Rewind with Raja: Where it all began
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 picture was taken in a studio called New Jupiter in Madurai. The person standing to my left is my younger brother, Gangai Amaran. I am unable to recall the name of the person on the other end. It must be one of our friends. This photograph was taken as the continuation of a photoshoot of me and my brothers performing in a kacheri. We used to roam around without much worries in the streets of Madurai during those days. This picture also reminds me of the first appreciation I got for my music. Once my anna, Pavalar Varadarajan, had a difference of opinion with a harmonium player who was supposed to play in the thiruvizha that day, and consequently, that person did not turn up. Our amma asked anna to take me in as a replacement. Now, my anna used to actually hit me with a cane whenever I laid my hands on the harmonium at home. Obviously, he didn't have high hopes about me. He asked amma skeptically, "Ivan nejama vaasichiduvana?" But he took me to the kacheri nevertheless. I went there wearing a half-trouser and began to play. The audience got excited seeing a young boy performing in front of a huge crowd and gave me a huge applause. At that moment, I thought to myself, "Naan thappa vaasichale kai thatraangale, nalla vaasicha evlo kai thattuvanga?" That thought motivated me to practice fervently every single day, and I guess that particular incident was the spark that made me what I am today.'
(As told to Navein Darshan)