Top hits of Ilayaraja – the classical genius

Ilayaraja’s genius knows no bounds. His music continues to enthrall fans all over the world even now, when he is well past his “golden reign at the top”– whether it is a recent mythological in Telugu or a new romantic movie. He continues to delight fans with seemingly unending sources of innovation, talent and inspiration.

There are many facets of Ilayaraja that makes him a legend and a genius. He brought innovation in many forms – in the use of specific instruments like violins, flute and guitar, in the arrangements and orchestration that is a blend of western symphonies and Indian music and in the amazing and distinctive use of vocals and choral effects.ilayaraja_pic

In later posts, I will share my views and some of Ilayaraja’s top songs – that show strong classical flair, the brilliant orchestration and the amazing innovations. I will draw from a pool of Tamil and Telugu songs – Ilayaraja composed mainly in these two languages.

Almost every song in film music, can be linked to a classical raga. However, I have listed here a small collection of songs that can be easily identified by listeners as ‘classical based’ . Ilayaraja did not compose classical raga based tunes in the orthodox and conventional manner of the composers of 1960s. He brought innovation through arrangements, introduced variations in the flow of the tune and added distinctive vocals to the tunes. The end result retains the beauty of any classical based song, yet has a ‘special something’ that  is a stroke of Ilayaraja’s genius. These 8 songs have been carefully chosen and attached here for the ‘special something’ of Ilayaraja. Check out the player below. Listen, enjoy and admire the genius of Ilayaraja!!!!

If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also listen to all the 8 songs on the player below. You can skip tracks if you like (limited to a few skips though). The player shuffles songs automatically. Click the play arrow below to enjoy!

A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the songs in any of the players, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play Ilayaraja songs in the current window while you are browsing)


1)   Keeravani from Paadum Paravaigal – Tamil:


Note the distinctive use of double and overlapping vocals sung by S P Balasubrahmanyam. He brought a refreshing trend of using violins in a manner never attempted before in South Indian film music. There are plenty of other innovations in all the other songs from this movie. Ilayaraja tried to simplify the classical ragas with a ‘lighter’ touch and add innovative elements to make them appealing to everyone, like this song from Paadum Paravaigal.

2)   Jagadananda Karaka from Sree Rama Rajyam – Telugu. Perhaps the only composer alive who can really show that he is equal to the music directors of the golden era of south Indian film music. This mythological required music on par or better than the music of 1960s. Note the beautiful orchestration in the prelude that brings out a ‘grand visual’ feeling of Sri Rama’s pattabhishekam. Shreya Ghoshal must be commended for singing this song with a clarity of diction in Telugu, though she does not speak this language. The accentuation of the last syllable of each line in the antra (charanam) gives the song a lilting touch.


3)   Poongathave from Nizhalgal –Tamil. An innovative song – notice how the tune has controlled and endearing use of gamakas. In his arrangements and orchestration, there are sounds of western symphonies, ‘conversations’ between the keyboard and violin, beautiful use of humming, seamless transition from western to traditional instruments and as a final flourish in the song, the blending of the sounds of violin and the humming. And all of these superb combinations and blends are in addition to a wonderful vocal classical based melody!

4)  Nada Vinodamu from Sagara Sangamam – Telugu.  Choreographed beautifully on Kamal Hasan and Jayaprada, this song brings distinctive orchestration to  synchronise with the dance steps. Notice also the synchronization of vocals between S P Balu and S P Sailaja.

5)   Poovil vandu from Kaadal Oviyum – Tamil

The use of the thanam makes this an appealing song. Ilayaraja has made this ‘light’ classical song simple and easy flowing for everyone to sing. Note the beautiful use of flute and violins.flute

6)   Ghallu Ghallu from Swarnakamalam – Telugu.  A beautiful duet set to appealing visuals. This song shows an artist and a dancer.


The sound of the brush intervowen into the song is the artist painting! A beautiful combination of rhythm and melody in this song – P Suseela’s singing shows the rich quality of her voice, her strength,  range and flexibility that is unparalleled even today in South Indian music.

7)   Sagara sangamame from Seetakoka Chiluka – Telugu. This song highlighted the extensive use of orchestra as well as fine orchestration. Ilayaraja tries to bring out varying emotions like the ebb and flow of the waves of the sea.

8) Poo malarnthude from Tik Tik Tik – Tamil.  An innovative classical based song that beautifully blends classical and western styles in the vocals as well as orchestration.

This entry was posted in Classical base in film music, Ilayaraja and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Top hits of Ilayaraja – the classical genius

  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Dr.N.Krishnakumar says:

    my god

  3. R.Dineshkumar says:

    Isaignani my god,my soul,my heart,

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