The IR Magic Show

Maestro Ilayaraja

Ilayaraja was in town for a concert. Date – 23rd of September 2012. The free concert was organised to celebrate the ’50th Ganesha Utsava’ in Bangalore. The venue was National College grounds, Basavanagudi.

As usual Tejas and I had discussed the program and were all set to meet up and enjoy the musical extravaganza. I was excited but promised myself not to expect a lot. I had thought that Ilayaraja would perform with a local orchestra, maybe for a couple of songs. But when we entered the venue there was a huge stage set up and the seating arrangements on the stage for musicians meant that it would be a huge orchestra. The event was to start at 7:00pm and we were in the grounds at 6:30pm. People trickled into the venue as the minutes passed. At around 7:00pm the musicians walked onto the stage and started preparing themselves and their instruments for the performance. Sound checks, random bits of music emanated out of the stage. It was one of the biggest live orchestra that I had ever seen. In my estimate there were around 75 musicians, 20 or 25 of them in the violin section alone. Once they were all tuned for the evening the first musical performance started and as the crescendo reached the peak, Ilayaraja, dressed in his trademark white shirt and white ‘Veshti’, made a grand entry onto the stage.

IR straight away started with an invocation song in Kannada – ‘Amma Endare..’ from one of his devotional albums. Next he performed one of his regular on-stage numbers, ‘Janani Janani..’, amidst thunderous applause from the audience. But surprisingly IR struggled a lot with the song. He fumbled for the correct words and even his voice seemed to fail him. After the song he spoke to the audience and said that he had come to the concert to see the people and he was overwhelmed by the welcome presented to him. This was followed by a short ‘Guru Vandana’ – Obeisance to the teacher/mentor. By then the venue was full and the mood was near hysterical. The vast expanse of the playground which had few people an hour ago was suddenly a sea of human population. The organizers had done good job of setting up giant screens at different points in the area and people had settled themselves around them, some stood and some even sat on the ground, ready and expectant to consume the musical treat.

The magician then started performing one hit after another from his compositions of Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Telugu movies. Some of the songs were splendidly rendered by eminent singers like Mano, Vijay Prakash, Vijay Yesudas and others. Though Mano was good, when he rendered songs originally sung by SPB there was something amiss. For some of these songs IR gave trivia, like how he composed all the songs for the Tamil-Kannada bilingual ‘Priya’ sitting in Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. He also remembered his mentor G K Venkatesh under whose tutelage he had worked in the Kannada film industry. As homage to his Guru the song ‘Ahaa Mysooru Mallige…’ from ‘Bangaaradha Manushya’ was performed. IR also fondly remembered Shankar Nag, and spoke about the camaraderie he shared with the late actor. Undoubtedly IR has given some quality music to the films of Shankar Nag and the two most prominent hits were performed that day – ‘Santhoshakke..’ and ‘Jotheyali..’ both from the film ‘Geetha’. The crowd went berserk when the former song was performed; the dancing managed to raise the dust from the ground and fill our nostrils.

IR himself performed for 2 more of his Kannada hits – ‘Sihigali..’ from ‘Aa Dinagalu’ and ‘Omkaradi..’ from ‘Namoora Mandara Hoove’. To add to the excitement Yuvan Shankar Raja took to stage and performed ‘Raja Kaiyya Vechcha..’ from ‘Apoorva Sahodarargal’. Though it was a spirited performance Yuvan fumbled for the lines and missed the timing a couple of times. But the excited audience did not mind that. Karthik Raja, Bhavatharini and Premgi Amaran too were present on the day seated in the front row.

There was disturbance in the event when the orchestra started performing ‘Naguva Nayana…’ from ‘Pallavi Anupallavi’. IR wanted the audience to listen to the amazing violin section at the starting of the song. He even asked Vijay Prakash and the female singer to stop the vocal so that the violin section could be performed again. But then the crowd started whistling and displayed its enthusiasm in a very rustic manner. IR was not pleased and he announced that one more whistle or clap from the crowd, when the symphony piece is performed and he would walk out of the stage. The crowd did not listen and interrupted their second attempt at playing the symphony piece with more noise and cheering. IR was not amused and he made an act of walking out while Vijay Prakash came to the rescue and asked the audience to be quiet and appreciate symphony music. After this short disturbance the performance resumed with the symphony music played was extraordinary.

The performance was halted in between for honouring the guests. IR meticulously introduced each musician and singer of his orchestra to the audience and proclaimed that without his musicians the compositions he wrote would fall flat. It was surprising to hear that the son of the renowned musician Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan was a violinist in IR’s orchestra.

We were waiting anxiously for at least one song from ‘Dalapathi’. How could we not resist from hoping to see IR perform the opening musical bit from ‘Raakamma..’ from the film. It was 10:45pm and one hit after another from all languages were being doled out except for what we were anticipating. We decided to leave for home as it was late and it was a long journey back home.

I have tried to describe the experience in the concert but my vocabulary fails me. All I can say is that it was magical. Some of my favourites performed on stage by a 50-75 piece orchestra is an experience that I will cherish for a long time. To hear those instruments playing the musical notes of IR in sync was pure ecstasy. It gave the goose bumps when the Violin section of the orchestra performed the bit from ‘Pallavi Anupallavi’. I just wished that it could have been an indoor paid concert so that the experience would have been richer..but it was a memorable evening. An evening that many would cherish for a long time; IR made sure of that. Like the opening line of one of his hits, ‘Raja Kaiyya Vechcha..Wronga Ponadilla..!!’

Below is the playlist of the concert that I have compiled. I still do not know what songs were performed after the Telugu song ‘Botany Paatamaindi..’ from ‘Shiva’.

Note: The list is not complete and records only the songs performed till 10:45pm that day


* Amma Endare – Udupi Sri Krishna Suprabhatham (Kannada Devotional Album with contribution from IR)

* Janani Janani – Thaai Mookambikai

* Sharanam Bhava Karunamayee – Guru Vandana song

* Om Shivoham – Naan Kadavul

* Aakashadinda Jaari – Janma Janmada Anubandha

* Idhayam Oru Kovil – Idhaya Kovil

* Aha Mysooru Mallige – Bangarada Manushya

* Kavithe Neenu Raaga Naanu – Priya

* Ilaya Nila – Payanangal Mudivathillai

* Entha Soundarya Nodu – Maathu Thappada Maga

* Yaarigagi Aata – Bharjari Bete

* Yen Iniya Pon Nilave – Moodupani

* Raja Kaiya Vecha – Aboorva Sagotharargal (sung by Yuvan Shankar Raja)

* Sihi Gali – Aa Dinagalu

* Hero Hero Hero Naane Naane Naane – Ajeya

* Oh Priya – Geetanjali

* Santhoshakke – Geetha

* Naguva Nayana – Pallavi Anu Pallavi

* Ae Zindagi Gale Lagale – Sadma

* Omkaradi – Nammoora Mandara Hoove

* Jotheyali – Geetha

* Botany Class – Shiva

~ by Jayanthan Ravi on October 18, 2012.

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