“India and Hungary are very close to each other”
Almost 900 film scores, 5000 film songs, countless discs — a dizzy amount of work stands behind IlaiyaRaaja. The most wanted composer of the Indian film industry is a relatively frequent guest in Hungary: as friend and as colleague, he is in touch with several Hungarian jazz musicians, from time to time he also resorts to the help of the Miskolc Symphony Orchestra. He has recently been to Budapest again.
Csider István Zoltán, Le Marietta| Népszabadság| 2009. november 18.
One tries to imagine Indian film composers very rarely, but still: we had imaginedIlaiyaRaaja exactly like this. Bright eyes, friendly face and the obligatory glasses. He received amicably the journalists of Népszabadság in an elegant, stylish hotel room, after offering them a seat, he almost disappeared in a giant armchair. During the conversation there was a bleak smile on his face, even when we were asking him about his ex-disciple, the composer to the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire, A. R. Rahman and his success in Hollywood, or about Rahman at all. Smiling and correct, he refused to answer by saying everybody can do what he’d like to do, and well, it wouldn’t be elegant to talk about a fellow. “And anyway, would a Hungarian journalist talk about other Hungarian journalist colleagues?”, he asked, and it could be seen he was sure of getting a negative answer.
Right from this saw we that IlaiyaRaaja doesn’t know the Hungarian, to a bit extended level: the European press relations. Which is, however, a good thing.
The most productive composer of the Indian film industry came to Budapest to do the post-production of his newest film score which had been recorded in July with Miskolc Symphony Orchestra conducted by László Kovács, the mixing was done at the Hungarian Radio’s studio with the help of Dénes Rédly, sound engineer. But why had he chosen a Hungarian symphony orchestra for the records? The two countries are fairly far away from each other…
“India and Hungary are actually very close to each other, the national tricolors differ only in one tone of color,” he answered laughing, but then turned to talk seriously: he thinks Hungarian musicians can compete anytime with other countries’ artists. In his homeland there are no symphony orchestras at all. In Chennai where he lives, there are excellent musicians playing on strings, playing on wind instruments but they’re never organized to one orchestra: setting up this kind of ensembles has no tradition there.
When IlaiyaRaaja had been in Budapest around 2000, he had gotten to know Attila László jazz guitarist-composer. He had liked the compositions of László so much that he had asked him to work together. In August, this year the Hungarian composer traveled to Chennai with Béla Lattman, bassist and János Nagy, pianist to play for the recording of the Indian master’s 882th film score.
A series of coincidences had led IlaiyaRaaja to the profession of music, for that later his goal could be defined: once he would be music director. When he had stepped into the field of film-making, composing had had just a functional role in the Indian film industry, there had been far less spiritual content, and the variety of music had had much room for improvement, too. This probably had derived from the working method of composers, indeed from the relations among musicians. Raaja had found something important for him in Western music, he had started to play the guitar, the piano and the violin, and he had been the first to use Western instruments, indeed unknown genres in his compositions. Just to mention some examples, pop, jazz, rock and roll, bossa nova and flamenco had gained grounds on the Indian screen by his work. And it’s not an irrelevant feat of arms that he had been the first Asian artist to compose a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Raaja said, in the beginning, if something hadn’t worked out as he had wanted it, he had become impatient with his musicians. Afterwards, by more and more spirituality moving into his compositions, this gradually had disappeared.
When asking him about the method of composing — by thinking that a work of life like his (more than 5000 film songs and almost 900 complete film scores are signed by his name) is a result of an effective method of composing — he answered: composing is not a question of will or ambition for him. It doesn’t need to be that.
Music is born mentally, in the soul, one doesn’t think about it too much. IlaiyaRaaja used a statuesque metaphor: when one’s crossing the street, he never pays attention to each step, but to the goal: to get from one side to the other. One can’t cross the road the same way two times.