Saturday, April 23, 2005

Music Analyzed - By Dr.Lakshminarayanan

Ilayaraja is a classic story of rags to riches. A man from a remote village from down south comes to Madras with a harmonium box and two brothers. He is completely broke and struggles for a living. He then makes it big. Not uncommon but then again not a trivial acheivement. He actually goes on to compose for the Royal Philharmnic Orchestra and an Orchestra in Hungary. Places where no Indian has gone before. The difference between Ilayaraja and others is that he is more of a geek variety. He is a purist. He is not your Deva or Anu Mallik. He is not even the Burmans. He is a level above everybody India has ever seen. People who have interacted with him and those who have seen him record have been amazed at the way the man thinks in "notes". It has been observed that he can visualize the music he is composing in its literature form. He writes his tunes in paper. His orchestration is considered not only the best in India but comparable worldwide. A simple uneducated man with humble beginning, Ilayaraja is considered a genius. If he had a PR machine, people say he would have gone places. But then Ilayaraja is too much of a purist. He seems to loathe publicity like we would hate a rattle snake. He has given maybe 2 TV interviews in the past 3 decades.


People who understand the technicalities of raagams and the nuances of western classical music are the ones who are really stunned by Ilayaraja's magic. For a man who has been unexposed to western classical music for a good part of his life - Ilayaraja has shown amazing propensity and talent in picking up the subtleties of that craft. When most of todays musicians seem to earn the millions without knowing what a "counterpoint" is? Ilayaraja, who is considered to have the potential of a Bach, a Tchaikovsky or a Chastakovich, leads an unnasuming life. He rarely speaks but the magic of his ragas and his orchestration seem to do all the talking. I grew up in the AR Rahman era ( and I love Rahman too) but Ilayaraja still mystifyes and captures my imagination. He would always be the true unsung hero in my books.

In the good old days when Internet was in its early days, there were no blogs no yahoogroups abd we barely had a search engine that was worthy of mention. Things were, as they said, evolving. Now things are still evolving but we seem to be at a more advanced stage in the evolution cycle than, say a decade before. There were newsgroups.

Dr. Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan is a doctor in Norman, Okhlahoma, USA. He wrote 15 articles on Film music and did a critical analysis of each music director and the use of certain raagams by different music directors. When I was new in the US of A and quite new to this email thing, I was stunned by the amount of forwarded messages sent ( a separate blog in this later). SideNote: to the "forwarded mail" saga, the small girl, who was a daughter of a Seimens employee was dying of cancer then and still dying even now, when I got the same forwarded mail 6 years after I got it for the first time telling me the girl was dying of cancer. So in that era, which was some 6-7 years before, I received 15 forwarded emails from a friend containing articles by Dr.Lakshminarayanan. I was simply stunned by his brilliant exposition of all things film music. He appeared to me as a carnautic music expert and he definetly understood raagams and the technical aspects of music in-depth.

Ilayaraaja I am a person who is retarded in such fine cultural things like carnatic music, I was awestruck by Dr.Lakshminarayanan's knowledge on this subject. I was thinking "here is a doctor who is also so specialized in what he learned as a hobby". As I was backing up my computer, I started reading some of my archived emails and slowly got engrossed in that when I found these forwarded emails. I thought I should publish these articles here just to keep this alive.

These articles were sent by Dr.Lakshminarayanan to the Recreation Music Indian Classical and Social Cultural Tamil newsgroups ( yes! the same ones in which another famous internet author Ramesh Madhavan posted).

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan in a mutual friend's house in Dallas, Texas. I had already read all his articles extensively and was almsot star struck while talking to him.

The list of articles and their links are

1)Ilayaraja - Chakravagham, Malaiyamaarutham & Kaapi:: In this articles Dr.Lakshminarayanan talks about Ilayarajas music in the movie Chembaruthi and his use of Chakravagham, Malaiyamaarutham & Kaapi

2) Gowrimanohari, Hemavathi, Karaharapriya, Sriranjani:
This articles talks about music from M.K, Thiagaya Bhavathar, K.V.Mahadevan's Thiruvilayadal to Ilarayarajas use of the above mentioned ragas in movies like Guna.

3) Ilayaraja & Subhapanthuvarali, Panthuvarali, Mayamalava Gowlai, Lalitha:
This article talks exclusively about Ilayaraja and his handling of these raagams in some of the popular Kamal and Rajini movies.

4) Ilayaraja (and Kunnakudi Vaidhyanathan)- 4 ( Thodi, Kalyani, Amir Kalyani, Saranga): Here he talks about violin and Ilayaraja's favorite raagam, the Kalyani.

