Certain beautiful things are only experienced and enjoyed. They cannot be described in words , for words fail miserably to adequately bring out the import and poignancy of the moment. Of all the five senses god has bestowed on us, speech is perhaps the most ordinary faculty. At dawn, just before day-break, the sparrows chirp. Ears hear the chirp but can words do ample justice to portray the lilt on paper? On a drizzling afternoon, at the eastern horizon, a rainbow suddenly spurts. Eyes behold the magic but can words convincingly describe the beauty the eyes witness? On a wintry cold night, when we are half-asleep snuggled cozily inside the blanket, you feel the chill fingers of someone lying beside on your bare chest! Ah, the silky touch, but words could hardly narrate the ecstasy felt. When at night, after a hard day's labour we are tired and famished, the smell of food being cooked wafts inside your room. The nose captures the heavenly sensation, but the words just fail to keep pace.
So is with music. So is with Ilayaraja's music. It can only be felt, touched, breathed, smelt and even seen but not adequately described. The man and his work have only been so far loosely described as something approximating to genius. I am not very sure about the appropriate context in which the adjective should be used but the word genius itself can, at best, aspire to only skim the surface of Raja's repertoire. There are millions on this earth, who have discovered deep inner peace and eternal bliss in Raja's works. Millions like me, have managed to wade through the mundane wretched moments of daily life only by seeking solace from Raja's songs.
I once read somewhere that writer Sujatha once referred to the 'small surprising sweet shocks'(or something similar to that effect - edhirparadha siriya inba adhirchi) one gets from countless of Ilayaraja's compositions. I am not sure about the writer's references, since I could not cross-verify it from any source. But I have no such doubts about the inba adhirchigal Raja's songs regularly throw up at every nook, at unexpected moments, like mild electric shocks, producing minute, tingling, ecstatic sensations all over. A few of such I may wish to share:
In 'Attukutti muttayittu...' from 16 vayadhinile, in every charanam, after the 3rd line, the accompanying percussion beat in the background produces that one extra beat..(after 'pattathu rani, adhula 18 peru..... & medaikkuppona enakku eedilla ponnu...) which any other ordinary mortal would never even have conceived of. Just an extra fleeting-second beat, many would not even have noticed but the effect it produces on the discerning listener is incomparable. In 'Sundari kannal oru sedhi.." after the first stanza, the drums start playing. Listen minutely to their gradually slackening tempo and then rising to a crescendo.Exhilarating effect. Or in 'Pon malaippozhudhu, after the first charanam finishes, listen to the interlude- a beautiful piece of orchestration beginning with the guitar, and then the flute, and then the violin crescendo each beginning and seamlessly merging into the next one....
In "paruvame pudhiya padal padu...", after the pallavi, the accompanying jogging- beat rhythm prolongs for a while. Even as it does, the guitar effortlessly takes over soothingly. Even before it finishes, the violin ensemble begins and reaches a crescendo, The interlude then ends with a solo violin and then for a few magical moments, everything is silent except for the jogging steps which in turn fuse ever so effortlessly with the singer's arohanam. It takes more than mere genius to even attempt such mind-blowing compositions. And can anything hope to match the interludes of folkish lullaby and the high-pitched male scat- singing to the accompaniment of the beating of udukkai in 'uchi vagudeduthu..." I could have tried to tag the individual songs here but thought better - for one, I am very clumsy when it comes to use of technology and more important, I am talking here to my fellow Tamil film-music lovers only. For us, Raja songs play inside our heads 24 x 7 and it is no big deal to press the play-back button inside the head.
Connoisseurs go gaga over the violin concertos and symphonies of Bach and Beethoven. Terms like adagio, allegro, C major and stuff like that do add a snobbish value to many but for them bandishing such terms in the cocktail circuit is more important than the music itself. Our own Raja, within the suffocating confines of film music, has managed hundreds of gems of violin symphonies, as in "madai thirandu thavum siru alai naan...", "Edho mogam.." "Raja raja chozhan..." and many more. Our Raja has straddled with elegance all forms of music, western to Carnatic classical, folk to reggae, jazz to hard rock. He has ventured into territories competition was barely aware of. He has, with aplomb, brought glory back to the much-maligned film music. He is capable of much more, to reach further heights and to lord over the rest of the world. But his best probably is destined to never come out. We are so used to relegating film musicians to the realm of the scum of the society. We take pride in deriding film music, specially the pundits among us. It's a tragedy but certainly, the loss is not Raja's.
Thank you Raja, for all that you have given me and the world. Thanks, Raja for lightening up my moments of gloom. Thanks for the joy and ecstasy you have shared with humanity all these years. You are brilliant, you transcend borders and you come close to genius. You are well, God, since pudhu ragam padaippadhale neeyum Iraivane!