Life is a great teacher. She will humble you till you learn your lessons. And then when you are humbled, she will enlighten you.
All of us live through our nightmares before we live our dreams. And if we are living our dreams, know that the peaks will give way to valleys, and then to abysses only to find that when we have hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. Soon, we will reclaim our lost honor, succeed yet again with our craft and regain our glory __ only, the second time around, on the rebound, we are a lot more fulfilled, a lot less anxious and see each moment of Life, or what remains of this lifetime, as a blessing. This cycle of Life, with its inscrutable up and down patterns or down and up ways, plays itself out, time and again, from person to person, incessantly, ceaselessly.
One such co-voyager in Life, a genius in his own right, an emperor of his craft, is Tamil music composer Ilayaraja. During the 70s, 80s and well into the 90s, Ilayaraja, remained king. His was the music that mesmerized listeners and sold movies. For over a decade, well actually 15 years, no Tamil movie was released that did not have Illayaraja composing music. Such was his genius. Such was his command that he was unbeatable. Not that anyone even tried. And then came along A R Rahman, the prodigal genius, who with Roja, in 1992, swept the world away! His music was different and Ilayaraja’s hold on Tamil cinema was challenged deceptively. One tune at a time, one movie at a time. By 1997, Rahman had become staple in the entertainment business down south and Bollywood filmmakers too were counting on the Mozart of Madras (Rahman) to sell their films.
It was at this time that I met Ilayaraja at his home. A beautiful shrine-like place in T Nagar, in South Chennai, where music, moods, fragrances and floral patterns made the simple white walls and furniture in the house come alive almost surreally. Taking me to his studio on the first floor, Ilayaraja, playing a new tune he had just composed, asked me, “What do you think of it?” And I remember replying: “It’s out of this world.” “What to do,” bemoaned the genius, much to my shock, “the world does not recognize my worth anymore. Everyone wants the new kid, who learnt at my feet and today challenges me.” I was surprised. In fact horrified. I felt Ilayaraja must be proud, not jealous, of his protégé. I felt that the greatest compliment a ‘guru’ can get is when a ‘shishya’ (disciple) outsmarts him at his own craft. But I did not express my opinion; I went on with my meeting and left Ilayaraja’s home-shrine, a tad befuddled.
|Kamal Hassan, Sridevi, Ilayaraja, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikant
at ‘Shamitabh’s’ music launch
Picture Courtesy: PTI/Hindu/Internet
What began then was, as I came to realize, Ilayaraja’s hibernation, which lasted almost 10+ years. No significant music composition offers, no clamor from interview seekers, no major titles or awards; at least, things were not the same as before! I am not aware how he spent those years. Maybe he sulked. Maybe he grieved. But if that was indeed his state, it well was his own creation. He was, is and will always be a musical genius, to me, and to millions of his fans across the world. That he had to make way for a next generation sensation called Rahman was only a reflection of the way Life is and works, and was no indication of any flaw with his craft. But maybe, just maybe, Ilayaraja missed this point. Until ‘Cheeni Kum’ (2007, directed by Balki and starring Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu) happened, where Ilayaraja made a phenomenal comeback. Balki, a senior professional in Indian advertising (Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Lowe Lintas), says he got into filmmaking only to work with two of his idols__the Big B and Ilayaraja! And Ilayaraja re-used an old tune of his from the 1986 super, super-hit, Mani Ratnam film, ‘Mouna Ragam’ (follow video link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5v1xOQmcQE) in ‘Cheeni Kum’, along with a couple of other unputdownable compositions. And slowly, very slowly, the King of Tamil music, a veteran of 999 (Tamil director Bala’s up-coming ‘Tharai Thappattai’ will be his 1000th!) films, and 5000 songs, is coming into his own again. He is perhaps, hopefully, in his second innings, realizing that he was always a winner. That the music in him never died. In January this year, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth came together in Mumbai to launch the music for Balki’s latest ‘Shamitabh’, which again was composed by Ilayaraja. Talking at a public event in Chennai, some time ago, Ilayaraja said, “I don’t know how the music comes, if I find out, it will stop!”
This is what is happening to all of us. We are born winners. But we stop seeing our own worth, our own value because we expect Life to give us ideal performance conditions. And despite all the wishing that we__you and I__do, that can never be guaranteed. What can be known for sure though is that there’s a lot, a helluva lot, of talent in each in us. Our craft, our work, is our prayer. Irrespective of the circumstance we are placed in, let us keep playing on. Seasons will come, seasons will go, years will wear on, the body will age and wither away too someday, but eventually we will find that despite all of what has happened to us, the music within each of us remains intact. And all that happened, happened to humble us, to enlighten us, to enrich us, so that our music can light up the world!