5) Ilayaraja Vairamuthu, Rahman (Kedaram, Sankarabharanam, Nalinakanthi): Here apart from analysing songs that have the above ragams he describes the function of lyrics in songs.

6) Ilayaraja 6 ( Rishabam/Madhyamam - Hamsanadham ) : Here he analyzes music from Manirathnam's to ramarajan movies.

7) Ilayaraja -7 ( kanakangi, Sudha Saveri, Rasikapriya ): Here he analyzes music from Sindhu Bhairavi to AVM's Pudhumai Penn.

8) Ilayaraja 8 ( Names & groups of Ragas, Rajanis, Bhairavis, Vivadhis): Here he details the Kalyani ragam and talks about Ilayarajas music to AR.Rahman's music in detail.

9) Ilayaraja 9 ( Thiyagaraya Krithis, Hindolam, Chandrakauns, Saramathi ) : Here ha talks about Sain Thyagaraja, patenting and Ilayaraja's "how to name it". did you know "muqquabula" and "chandralekha" are raagam based songs?

10) Ilayaraja - 10 ( Western Classical, vasantha, Poorvi kalyani, Hamsanandhi) :Ilayaraja's use of eastern and western classical music. Review of the famous "andhi mazhai" song. He also talks about sex. AR Rahman's music and Jingles are also mentioned.

11) Ilayaraja-11 ( Humor, Brindhavana Saranga, Sudha Dhanyasi, Arabhi, Kaanada ) :Here he talks about humorous situations and songs surrounding such situations.

12) Ilayaraja - 12 ( Birth of Ragas, Thodi, Suddha Dhanyasi) : Here he talks about the birth of ragas, birth in general. He also talks extensively about Ilayaraja's usage of the rare Thodi raagam.

13) Ilayaraja-13 (Copying, Shruthi, Suddha Saveri, Hindolam, Aandholika, Madhyamaavathi, Bowli, Sriraagam) : Here he talks about copying of songs, common misconceptions about copying. Here he explains the technical detail of what really "shruthi" means and also talks about a bevy of raagams.

14)Ilayaraja 14 ( Sex, Reethigowlai, Chaalanattai, Nattai, Gambheerai Nattai, Vakram) : Here he talks extensively about sex and the "vakram" factor. He also writes extensively about the various strains of nattai and their uses in film songs.

15) Ilayaraja 15 ( Dharmavati, Genesis, Shanmugapriya, Lathaangi, Vijayanagari, Sivaranjini & Conceit) : Is Ilayaraja conceited. Do brainy/successful people have conceit? Lakshminarayanan has his views on it. He also talks about movies like "Azhagan" and some old classic tamil songs.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about carnautic music or western classical. I am just a good listener. So all views music or otherwise expressed in those articles are Lakshminarayan's and his own. Since I am not gaining any money out of this blog one canno say I have violated patent rules by exposing these articles. In the Linux Global Public Licence world, everything in the internet domain is for public knowledge ( ofcourse Harvard Business School disagrees with such a view). Ofcourse you have to credit the source. Which I have done. Moreover I have published these aricles with a goodwill of making the public more aware that such articles and people like Lakshminarayanan exist.


Anonymous said...

There was a radio program where people discussed one raagam everyday and the film songs based on that raagam. I dont remember the name of the program.

Asianet also had a similar program, I think at around 6.30 pm everyday, where a person ,who looks like Yesudas, discussed one raagam a day and all the top carnatic/film songs that resemble that raaga. He had about 7-10 young carnatic singers along with him. That was a nice program.

anantha said...

Like you, me 2 a ARR generation, but I don't think I can live without listening to one pre-90s Raaja composition every day. I start humming/whistling the bars of the song involuntarily if I hear the opening music and some of my older acquaintances are amazed that I have even listened to the song given the 10 odd years of difference in age between me and them. That amazement increases exponentially when i show them the collection that I have, courtesy, you, Pirabu, Anbu and some of my other friends! Like that song goes, Raaja Raaja Dhaan!

Ummm Bharath, thalaiva.. You just committed sacrilege. That was "Ramesh Mahadevan" and not "Ramesh Madhavan"! And u gotta check this out...

Prabhu said...

Ha Ha..How can we forget simbly south :)

The quote that i can never forget is
"If golf is a sport, watching golf is a sport" :-)

Anti, If not for mp3's I think our knowledge about Mottai/msv songs will be as bad as people who are much older than us.

tifoc said...

