Ilaiyaraaja’s Masterclass – R Balki Moderates

Kala Academy in Panjim on day 7 of IFFI, Goa, saw maestro Ilaiyaraaja, in conversation with National Award-winning director R Balki.


Ilaiyaraaja began on a pensive note, musing over the origin of music. “Music should take you somewhere else. It should take you beyond the clouds. If it cannot, it is not music,” he said, following it up with a track called ‘Enge irundhaai isaye’. The lyrics attempted to capture the origin of every track, and how they ‘occurred’ to composers. Balki quipped that he didn’t care and was just happy to listen to Ilaiyaraaja’s work.


The evening’s best minutes were when Balki got Ilaiyaraaja to compose live. “The situation is that of a son who’s on his way to kill his father,” Balki narrated. After a brief pensive moment, Ilaiyaraaja began writing the song, after making the audience promise they would maintain silence. The audience kept its promise, the all-consuming silence let down only by the occasional cough. “This composing process usually takes about two days with many other composers,” said Balki. Minutes later, Ilaiyaraaja was finished writing his track, and handed over the sheet to his violinist. “These days, composers take months to do something like this,” the composer said, to loud cheering. The resultant track involved all musicians, including the flautist, and barely seemed like the result of two minutes of writing. The track felt like a lullaby almost, and when asked about it, the composer blew everyone’s mind with his explanation: “I made it like a lullaby because it’s about a father who is about to be killed. Surely, he would have sung a lullaby to his child about to kill him.”


Ilaiyaraaja sang with the audience, gently rebuking them when they stepped out of rhythm. To thunderous applause, he left the auditorium looking quite pleased. Perhaps he did know that he had given many a memory for life.