7 Ilayaraja-Mani Ratnam songs you cannot forget




Individuals create ideas. Partnerships make those ideas legendary. The date June 2nd serves as a great celebration of two of Tamil (even Indian) cinema’s most revered figures. Isaignani Ilayaraja and Mani Ratnam were born on this date, and their decade-long partnership has given us many treasures to cherish. On their birthday, we look at seven musical compositions from IR-Mani collaborations which have stood the test of time.

7. Sundari Kannal Oru Sedhi – Thalapathy

This mellifluous duet sung by SPB and S. Janaki is haunting and the flute portions add a certain mystery to the song. This is consistent with the abstract visuals involving war scenes, a commander who is away from his lover even as he sings ‘Naan Unai neenga Mataen’. Everything about this song is a treat to behold.

6. Anjali Anjali – Anjali

The part where the little kid struggles to put together words to sing the first line of the song – The raw innocence of the voice by itself will haunt you through the remaining song. The youthfulness and energy of the kids is brought out well both by the composition and the visuals.

5. Ninnukori Varnam – Agni Natchatiram

Inspired by the popular Carnatic varnam ‘Ninnukori’, this song sung by K.S.Chitra is one of the evergreen hits of Ilayaraja. The trendy musical arrangement is complimented by unorthodox lighting experiments in the visualization, replete with a rotating bubble-filled disc, illuminated and cast on the background.

4. Then Paandi Cheemaiyilae – Naayagan

This song, which can be labelled the title song of the film, was used by Ratnam at several places in the film, and the song suits each of those situations and moods. Such is the beauty of the song, which was rendered by Ilayaraja himself and Kamal Hassan in two different versions. We can simply not forget or ignore this song.

3. Manram Vandha Thendralukku – Mouna ragam

In one of the most critically acclaimed movies of that age, Ilayaraja provided several hit numbers in one single album. This song stood out for its simplicity and the tune was even requested for the title song of a Hindi film ‘Cheeni Kum’. Mani Ratnam displays the longing of the male protagonist and the distance between the couple through a sequence of incidents in the song.

2. Raja Rajadhi – Agni Natchatiram

This quirky song sung by Ilayaraja himself was a runaway hit at that time. Its peppy beats were complemented by some creative choreography. Mani Ratnam chose to shoot this entire song at a single railway station, adding to the freshness of the song. Any list would be incomplete without this song.

1. Raakkamma Kaiya Thattu – Thalapathy

This was the last ever song recorded by Ilayaraja for Mani Ratnam, but what a track it turned out to be. The genre of the song itself is very unusual for an ‘item song’ and the string sections are creatively used. This song has minimal lighting in the form of bonfires, and is simultaneously a visual and aural treat.

After Thalapathy, these two greats parted ways for reasons that are still not clear. Some attributed it to Ilayaraja’s inflexibility while others said it was the long standing feud between K.Balachander (who was to be the producer of Mani ratnam’s next film, Roja) and Ilayaraja. Perhaps the only solace in this split is that it led to another great combination, ARR-Mani, which still delivers us memorable hits.

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