Hey Bharath,

Whenever you have time, please do visit by blog and let me know if there are any feedbacks. I just started blogging.


Hawkeye said...


i dunno how I mispelt his last name. my marketing manager's name is aneesh madhavan and I keep calling him so frequently that I mustve subconciously mixed it up.

Ramesh Mahadevan is a Ohio State alumni :-). I think he lives in Colorado now. Most of his articles have a fictional character who is a PhD student and who has been working on his thesis forever. I love his descriptions of male-grad-student-desi encounters with female of the species.

I know his articles ridicule and self-depracate us grad students but I still love his articles. i have read each of them 3-4 times and like RKNarayan he is part of my reading memories.

Hawkeye said...


yes! i know I watched itbecause my dad loved that program. I think it is still repeated one in a while. it comes at 6:30 PM. But they dont discuss film songs but mostly carnatic songs based on raagas.


the quote is "if golf is a sport then watching TV is a sport too"

anantha said...

Ajay Palvayanteeswaran a marakka mudiyuma!

Totally self deprecating peices, but then they ring true with anyone who has been in grad school here in the US!

I dunno if my previous comment will be up, cos i lost connection to this page when i pressed the "Login and Publish" button earlier. I had lamented that he had stopped writing or mebbe there was a alternate universe that we havent discovered yet where Ramesh Mahadeven still writes about Ajay and his (mis) adventures.

And then I did this thing that ppl call a "google search" and lo! I found some latest dirt on Ramesh..

He is actually in Chennai these days! And he has his own personal domain! Check this out! And he even has his ph number listed ;)

Tirukumar said...


Being an ardent Ilaiyaraaja fan, I got hooked to the articles of Dr.Lakshminarayanan on the Maestro. Thanks for that, it was very insightful.

Its nice to see a man being celebrated for his genius without any bias. In his speech during the launch of his book Vazhitunai in Malaysia, the Maestro said something profound:

"Every song of mine is like a child....the ones that you cherish, I may have produced in a matter of minutes but the ones you disgard as trash, I may have spent days to produce."
Goes to show how simply he perceives his great achievements. A true legend.

I thoroughly enjoyed your other topics on this site and couldn't agree more on your review of Anniyan.I look forward to reading more of such interesting reviews and opinions on your site.

Sydney, Australia

Raghu said...

Great ones to read.
Nice ones Bharath..


Ravi R said...

Though i have read lakshmi's post many times in different forums'/site's, i cant help appreciate the fact that you have decided to post it again. The nuances of carnatic music is beyond my comprehension.I would be comfortable deciphering Mayan inscriptions.

Ilaiyaraaja, to me is the very embodiment of music and all his philosophical rants about music are just his way of making the common man understand what he thinks about music, and well no one can really know how he comprehends it.

I grew up listening to him, and something about his music struck me,its the way it made you feel and the mathematical perfection with which the chords or the interludes fell right into place. But then i could talk all day about that.

This man devoted every bit of brain cell to music that sometimes you wonder if 'Mind over Matter' theory really works. Think about it, if you made Ilayaraaja stand before five bars and took a picture, he would resemble a whole musical 'note' in a staff. Shaven head, dark complexion and a fragile physique... Hmmm....

Srikanth said...

Thanks for this! Have bookmarked it.

kishore said...

hi ,
I am learning carnatic music and a huge fan of ilayaraja .It's his music that inspired me to learn music and understand his music better.I am looking for these kind of posts for long after they were removed from tfmpage . Thanks for preserving these precious analysis .


Anonymous said...

Hats off to Ilayaraja. I am not able to explain my feelings when I was reading your post about the maestro. It was great and thanks for writing about him. "Nee oru kathal sangeetham" is one of my favourite songs of Ilayaraja.

vinu shankar said...


Thanks for the nice post although its years since you have done it! No doubt that Illayaraja is a genius. I would say that Dr. Lakshminarayanan is not far behind either. Most might know him only as a doctor. But, he is one rare multi-talented person. He sings carnatic music, plays many instruments, knows more engineering than name-ke-vaste engg. grads like me. He is a man with a great vision; has his heart still in India. Has been instrumental in up-bringing numerous families of relatives and friends.

I am really glad to have spotted this article!!

Siemens HiPath said...

Top blog

Venkat said...

Some ten years ago (now 2008), my friend Raja (Rangarajan) who was in Grad school with me at Houston send me links on these Raaga analysis by his brother (Dr. Lashminarayanan). It is good to see them again after several years.
Great analysis worth preserving in the net.

Venkatesh Subramanian

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