Happy birthday Ilaiyaraaja: Here are five iconic themes from the Isaignani

In 1975, producer Panchu Arunachalam commissioned Ilaiyaraaja for Annakili. And the rest, as they say, is history. Arguably one of the greatest music composers of our times, Ilaiyaraaja’s contribution to Indian music is enormous. The first to introduce western sensibilities in our sonic appetite, Raaja’s music is a delightful mix of the traditional with the new. Known for his classic sounds, Raaja’s usage of strings have the power to melt even the toughest of hearts. Harmonies, guitars, violins, Ilaiyaraaja’s confoundingly beautiful tunes have charmed generations of music lovers.

When it comes to appreciating a song, it becomes necessary to appreciate both the tune and the lyrics. The effectiveness and longevity of the song squarely depends on both the music and words. There are hundreds of lovely numbers from Ilaiyaraaja’s massive discography that can enchant us any day. But today as the maestro celebrates his 75th birthday, how would it be if it is just his music. Here are some iconic themes that have originated from Isaignani’s famed harmonium.


Ilaiyaraaja’s tune for this RajinikanthSridevi starrer is one of the most famous film themes in Kollywood. The tune takes various instruments over the movie, but your heart will surely melt a bit as you hear the violin sing. In fact, Ilaiyaraaja’s son Yuvan Shankar Raja composed a theme for the film 7G Rainbow which sounded eerily close to this theme.

Punnagai Mannan:

It isn’t just Kamal Haasan and Revathy who dance in the piece, it is Ilaiyaraaja as well, dancing in joy with his notes and instruments. Composed for Punnagai Mannan, the usage of tech music and the harmonious blend with the violin and flutes is gorgeous.

Mouna Ragam:

If Mouna Ragam belongs to Mani Ratnam, it belongs to Ilaiyaraaja’s music as well. A tale about a couple in an arranged marriage, Ilaiyaraaja’s piano note effortlessly slides through the emotions of the leads. With a strong, staccato-ish start, signifying the cold vibes between Mohan and Revathy, the tune later melts into a more softer tone, assuming more instruments as the lead couple’s relationship takes a turn for the good.


Another lovely tune from the Mani Rathnam-Ilaiyaraaja stable. The Kamal Haasan starrer is iconic for several reasons. The tune sifts in and out, in various versions. There is a lilting, innocent piano version which later is backed by cellos and deeper strings for a more soulful effect. The theme plays along as love blossoms between Kamal and Saranya, honestly, it is just the listener falling in love with Raaja.

Pallavi Anu Pallavi:

A more exuberant, lively tune, Ilaiyaraaja’s piece for Pallavi Anu Pallavi brims with life. While the theme was originally composed in the 1980s, it gained more popularity when it was used in the film Sarvam. Another violin-heavy theme, the piece is backed with guitars with a flute joining in at the end. With a paced rhythm, the confluence of sounds is heavenly.

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