Birthday Jukebox: Reliving the Ilayaraja -SPB Magic

There was a crazy amount of reporting around Ilaiyaraja’s gag on SPB singing his compositions. Was it legal? Even if it were legally right, was Ilaiyaraaja being petty? Has the age old tiff between the two resurfaced?

Questions, questions, more questions. For now, let’s keep it all aside, and enjoy ten of the hundreds of hits the two of them have given, crossing language barriers. Yes, I’m listing songs from Hindi, Tamil and Telugu (since these are the three languages I know. Kannada? Only ‘solpa solpa’.)

Rest assured, even if you don’t understand the lyrics, the music is sure to charm you. After all, how better to celebrate Ilayaraja’s than through his music?

This is actually an item number. No, really. It’s what’s called a Kuthu pattu in Tamil. Kuthu – as in the tune makes you want to sway on the dance floor. And yet, as SPB observed in an old interview, it’s got such an electric classical overtures that it’ll throw your body into confusion; Do I swing my arms in the dance riot (Kuthu effect), or bring them together in reverence (carnatic effect)?

Remember ‘Dhak dhak Karne Laga...’ from the movie Beta, where Madhuri Dixit dances like a gyrating sun at midnight? Well, that super hit Anand-Milind number is a note-by-note rip-off from this Ilayaraja classic.

Wonder if Ilaiyaraaja sent a legal notice to Anand-Milind for plagiarism.

The song was remixed in Nautanki Saala (2013), starring Ayushman Khurana and three others. And to this, Beta’s director Indra Kumar had just one thing to say;
Unhone mere gaane ka balaatkar kar diya!’

Now that’s what I call a ‘situation’ song. What other song can better describe the ‘bandhan’ between Ilaiyaraaja and SPB?

Speaking of Hindi numbers, there was a time when SPB would record 20 songs in a single day, for Anand-Milind. He would then return by the last flight to Chennai.

There was a time when Ram Gopal Varma’s movies were actually brilliant. That time is now the stuff of legend. Nevertheless, Shiva, his iconic action romance had everything going for it. Nagarjuna and Amala’s on-screen chemistry translated into one of filmdom’s longest standing relationships. And this song by the Ilaiyaraaja-SPB duo is all about unpredictable energy.

Are there ‘ghazals’ in Tamil you ask? Well, here’s one. There’s so much going on in SPB’s singing that youngsters on stage have been trying to recreate this magic for over two generations. And this is Rajinikanth, just a little after Billa, Moondru Mugam and Andha Kanoon, iconic films in their own right. Everyone you see and hear in this song, are at their peak.

Much has happened since 1984. The creator of impossible melody, and the only man who could bring them to life, have had a tumultuous relationship. For almost a decade, SPB didn’t sing for Ilaiyaraaja. Many, like myself, would imagine the tunes of those years in SPB’s voice. 

Little did we know, that SPB too, shared this sentiment. He released an album Padatha Padalgal (unsung songs); an SPB karaoke of songs by Ilaiyaraaja and other composers, which were originally sung by other singers. But that’s a jukebox for another time.

(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 2 June 2016. It is now being republished to mark Ilayaraja’s birthday.)