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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ilaiyaraaja Vs A.R.Rahman

Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai (Ilaiyaraaja) Vs Doli Saja ke Rakhna (A.R.Rahman)

Ilaiyaraaja’s background score in Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai is one of my all time favorites. Those who have been following this blog for a while already know the extent of my obsession on this score. I always wanted to watch Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, the Priyadarshan’s Hindi remake of Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai (Tamil) or Aniyathi Pravu (Malayalam) directed by Fazil, for the film’s background score is the only case where the Ilaiyaraaja versus A.R.Rahman comparison or debate is valid. I was tripping on A.R.Rahman’s songs in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna for past few weeks and it suddenly occurred to me that I haven’t this film yet. This could become an amazing exercise in understanding the importance of background score in a film, I thought. It did. I didn’t watch the entire film; I decided to check just the climax of the film. And I did. I also watched the climax of the original Malayalam Version Aniyathi Pravu, for which music is composed by Ouseppachan. Having seen all the three versions, I guess A.R.Rahman must have watched Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai before scoring the background music for the film, because most of the sync points and the transitions between the cues in A.R.Rahman’s are similar to that of Ilaiyaraaja’s. They are few differences, mainly because of the way the scene is differently cut in Hindi version of the film.

I have divided the climax into seven parts. For the ease of comparison, videos are made with clips of the same part of the scene from all the three versions.

Cue 1

When Mini (Shalini) comes running out of the kitchen to receive the unexpected guests – Jeeva’s Father and Mother, Ilaiyaraaja uses an ecstatic Synth piano run to make us feel that Mini is excited to see them in their house. But, Pallavi (Jyothika) in Doli Saja ke Rakhna seems to be going through different set of emotions. A.R.Rahman’s deep bass flute implies that she is nervous, anxious and unsure of the purpose of their visit and its consequence.

Cue 2

The awkwardness evident in the eyes of Jeeva (Vijay) and Mini’s brothers when they look at each other is underlined with bites of strange electronic pad beats. But, Rahman doesn’t bother to underline and emphasize with music, every little shift of focus on the characters and their moods in the scene.

Cue 3

Though the piece sets up a pleasing feel-good atmosphere, Ilaiyaraaja begins the cue a little earlier I guess. In Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, the cue begins to play precisely when Inder (Akshay Khanna) appears in front of Pallavi’s Mother, which clearly implies that Pallavi’s Mother is instantly impressed.

Cue 4

Ilaiyaraaja chooses a melody with a classical tinge but ornaments the melody with hippy Synth beats and additional loops, whereas, A.R.Rahman goes totally traditional, classical and conventional here. There is always a tendency to over use Shehnai in such remakes to add north Indian flavor to the south Indian films remade in Hindi and force nativity in the story. That apart, the soothing Shehnai melody brings in the much needed classical, ceremonial sound to the scene.

Unlike Ilaiyaraaja, A.R.Rahman switches to silence when Pallavi is out of Inder’s Mother’s sight. Ilaiyaraaja continues to play the music because he wants the brief silence, when Mini hesitates to move next to Jeeva to serve the juice, to be strongly felt. A.R.Rahman aptly plays the deep bass flute piece (Cue 1) that he played in the beginning of the scene again here to highlight the anxiety and nervousness of Pallavi. While A.R.Rahman’s score is just right, Ilaiyaraaja’s score works as a tangential musical narrative that implies every possible indescribable emotion in the visual narrative. What Ilaiyaraaja does here is what only he can do.

However, A.R.Rahman comes closer when he plays a sublime flute version of Shehnai theme without any accompaniment, for the sequence where Pallavi walks back to a table in the corner of the room, keeps the tray and starts reading a magazine. There is deep silence; everyone is looking at everyone else. The absence of accompaniments helps the soothing flute piece to become one with the silence. The sound of the piece doesn’t disturb the deep silence in the scene.

Cue 5

While Ilaiyaraaja’s cue captures every single expression in Jeeva’s Mother’s face when she hesitates to talk to Mini, A.R.Rahman conveniently plays the Shehnai theme again when Inder’s Mother walks towards Pallavi. We can’t blame A.R.Rahman, for there is no shot that lingers long enough to tell us about Inder’s Mother’s hesitation to talk to Pallavi.

Cue 6

When Jeeva’s Mother opens up and asks to send Mini with her, banging strokes for the reaction shots of all the characters fittingly emphasize the sense of shock and surprise in everyone’s face. When Mini’s mother agrees, the moment of exhilaration is elevated by another classical piece with a violin and flute running together on ecstatic stream of notes. A.R.Rahman doesn’t go for these bangs for the reaction shots; instead, he plays a relieving Sitar piece, but subtly underlines the confusion apparent in some of the characters face in the scene, by sustaining a deep bass in a layer down under the Sitar piece. The piece turns more ecstatic and relieving when Pallavi’s Mother agrees. There could also be another reason why the bangs wouldn’t have worked in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, because, unlike the Tamil version, in Hindi version, in the subsequent scene, Pallavi’s brothers tell their Mother that they too wanted the same.

