Maestro Magic: Ilaiyaraaja enthralls fans at Isai Celebrates Isai concert
The night had multiple feature moments that were quintessential Raja
Isai Kondaadum Isai held to mark Ilaiyaraaja's 76th birthday, was a Raja concert, all right, with all the beauty of his music and all his eccentricities. It began with a group of thavil and nadaswaram artistes playing some Ilaiyaraaja hits, but it wasn't quite what people had signed up for. Singer Mano came in to loud cheers, announced a bit of delay owing to traffic congestion. And eventually, Raja, amid loud cheers, kickstarted proceedings with devotional songs like Janani Janani (Thaai Moogambigai), and Om Shivoham (Naan Kadavul).
Mano sang the first Mani Ratnam song of the evening, Oh Priya Priya, till Raja stopped it all abruptly owing to disturbance by a security guard. "You're all living with my music," he said. "Why then do you disturb when it's being played?" The song promptly resumed from where it stopped.
A big talking point about this concert has been the return of the SPB-Ilaiyaraaja collaboration, and the singer got a standing ovation, and began with Madai Thirandhu (Nizhalgal). The duo broke into an impromptu song that went Enge Pirandhaai Isaye, and soon enough, the audience erupted for the arrival of Yesudas who, rather predictably and enjoyably so, sang Amma Endrazhaikaadha (Mannan).
The list of unusual songs kickstarted with the ever-energetic Usha Uthup singing Oru Ooru (Jhansi), a song she said Raja himself had forgotten. Later on, there was Velli Salangaigal (Kadhal Oviyam), Naan Poranthu Vanthathu (Maya Bazaar), Matinee (Udayam), Namma Singari Sarakku (Kaaki Sattai)... If people had imagined this would be a list of his most popular melodies, they couldn't have been more wrong.
In between, SPB continued to regale with Nilave Va (Mouna Ragam) and Oh Butterfly (Meera), but the concert that lasted well past midnight featured three main highlights. SPB and Yesudas' rendition of Kaatu Kuyilu (Thalapathy), which took their voices back by at least two decades, was one. Second, when visuals of films like Hey Ram, Mouna Raagam and Sethu were played with and without Raja's music to show its overwhelming effect. And third, when Kamal Haasan narrated the magic of how Ilaiyaraaja accepted to work on Hey Ram after its visuals were designed for another composer's music.
People thought the night would get over when Raja announced that the proceeds would go into the creation of a building for the Cine Musicians' Union, but it went at least an hour past that, a testament to Raja's earlier challenge that he could stand for at least five hours. The night ultimately will perhaps be best remembered for those few melodies when audiences simply nodded their heads in quiet, deep appreciation, a far cry from the noise and LED shows concerts are today. And the eccentricity of Raja walking away before the end of the concert without a public farewell. It's as actor Vivek said at the concert: "The moon has dark spots too."