Award Name : Padma Bhushan
Year of Award : 2010
Award for : Arts
Location : Teni, Tamil Nadu, India
Ilaiyaraaja is an Indian film composer who works in the South Indian cinema but predominantly in Tamil since the late 1970s. Regarded as one of the finest music composers in India, Ilaiyaraaja is also an instrumentalist, conductor, singer, and songwriter. He has composed more than 5000 songs and provided film scores for more than 1000 films, particularly being acclaimed for his background scores. He was born on 2 June 1943 in Pannaipuram, Theni, Madras Presidency. He was originally named Gnanadesikan by his father Ramaswamy and mother Chinnathayammal. Ilaiyaraaja spent his childhood in the rural area of Pannaipuram, which sowed the seeds of music in him. He was well acquainted with the range of Tamil folk music prevalent in the place.
At the age of 14, Ilaiyaraaja joined the musical troupe owned by his elder step-brother, Pavalar Varadarajan, and was associated with it for the next ten years. Ilayaraja composed his first song - an elegy written by veteran Tamil poet Kannadasan - when he was still working with the troupe. In 1968, Ilayaraja collaborated with Professor Dhanraj to start a music course in Madras. The course concentrated at the overview of Western classical music, study of techniques related to composition of music and instrumental performance. After specializing in classical guitar, Ilayaraja went on to pursue a course in the same, at the Trinity College of Music, London. Ilayaraja worked with a band-for-hire in Chennai, as a guitarist in the 1970s. Thereafter, he worked as a session guitarist, keyboardist and conducted the orchestra for renowned film music directors, including Salil Chowdhury. Later on, Ilayaraja worked as an assistant to Kannada music director G K Venkatesh, with whom he worked on around 200 films. While working with him, Ilayaraja penned his own music compositions as well. He listened to his own compositions by asking the session musicians to play excerpts from his scores. In the meantime, he also hired instruments from R K Shekhar, who later on joined the orchestra as its keyboardist.
Ilayaraja made an entry into film music direction in 1976, by composing the songs and background score for the Tamil film "Annakkili". His music reached wide across the Tamil audience. He used the technique of the modern film music orchestration to breathe life into the Tamil poetry written by the lyricists. Folk song melodies composed by Ilayaraja became a big hit amongst the music lovers soon. The songs of his films, including "Pathinaru Vayathinile" (1977), "Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri" (1977) and "Annai Oru Aalayam" (1979), were amongst the super hits during the initial years of his career as a music director. He has won five Indian National Film Awards (the highest film honor in India); three for Best Music Direction and two for Best Background Score. In 2010 he has received Padma Bhushan, awarded by the Government of India.