"Annakili Unne Theduthe..."
When you listened to your first song for a movie in T.M. Soundarrajan's voice, you must have yearned for the entire Tamil society to echo the tune. The song stayed forever. Most of your later songs did too, making you the undisputed king of melody in south India.
Rasayya from a small hamlet called Pannaipuram near Theni has come a long way since 'Annakili'. Perhaps your mentor Dharmarajan Master did not deem 'Rasayya’ a name befitting a future king. You became Master Raja. Panju Arunachalam gifted you the name Ilayaraja. Evidently, there are quite a few people who can claim ownership of your name. What if the people of Pannaipuram, Dharmarajan Master and Panju Arunachalam served legal notices on you barring you from using the name 'Ilayaraja'?
Most of your songs were brought to life by S.P. Balasubramaniam, S. Janaki and K.S. Chitra. Don’t they have a role in making those songs the legends they are? Of course they do. That is the reason why the lyricist and the singer are also taken into account when a composer is considered for the Oscars.
Ilayaraja controversy: Singers-composers voice concern
We have heard about Aurangazeb issuing a diktat banning people from singing songs throughout the Mughal empire. Now, you have issued a diktat banning singers from performing your songs. Is there any difference between Aurangazeb and Ilayaraja?
Agreed, the law is on your side. You enjoy the copyright to your compositions. Still don't you think there is an ethical question involved?
When you create a song - sitting in the comfort of a hotel room rented by a producer, humming along a harmonium invented by Alexandre Debain, borrowing heavily from the ragas composed by Thyagaraja Swami, Muthuswami Deekshithar or Shyama Shastry, working on the lyrics written by Kannadasan, Pulamaipithan or Vairamuthu - and sell its rights to a corporate company, do you actually share the proceedings with your benefactors?
I did not want to belittle you. I had to write this because you were belittling yourself.
Nobody can go through the history of south Indian music without eulogizing you. Ilayaraja is a legend. The legend of how a Dalit became a king through his music. That revolutionary legend should echo through the ages in your songs.
Let SPB, Janaki and Chitra sing your glory before they pass it on to the next generation.
Let the singers make you immortal.
(Salim Kumar is a National Award-winning actor, who works in the Malayalam film industry.)