When Kamal Haasan and Ilaiyaraaja revealed the unknown secrets of Hey Ram
The composer and actor recounted how the Isaiyil Thodanguthamma was conceived at yesterday's Isai Celebrates Isai concert
Ilaiyaraaja's Isai Celebrates Isai was a memorable event for a lot of reasons. SP Balasubrahmanyam sang "Poda ellam vitu thallu, pazhasai ellam suttu thallu," with a meaningful look at Raja, hopefully signalling an end to the two-year long tussle between the duo. Also, as promised Isaignani recreated the iconic background score of Mouna Ragam, with the scene of Karthik running in the streets playing on the screens, to a rousing reception.
But the biggest surprise of the evening came when Kamal Haasan and Ilaiyaraaja revealed the secrets behind the composition of Hey Ram. Raja welcomed Kamal on stage and asked him what he would be singing, to which the actor replied that he had come to recount a story, one that he hadn't told before. He began with the now-familiar story of how he had shot Hey Ram with the score provided by another composer, and had then gone to Ilaiyaraaja after the shooting was complete, with a request to compose new music for the already shot scenes.
Kamal also recalled how the Nee Partha Parvaikkoru Nandri song was composed. "We had shot the song with the tune of another composer. During that time, I felt that roping in a new composer in the place of Ilaiyaraaja would give an interesting result. But he left the project due to various reasons. I went to Raja and asked him to save the film. Raja anna accepted the film without a second thought because of his love for me and asked, 'What should I do now?' I showed him the footage of Nee Partha, which had been shot already with visuals of me playing the piano, and asked him to compose a new song that would fit those. He immediately composed an entirely new song that perfectly matched the lipsync and piano fingering. What I gave him was a mannequin, but he gave life to it and changed it into a miracle."
The actor-filmmaker then surprised the audience by revealing that another classic song from the film was entirely Raja's idea. "I didn't plan to have a song during a crucial portion in the film. But Raja anna saw that sequence and said, 'Inga oru paatu poda marandhutome,' and played me this song," said Kamal and an AV was played revealing that the song in question was Isaiyil Thodanguthamma song. The orchestra then recreated it live for the audience.
Ilaiyaraaja added, "Kamal is a divine talent. Just look at his eyes and the way he emotes in this sequence. When I saw the footage I felt placing a song aligning with the series of events would enhance the experience of the audience."
Kamal continued saying, "Podhuva dhaanama vandha maata pal ah pudichu parka kudadhu nu solluvanga, aana naan pal eh velaki vittuten. (One shouldn't question charity, but I went a step ahead and dissected it.) I wasn't sure about Raja anna's idea until I saw the final version along with the video. Just look at the way he used the 'Jai Ram Chandra ki jai!' right at the point where there's a Ravana dahanam on screen. The character I play is drunk during this sequence, but I got a supreme high just by seeing him compose and arrange the percussion instruments during the recording."
He went on to recount the recording session in detail. "Raja was very particular that Ajoy Chakrabarty should sing it. But the pay the latter demanded was quite a high amount for us during that time, especially given that our budget had already been exceeded. My brother Chandrahasan (the film's co-producer) was unsure if we could afford it and wanted to negotiate a bit. But when we heard the final version, any doubts I may have had were gone and when I looked back, my brother had tears in his eyes. He simply said, 'Evlo naalum paravala pa kuduthudalam.' (No matter how much he demands, let's give it to him.) And Raja just smiled and said, 'That's what I've been saying all along.'"