Happy b'day Ilayaraja-Mani Ratnam: 10 magical film scores of the duo

  • Vignesh Radhakrishnan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2015 13:52 IST

It is a measure of the power of this magical duo that they've never delivered a dud till date. This when they've worked together in close to 10 films, over more than a decade.

Yes, if you are a South Indian film fan, you know this: that the pair of film director Mani Ratnam and music maestro Ilayaraja is the closest you come to absolute perfection. Together the two have given scores of musical hits that have literally redefined our idea of screenplay and music.

On their birthday on June 2, here's a look at 10 times these two greats have come together to cast their spells on us.

1. Thalapathi (General)

It is only fitting that we start this list with super star Rajnikanth's Thalapathi, one of the biggest blockbusters of Tamil cinema.

Situation: 'Thalapathi' (dubbed as 'Dalapathi' in Hindi) is loosely based on epic "Mahabharata". In this scene, Karna (Rajnikanth), an old Kunti (Sri Vidya) and Pandu (bespectacled man played by Jayshankar) are meeting in a temple. Both Rajnikanth and Sri Vidya have no idea that they are related. But there is one thing that unites them: the sound of a train! Because it reminds the son of being abandoned on a train and the mother is forced to remember her helplessness decades ago.

Now listen to Ilayaraja's BGM and Mani Ratnam's direction in this video

Hope you didn't miss: Raja's flute rendition of a train's whistle, followed by train crossing a bridge, and then the start of the BGM.

Also, you just cannot miss Mani's 'split-second' directional maneuvers with the three. After the BGM ends, Sri Vidya and Rajnikanth's eyes meet each other, and Rajni turns since he is too macho to break down in front of a woman. On her part, Sri Vidya acts ladylike and uses her fingers to wipe off her tears discreetly. Sri Vidya's painful look at Jayshankar which makes her cry silently again as this time she is looking at a man who is familiar to her. And then, finally, Jaishankar, the only one who knows about the mother-son relationship, gives a 'I-know-everything-but-can't-talk-about-it' look at both of them.
All this is happening while an extraordinary BGM runs in the background.

2. Nayakan (The star) - Kamal Haasan's cry after son's death

Situation: 'Nayakan' (remade as 'Dayavan' in Hindi) is story of an underworld don in Bombay. Here Kamal Haasan loses his son and now the news is being broken to him.

Hope you didn't miss: Till the time Kamal Haasan doesn't realise that something terrible has happened to his son, there is no BGM. There is a small hint of a music in the background when the action begins. When Kamal starts searching for his son, the sad music in the background adds to the sense of loss. And then it vanishes again when he comes near his son. The BGM comes back in full force and hits us on the face when Kamal bursts out in tears and Mani tactfully shifts the camera angle to a top shot which jolts us to the reality of what has happened. This is followed by a beautiful song composed and sung by Ilayaraja himself.

3. Mouna Raagam (Silent Symphony) - "Mandram Vantha thendraluku" song

Situation: Mouna Raagam ( remade in Hindi as "Kasak") is a film about relationship tensions between a husband and a wife. Things reach such a pas that the wife eventually asks for divorce as a marriage gift. This is a song about the 'lifeless life' of the couple which the lyricist describes in the song using following analogies - "Their life is like a water on a lotus", "Life is not a stage to disperse at the end of the show", "Relationship is not a river to get split into tributaries", "What's the need of marriage if you want to live like friends"

Hope you didn't miss: There is a subtle sexual tension between the couple through-out the song.

4. Anjali - "Anjali Anjali" song

Situation: Anjali is a film about a dying mentally challenged child and how the family raises her only to finally lose her in the climax. This is a song to introduce Anjali to the audience.

5. Pagal Nilavu (moon at noon) - Poo Maalaye song

Situation: Mani's first Tamil film "Pagal Nilavu" may have bombed at the box-office, but its soundtrack composed by Maestro Ilayaraja was a runaway hit. This is a love song from the movie.

Close your eyes and listen to this song.

Hope you didn't miss: The rising start to the song conveys the urgency of the hero, who is running down a hill slope negotiating the trees, to meet his lover. Suddenly the music cuts to a softer note as he reaches the valley where his heroine is waiting for him. The music steps down even further, allowing the lyrics to start and the transition is effortless.

Look out for how the music changes when it starts raining. And how flutes take over from violin, back to tabla and finally merge into the second stanza where Ilayaraja himself starts singing. And finally listen how the male and the female voices are interspersed in the middle.

The starting words of the lyrics "poo maalaye" translates to "Garland". And so Mani Ratnam uses a naturally made flower bed where the heroine is resting and a bunch of white lilies fall on her head as the Janaki, a famous south Indian singer, starts the song. Mani chooses an open landscape for the song as the music itself is free-flowing and can't be controlled in a film set where only limited dance steps are possible.

6. Agni Natchatram (Star of fire)

Situation: Agni Natchatram (remade in Hindi as "Vansh") is about two half-brothers with a common father fighting for legitimacy.

This is a beautiful love song from the movie which involves the first brother and his love interest.

7. Another love song from the same movie which involves the second brother and his love interest.

Things to look out for: The first brother is a police officer, while the second is a rogue. The differences can be seen both in the music and visuals. The first song will be soft and high-class lovers written all over it, while second song will have a raw energy both in music and in the way the song is made.

8. Idaya kovil (A temple of a heart)

Situation: Idaya Kovil is about a struggling singer and his two love interests. Both of whom die at the end.

This is a sad song from the tragic movie. Close your eyes and plug-in. Without understanding one word of the lyric you will relive the most painful moments of your life.

9. Sathriyan

Situation: Revolutionary star Vijayakant is a police officer in this movie. He quits his job after his wife is killed. Years later the villain comes back and threatens to kill his son too. So Vijaykant wants his job back, but his superior says he is unfit for the post. Vijaykant, goaded by his son's words of encouragement, becomes fit and joins the police force. Here is an elating background music from Ilayaraja when Vijaykant comes back to shape. ( fast-forward to 5:00 minutes for BGM)

(* Sathriyan was written and produced by Mani Ratnam but was directed by his assistant Subash)

10. Idayathai Thirudathe ( Don't steal my heart)

This love song - Oh Priya Priya - from the film is one of the longest surviving love songs in Tamil music industry. The film was a dubbed version of a Telugu original called Geetanjali, one of the biggest successes of that time both critically and commercially. It was later remade in Hindi as Yaad Rakhegi Duniya.

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