents, yells at his competitor with contempt and conceit! Oh, the director of all such conceited activity – THE MIND! You are a conundrum!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

  1. Kesava Prasad says:

    Wonderful research and wonderful raagas to talk with….just like “Simhendra Madhyamam, Lathanki, Vajaspathi” those r rare raagas used in film songs…what about Hamsa nadham…..Thendral vanthu ennai thodum, Isayil(Hey Raam)..I like simhendra Madyamam in How to name it album too…..

  2. sudhir says:

    was indeed an in depth analysis of the usage of the ragaas in film music. Scathing comments towards the end were a bit of an eye sore, however, it was really bold to call a spade a spade. However, the analysis seems to be restricted to the opening sequences of songs, the way the ragaas have been tinkered. What is mesmerising about the music of Ilayaraja is his wondeful interludes in the songs. any comments?

  3. Jeganathan says:

    Hai I am Iilayraja fane Ilayaraja songs download please

  4. Ani says:

    Hello I believe a person’s work of art goes with the person’s personality. I dont have a baseless comment here but i will leave it at that for now. I dont understand how you can be all in praise of raaja till the end of the article and then write totally unnecessary comments about him in an article titled “classical ilayaraja”…what are you setting to prove here? By praising a guy, analyzing his works and then spitting on him in the end, you know more about things than the artist himself? And wat do u know about how or why raaja might have spoken about vairamuthu or watever else he did. Its your site after all and u CAN write watever crap u want…but u MAY NOT write random stuff about a genius and get away without atleast such a comment from one guy in the world.

  5. Sophiya says:


  6. Adyan says:

    Well and Informatory



  8. m.srinivasan says:

    Expose false claims of so-called veterans with bought out titles before thier names

  9. Mani says:

    Superb man.. Keep up the good one … read some of your lines with joy.. all the songs are good.. Liked “Pigs like Jayalalitha…. ” poor pigs..

  10. sundar says:

    A very neat and detailed study of useage of ragas in tamil cinema.. Though I am layman liked it very much

  11. venkat says:

    good music analysis

  12. K.Sridhar says:

    Dear Sir,
    Gone through your analysis after a long time, I wish to mail you. I dont know whether you will read this.; Kindly reply my mail. After that I shall contact you for some assistance/guidence for a programme, which is based on carnatic raagas.

  13. vinanthi says:

    cool..could u jus tel me which movie does this song belong to?isayil thodungudamma..viraha naadagame..vasantham kandadamma.and so on

  14. Vidhya says:

    The post was good. Nice to see how our movie songs can relate to carnatic music. I just have one concern tho…isnt vijayanagari raagam supposed to be a janyam of dharmavathi (59th melakartha)?
    I am not a music expert…just trying to get it clarified for my knowledge sake.

  15. vivekananda says:

    dear sir,
    Ur analysis is good but i didnt like the way u wrote about raaja sir at the end. Raaja sir is still undoubtedly the number one in cinema music and this is undisputed. Do not like about great personalities like raaja sir and rahman like this. it deeply hurts us.

  16. Kesava Prasad says:

    To Vinanthi….Isayil thudanguthamma is from film “Hey Raam” and the raga is Hamsa Naadham….Thendral Vanthu ennai thodum, Minnaram Manathu (Malayalam) are some of the other songs in same raagam composed by Raaja Sir…

  17. venkiee says:

    regarding ilayaraaja`s behaviour he hardly knows anything other than music i hope , he seldom appears in public appearance even his own movie audio release even today raaja scores 12 films ( 2011) his reputation is same as then ar rahman is a technological genius but raaja is the god of music even today most of the radio station survives by the name of ilayaraaja… raaja and vairamuthu problem did not bring ar rahman u cant hide the scent of the flower…whatever raaaja is the god of the music for me i compare raaja with sd burman salil chowdary and c ramachandra not with any others even naushad or roshan or ar rahman every one in these line are great but only few are greatest…raja is on number one of alllllllllll….according to me

  18. BALAJI says:

    nice i did not know the raagas but in your explanatory i will realise the thing which was exatly allocate

    nice work

  19. smdyuvaraj says:

    good analysis…but I wanna to register one thing what you said about Illayaraja – do you know what Vairamuthu had said abt Illayaraja..did u analyze why Raja said like that abt vairamuthu…no one is perfect in this world…let me ask you..did not you speak bad abt others in your life…don’t write what ever you think abt Raja….most of the top directors, top stars who act now would not have been in tamil industry if there is no Illayaraja…he is guy who deticated his life to music…write good things buddy 🙂

  20. SELVAAM KB says:

    Do not compare ilaiyaraja and rahman pls. Raja sir is a jennies

  21. Arvind says:

    Dear Sir,
    Many of the links are dead now….would it be possible for you to update them for ease of browsing….Everytime, to google the terms and see is bit painful…..
    thank you for your supreme efforts!!!

    Arvind Madhav

  22. Nivetha Sekar says:

    wonderfull. superb. no words to explain

  23. Chandrasekaran Viswanathan says:

    Dear Sir,
    I like your analysis very much. Let there be ego, superiority complex,etc among them-but our (music lovers) admiration and love for them is unquestionable.

  24. Illayaraja has handled almost all common ragas of Karnatic Music so aesthetically that sometimes you feel
    that they eminate better RASAS not found even in some Kritis and Keerthanas . I think such a man is licenced to have some EGO.

  25. Prabhu S says:

    Hello Sir,
    Your style of writing is very interesting. Your explanations on the various Raagas would elicit interest even in ordinary music lovers.
    Just curious to know what is your profession and where are you now.