Rewind with Raja: The gate to fame
Ahead of the upcoming Ilaiyaraaja concert, Isai Celebrates Isai, the Isaignani, in this column, reflects on an old photo of his from the TNIE archive
'This photo was taken during a composing session for Panneer Pushpangal. Vasu's appa Peethambaram was the only makeup man to work with both MGR and Sivaji. He, in a sense, handed over Vasu to me during his debut, and said, "En paiyana neengadhaan paarthukanum." Santha Bharathi's father, MR Santhanam, was also a well-known name in the drama circles.
Back then, Kodambakkam didn't have a bridge over the railway lines. There was only a gate. Celebrities who went out to shoot had to cross this railway gate to reach any studio. So, those living in the nearby slums would queue up there daily to have a look at their favourite actors and technicians and shout, "Thalaivar vaazhga", until the gate opened. I used to cross the gate exactly at 6:45 AM every day. My fans noticed this pattern and started gathering there in large numbers. Only during my last concert did P Vasu reveal that he and other top directors of Tamil cinema like Manivannan had once been a part of that crowd. It has taken me twenty-five years to know this.
When I cross the bridge today, I think about such times and wonder, "Idhu nejamaave namba Chennai dhana?" Time does fly.'
(As told to Navein Darshan)