I was elated to hear that AR Rahman won a Golden globe.
It’s great and in this context let me bring the (fuel the) most debated topic or comparison. Who is the best music composer in India? Rahman or Ilayaraja? (Leaving other options for simple reason that I don’t know much to discuss)
More comparisons are drawn between these two legends because of the fact that they are from same part of the country. So I propose to put forth some of the things I feel are worth considering, which will definitely help you chose your favorite among them.
The most striking similarity between both of them is unmatched genius, which revolutionized the Indian music arena. Both of their works reach one and all without any boundaries, which placed them, much above their contemporaries.
Ilayaraja entered the industry when songs in movies were not of that prominence in the films like when they used to be in the golden era of black and whites. Songs were more like cigarette breaks in the films. Entry of Illayaraja, with melody as his forte, people started loving his songs. He enjoyed a star status in Tamil Nadu with his large cutouts being erected at theatres in that time.
So perfect in his composition, (hear this) Ilayaraja could play the same notes in different ways that we cannot make a difference. He is the one to introduce western instrumentation to south Indian film music using electric and bass guitar extensively (hear this). But he always made sure that the soul of his tune is completely classical though polished by western.
Rahman’s entry was at a time when music had its recognition in the films. He completely changed the face of Indian music with extensive use of technology and impeccable recording quality with the resources available. He got a jumpstart with Roja and never looked back, became a god to music lovers in no time.
Many music directors till date fall flat trying to imitate Rahman. He completely changed the old typical format of “mukhda antara mukhda” in the songs. A lot of experimentation with multiple singers, varied instruments, fusion, and the scale attempting classical, Hindustani, western classical, jazz, rock what not.
Like Melody has been key to Illayaraja’s songs, Harmony plays a key role in Rahman’s songs.
Illayaraja composed songs, which can be remembered even after centuries for their melodious tunes. However, he did not get a chance to work with a variety of directors, except Maniratnam, Bharatiraja, Vamsi, Vishwanath. Music given to each had its own flavour in tune with the director’s taste.
For instance nobody can expect the first and second are from the same composer. His key focus was to never leave the melody in the song, even in if there is no big situation in the movie to inspire him. Watch this song, Malli Malli.
Rahman on the other hand had it ranging from Maniratnam to Shankar to Ashutosh Gowarikar. This helped him to induce a lot of variety from Sivaji to Khwajaji. It’s like he has no boundaries and can attempt anything, which is a rare quality in a composer. But again, he still has signature on the song with his harmony you can say it’s a ‘Rahman song’.
Finally, in my view, Illayaraja can be called as a King of Melody and Rahman, the king of Harmony!
Hail! ARR! Hail! Illayaraja
Image Credit: Wikipedia and Indiaspecial
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