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Music bridges torn past - Ilayaraaja’s son teams up with lyricist Vairamuthu

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  • Published 6.02.14

Chennai, Feb. 5: If music be the food of reconciliation, play on. So what if it has taken a generation?

Tamil maestro Ilayaraaja’s music director son Yuvan Shankar Raja recently teamed up with Vairamuthu, putting behind his father’s bitter fall out with the prolific poet-lyricist 28 years ago.

“It’s the coming together of Yuvan’s youthful music with my zestful language,” Vairamuthu, 60, said, summing up their alliance for the Tamil film Idam, Porul, Eval (Place, meaning, work).

The partnership took the Tamil film industry by surprise: after all, its political equivalent would have been M. Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Stalin shaking hands with chief minister Jayalalithaa.


While that seems highly unlikely — given the none-too-friendly relationship the arch rivals share — the nod for the musical bond came from Yuvan’s dad himself.

Yuvan, who has over 100 films under his belt, had been urging Vairamuthu to write for his music. But because of his acrimonious parting with Ilayaraaja, 70, the lyricist wasn’t sure how the team-up would go down with Yuvan’s father.

But Ilayaraaja gave an indirect green signal, suggesting to his 34-year-old son that he was an independent music director who was free to choose who he worked with.

Vairamuthu, a six-time national award winner for lyrics, began his film debut with a song composed by Ilayaraaja for Nizhalgal (Shadows) directed by Bharatiraja in 1983. The song was such a hit that their combination dominated Tamil cinema for the next three years.

But the relationship was short-lived as egos came into play. The two fell out in 1986, just after Vairamuthu had won his first national award for Mudhal Mariyadhai, a film with bewitching rustic music by Ilayaraaja and an unconventional performance by Sivaji Ganesan.

The two vowed never to work again together and although directors like K. Balachandar and Bharatiraja tried to bring about a truce, they refused. “For music lovers it was the most tragic divorce and though Ilayaraaja continued to give amazing melodies even later, the special magic created in the company of Vairamuthu’s lyrics was missing,” said Vaamanan, who has written a book on Tamil film composers.

Ilayaraaja went back to veteran lyricist Vaali while the arrival of A.R. Rahman in 1992 saw Vairamuthu striking a brilliant collaboration with the young genius.

Now, another collaboration has composed a bridge over a torn past, though a generation down the line.

Director Seenu Ramaswamy, who brought together Yuvan and Vairamuthu for his next film Idam, Porul, Eval, said the lyricist was initially hesitant. “But when I said Yuvan was ready he agreed. It was great to see the two hit it off like old friends.”

Vairamuthu, who received the Padma Bhushan this year, recalled that Ilayaraaja’s wife Jeeva used to ask him what prevented him from writing for Yuvan when his differences were only with Yuvan’s father. “I told her a time would come when I would do that. Unfortunately Yuvan’s mother is not alive to witness her wish coming true.”

Yuvan spoke like a philosopher. “Ultimately, it is love that triumphs,” he said, probably referring to his mother’s sisterly affection for Vairamuthu.