Profiles of Music Director

Ilaiyaraaja is a South Indian music composer. He was considered to be one of the best composers in India. He is not only a film composer but also an instrumentalist and a songwriter. He is in the field of song composing for more than 30 years and has composed more than 4500 songs. He gained his prominence in the late 1970s. Though he concentrates mainly on Tamil films, he has also composed music for Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam and Hindi films.

He was born on 3rd June 1943 in Pannaipuram, Theni district, Tamil Nadu. His birth name was Gnanadesikan and later his father changed his name as Raajayya. His first guru was Dhanraj Master. At the age of 14, he joined a musical troupe and travelled to many parts of South India. His first composition was an elegy for Jawaharlal Nehru written by Kannadhasan. He worked with the film composer G. K. Venkatesh as a musical assistant. He started to write his own scores in this period. He married Jeeva and has two sons Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja and one daughter Bhavatharini.

A record is his scoring for two films in five days, shuttling between studios from session to session round the clock. This assurance of speed and quality has boosted his value to the producer.He worked with a variety of directors like Baarathiraja, Balachandar, Balu Mahendra, Mahendran, Maniratnam among many others and has given 100s of all time hit songs. He has scored music for nearly 500 movies. Apart from Tamil he has scored for other language films which include Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and English. His latest hit is Kadhaluku Mariyadhai.

When he was working in his first movie Annakkili, the producer Panchu Arunachalam gave him the name Ilayaraja. He got gold medal in classical guitar from Trinity College of Music, London. He was the first Asian to compose a full symphony. He achieved this in the year 1993. His song, ‘Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu’ was voted as the fourth most popular song of the world in the international poll conducted by BBC in the year 2003.

He has also composed music for many religious and devotional songs and released many albums. He is affectionately called as Isaignani. He has worked with many Indian poets and lyricists like Kannadhasan, Vairamuthu, Gulzar, Vaali, Veturi Sundararama Murthy and many film directors such as Bharathiraja, K. Balachander, K. Vishwanath, Vamsy, Balu Mahendra, Mani Ratnam, etc. and playback singers like S. P. Balasubramaniam, K. J. Yesudas, Swarnalatha, T. M. Soundararajan, P. Susheela, Malaysia Vasudevan, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, and Sadhana Sargam.

He was a great experimenter , he even modified original
Thyagaraja compositions e.g., "Marimari ninni..."(Sindhu Bairavi). He had a remarkable speed, he could record a song in six to ten hours and the re-recording of a whole film (12000-15000 feet) in three or four days.

Awards & Titles

He had won National Film Awards, three times for Best Music Direction and once for Best Background Score and has received Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India. He has also received honorary doctorate degree three times and many other honors like Kalaimamani Award for his achievements.