My Art - Ilaiyaraaja
Written in the My Art page in the Illustrated Weekly of India issue dated
Music is music. It has always been there. And it will always be there. There cannot be any identification of music with any individual or personality. Music is brought about by a combination of swaras, or notes.
There is music even in the running of a brook, in the movement of air. An object falling on the ground also produces music. A barking dog makes music. A different kind of music, may be, but music nevertheless. For all of them fall within the seven swaras-sa,re,ga,ma,pa,dha,nee-that form the basis of music the world over.
Every individual is a musician, every individual is a composer. There is no one who has never hummed a tune in his life, or never beat rhythm while listening to music played by others. Yes, some may be little more involved in it than others, for their own selfish reasons. The claim that people sing or compose because of the pleasure or the inner satisfaction and feeling of upliftment it gives them is all humbug. If I know a little more music than others, and if I get pleasure out of music, what prevents me from lying down and enjoying it? Why should I compose music for films? Why should I sing? The answer is simple; I use music for my life-to earn money, to win fame.. In other words, I am not true to music. I am only cheating. Every single day, I am cheating in the name of music.
This is true of every known musician. And this includes even the likes of Thiagaraja. No doubt he left us a rich legacy of music. But why did he do it? To offer worship to God. To attain God. So God is given human attributes. He becomes a purchasable commodity who can be bribed with offerings of music, flowers, food, money.. It all boils down to the same:cheating in the name of music.
Ilaiyaraaja is not great, but music is. I will die, but music is immortal. When I sit down to compose, my mind is blank. It is like a mirror-bare, but it reflects the situations shown to me. And I react by composing the appropriate score. I am not creating something new. I am only falling back upon a rich musical legacy of Bach and Beethoven, of Mozart and Thiagaraja, and of the tribal and folk tunes that abound practically unknown to modern man. I just take them and weave them in new combinations to present them to the public.
Music means everything. Through it you can convey thought, emotions, any thing. It is a universal language, which everybody can understand. Give me an expressionless, blank face and I can provide a range of music scores, each giving expression to a different emotion, a different thought. That is the power of music. Music can make the audience feel the emotions flitting through a person's mind. In other words, in a film, before the director tells the people what is going to happen next, the music director prepares the audience mentally for it.
I took my first step from my native Pannaipuram to Madras with the intention of becoming a music director. At that time I liked music. But I was untutored in the grammar of music. It was only after coming to Madras that I realised how much there was for me to learn.
I still have a lot to learn. All that I do today in the field of music is only a precursor to something much greater that is to follow in the future. Why did Mozart make music? He prepared me. Beethoven prepared me. Thiagaraja prepared me. What I compose today is no new creation. I am only drawing on the ideas provided by them.
Each one of those great musicians do not represent music in itself. They represent a pattern of music. Their compositions were influenced by the circumstances of the period. Their music reflected their personal struggles. In the same way, Ilaiyaraaja represents a pattern. It is my music that is important. Not my personality. As far as the people are concerned, Ilaiyaraaja, the person, is an unattractive individual in a white kurta and dhoti. But they recognise my music.
At the very beginning I had mentioned that satisfaction in one's work is not the only reason why a person takes to the composition of music. But it certainly is one of the factors. As I said, I might be in the business for the money, the name or the fame. But I am continuing in the field only because of the satisfaction it gives me.
I am at the recording studios from seven in the morning till 10 at night, working continuously. I see those films which people would normally spit at atleast five times-once for re-recording, once for composing the music, once for rehearsing it, once for a rehearsal with the orchestra and once for the final take. Without receiving satisfaction, it will be humanly impossible for me to sit through all this, given the quality of our films.
And, in the process, I am experimenting every day. Since I am conducting experiments with the producer's money, my mind is free and my output good. On the other hand, if I were to do the same sort of experiments with my own money, I would definitely be bogged down by a hundred different questions, which would stand, in the way of my creation.
There are people who ridicule me for confining myself to the film media. Cinema is stupid, they say. And making a film music is no composing at all. This is a foolish talk. I feel that a good sculptor is one who can not only sculpt a work of intricate art, but who is also capable of making a humble grinding stone. If he cannot do it, then of what earthly use is he? Cinema is an art. A people's art. Art is not for the creator, but for the people. If art is only for the creator, it should not be imposed on the people.