Cue 7

The genius of Ilaiyaraaja lies in the specificity and precision in those sweet staccato notes on flute that plays when Jeeva looks at Srividhya as if asking "Why you did this to me" and the seamless transition from the previous cue to staccato flute and from this cue back to the main Violin theme. Unfortunately, A.R.Rahman gets no such opportunity in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, as nothing lingers too long for the music to make any notable statement. So, A.R.Rahman settles with a generic happy Santoor piece when Inder’s Mother walks to Inder and apologizes to him.

Overall, I liked A.R.Rahman’s background score in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna. A.R.Rahman’s score is much quieter and restrained than Ilaiyaraaja’s. But, remember, Jyothika is no Shalini. With a stone-faced Jyothika playing the central character, even Ilaiyaraaja couldn’t have saved Doli Saja Ke Rakhna. That background score can only enhance what is already there in the visuals and it cannot add anything on its own is the lesson learnt from this exercise.


Harish S Ram said...

great effort. Though you concentrated only on music, with this post you showed ppl like me the value of acting, camera placement, scene transition, bgm, and wat not. enriching experience to say the least.

MumbaiRamki said...

Nice post .... healthy analysis .. :)
Few points ..

cue 3 - The reason the music starts earlier is that - in an uncomfortable position , when your name is called - ur mind races of why am called , how would i face the mother of my lover ? So its the music for how the character feels which is untold . And also , the music and the tempo changes when Srividhya tells ' Ivanga unna paaknumkraanga' - at that moment the tension is released and guessing game starts . AGain the music changes again when Shalini' mom tells ' enna paa ithellam ..' - at that moment , an instant calmness comes to Vijay's mind - the music mellowed there . This is psychology at best !

Cue 4 : This is another fantastic piece - mimicing the ponnu paarkum padalam - i think the music continues as, at back of Shalini's mind , she would be sub consciously thinking about the fact that she has to serve the juice to Vijay also and that mood continues and subtly changes to increased tension when she comes near to Vijay - and when the serving is done , it goes to the Ponnu paarkum mood .

Suresh : U seem to have less knowledge on ponnu paarkum padalam - as i told u before , i will talk to ur mom and sort this out :)))))))))))))))))))))))))))

HIndi la ippadi overacting a .. thanga mudiala .. or is it because of Raaja it appears better in Tamil .. sathiyama theriala

( music yellaam ok - When i saw this movie in college , i was laughing when everyone in the theater was emotional - Perfect material for lollu sabha ;) )

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Harishsram - Thank you :-)

Mumbairamki - Thanks for the detailed explanation of your understanding of the Cue 3 and 4. Make Sense.

I was in 10th Standard when I saw the film and I was totally engrossed by the film.

Ponnu paakkura padalam - Once I have been through this experience

Unknown said...


Thanks for the wonderful compilation of all 3 versions and your analysis of it. It is a great study material to analyze how different composers approach a scene.

I like Ilaiyaraaja's version the best. I esp love IR's cue 4 - the way he blends the semi-classical piece and the ennai thalatta varuvala melody along with the tension and then going back to the semi-classical piece. That was just really awesome. IR's cue 6 in kaapi ragam is my next favorite.

Though "ARR vs IR" is very attractive, you could have added your thoughts on Ouseppachan's version too, esp since you included it in the video.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Sripathy Ramesh - I wanted to write about it, especially because Ilaiyaraaja himself seems to have borrowed most of the sync points in the score from Ouseppachan's version. I wasn't sure if the cues used are new themes or instrumental versions of the song of the film. I should watch the entire film to completely understand the score in the climax.

Raaja Music said...

Excellent analysis!!!
I liked the Tamil version. May be because its Isaignani.

KeeKee said...


Your effort is really great and the scenes & the cues you have taken for the comparisons are excellent.

And Personally, I feel we can't and shouldn't compare the BGM score of these three films those based on three different cultures, places and traditions, even the story plot is same.

Hope you accept my statement.

And also I feel A R Rahman has done a great job (Evan he has no chance to offer anything because of the dull performances and also the plot is not much suitable to Hindi culture as it does at Tamil and Malayalam), even the treatment and making of the Hindi film is not effective when compare with the other two.

(Importantly, I have watched the complete movies many times in all three languages mostly Tamil and Hindi for it's songs...)

I have read these kind of comparisons b/w ARR and IR many times, but this is my first reply comment for an article.

Thanks for your effort and I liked this very much

Krishnamoorthy K

Murugaraj R said...

Great Effort Suresh.jus mind-blowing musics throughout your blog. Keep going!...my best wishes fro you.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Krishnamoorthy K - "And Personally, I feel we can't and shouldn't compare the BGM score of these three films those based on three different cultures, places and traditions, even the story plot is same." I get why you say so, but irrespective of culture, place and tradition, the emotions are the same. I was just trying to understand just the depth of emotions that each composer was able to evoke with their scores. When I said, "the only case where comparison is valid", I meant that it is possible to do what I did


I am not sure, if I can do this with any other films of Ilaiyaraaja and A.R.Rahman.

