As the long queues outside the Gachibowli Stadium thinned out and people started settling down in their seats, Vilas Nayak, the famous speed-painter from Bengaluru, sketched a quick portrait of music maestro Ilaiyaraaja. In a short while, the world-renowned music composer took to stage for a live show with singers and musicians from the film industry including the Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra from Hungary, lead by its conductor Laszlo Kovacs. It was clear that all the beautiful compositions of Ilaiyaraaja’s, blended with western classical music harmonies and string arrangements, would transport the audience into another world. The show started with the chanting of prayers including Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu.
Said Ilaiyaraaja, “We will perform for the audience as long as they remain here. All the musicians from Hungary have been practicing very hard for the last one week to bring this music to the audience of Hyderabad. Like a mother prepares food for her child, we musicians, from India and abroad, have worked every day to bring this presentation to you.” Well-known singer ‘Mano’ requested Ilaiyaraaja to present the rare composition created by the maestro with three musical notes only. Smilingly, he agreed and explained how the male voice, female voice and the instrumental music of the orchestra were individually different but at the same time beautifully merged into one amalgamation, similar to the counterpoint technique of western classical music.
It was very clear from all songs that Ilaiyaraaja has great love for melodious notes emanating from the flute. He specifically introduced his flute player, Napoleon and demonstrated how he would create a melody on his harmonium, which would be later captured on the flute. Ilaiyaraaja remembered famous lyricist Aatreya while the song Prema Entha Madhuram from Abhinan-dana was being rendered. He recalled how Aatreya would take a lot of time to write lyrics for any tune. As the song Vatapathra Sayiki Varahala Lali from Swati Mutyam was rendered, Ilaiyaraaja requested the audience to give a round of applause for the director of the film K. Viswanath. “After seeing the way Viswanath filmed the scene for this song, I had tears in my eyes,” he said. The audience cheered when the camera panned on Chiranjeevi as the song Abbani Teeyani Debba was being sung.
As the show progressed, Ilaiyaraaja truly proved that he was a ‘no-nonsense’ man. One of the singers had to repeat his line again till it became perfect. In between the songs, the sound went cracking at times. A booming microphone during the melodious Hindi film song Jaane Do Na caught the attention of the maestro. He asked the singer to start the song all over again. Similarly, the maestro corrected himself also while singing a song. And when the audience would whistle into a song, Ilaiyaraaja restarted the song after explaining the need for silence to enjoy a melody. When a singer tried to speak and praise the maestro, Ilayaraaja quickly retorted. “This is the time to sing and not talk. Talking would be allowed only if it comes in the form of a song.
These days, many singers are used to more talking than singing on television shows.” That was the perfect maestro Ilaiyaraaja.