Thanks for understanding the intent of the post the way I wanted it to be understood by the readers.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

murugaraj R - Thank you :-)

KeeKee said...

P.S. Suresh Kumar - Thank you and expecting more from you

Anonymous said...


In any music as a listener I want to see what I get out of it. What benefit I derive out of it. The music has to change me and make me a better person preparing me to face the challenges of life. The music is for me more than the movie it is used in - How much it can make me a better person, How much it can take me higher realms of life. That is where IR's composition stands out for me. By nature as a human I have so much fear in life. The violin in IR cuts through the layer of fears in me. That is my test. Another classical example is Isayyil Thotanguthamma in Heyram. IR's background is distinctive. I can hear it and relate it to the movie so very easily - Not like for this scene this the score. He comes up with something new a new standard. His silence in the score initially creates a fear in me to be followed by removing the other fear I have in life. These are my views.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Yes, ilaiyaraaja's scores always transcends the film. But, my theory is that background score, no matter how incredible as a standalone piece of music, can do only so much to enhance the emotional impact of the film. For example, ninaivellam nithya. The incredible background score in that film wasn't enough to engage the audience. It failed to connect. The significance of background score in a film is overrated.

Anonymous said...

Relating a background score to a movie I cannot say much. Since music lives beyond the movie for me, teaching me values in my life for me helping me taking my next step toward goodness. Music brings that quality at least in my case. In cue 5 when the boy's mother walks towards the girl and IR playing the tabla it is ringing in my ears for last 15 years. It has taught me to be loving to all human beings considerate to anyone and everyone, this single score. It makes be a better person even this second when I hear it. 27 to 33 seconds is a real bliss. Mother starts to walk towards the girl, tabla starts. Mind you, it starts only when mother takes the first step. The portion before the tabla does something to my heart and the tabla later soothes my heart. I am living my life in that score with a storm followed by a calm or stillness. True Experience. I have no other objective to write this rather than to draw an interested person attention towards it and may be if it gives him solace and peace I am truly happy very very happy. The objective is just to share my feelings and joy.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Hoseki2010 - It is a pleasure to read comments like yours. Yes, I get it. Though, I may not have realized it the way you do, I am sure, such music does elevate your soul. "Relating a background score to a movie I cannot say much." - You cannot go through the experience that you so beautifully explained without relating the background score with the movie. I just want to stress that this music could not have had an impact on you if it were just a standalone piece of music. If there was no story, no characters, no world that was created and given to Ilaiyaraaja, he could not have made these incredibly moving musical nuggets. For those few seconds of music to have an impact as it does, two hours of story that precedes the moment had to happen. Songs are a different beast altogether, which clearly stands on its own. They don't need the movie. They transcend the movie, before we get to listen to them and we allow it to invoke emotions in us even before watching the film for which the song was made. But, background score, at least the score in Indian films, is heard and felt, for the first time while watching the film. So, you cannot easily ignore the relation of the background score to the movie, when talking about its impact. We never  know how we would have felt about the same piece (for example, that hesitant tabla strokes), if we had heard the piece before watching the film. Background music transcends the film, yes, but only after making its first impact strongly with the film.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost let me give my heart felt sincere appreciation for what you have done. Great Job. Every work in your site is a class act. I am very happy to be here with you.

Yes I fully agree with you. I will walk miles to meet Srividya. What an artist! She lives any day with us through all these scenes. Her cry in all these scenes is music music music to my ears. What a director Fazil is to weave these scenes! I love just listening to Srividya cry in all these scenes. I am in that movie as long as I am watching it.

But after the movie the music the background score takes over me, rules me and continues its journey all through my life with me all the time. That is when the impact of music starts its journey in my very own life's experiences at every stage of it. Every step I take in life I can hear the tabla beats guiding and staying with me - Keeps telling me 'just throw without holding back the motherly love to the world around you'. If not for that tabla score I am sure I would not have picked up such thought so easily.

I agree with you completely while also trying to say my insignificant thought that there is also something more to it.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Hoseki2010 - True. It is fascinating how a piece of music can affect your life. It can teach a philosophy or two, that is so convincing in the way it tells you, you cannot but surrender to the idea, start believing in it and follow. For example, that piece from Thalapathi I wrote about in a post in this blog titled "Counterpoint" - It tells you that no matter how many contradicting layers you life is wound with, it is possible to always keep the inner peace guarded like the way the piece guards its harmonic integrity despite the two layers that make diametrically different melodic statements.

Anonymous said...

Stone faced Jyothika :) Lol :) very true. What a contrast to when we see Jo and Shalini...

James Vasanthan said...

More than what the great composers have done in these films, the research and analysis of this guy flatters me. I bow my head to the critical work. Kudos!

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

James Vasanthan - Thank You.

Here is the sequel to that post