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Custody, Music School, Rangamarthanda: Has Ilaiyaraaja lost his midas touch?

Except for a number or two, none of the composer’s albums made a mark recently

Custody, Music School, Rangamarthanda: Has Ilaiyaraaja lost his midas touch?

Last Updated: 05.12 PM, May 12, 2023


If there’s someone who has changed the way a film buff viewed music in Tamil and Telugu cinema since the 70s, a major chunk of the credit has to go to Ilaiyaraaja. His songs brought solace to music listeners and were a balm for their soul during their highs, soul crushing lows. He enjoyed a monopoly for a decade and a half until AR Rahman turned a trendsetter with Mani Ratnam’s Roja.

Despite the entry of Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja had a good run in the 90s and he continued to work for films at an impressive pace in the 2000s in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and other languages. While the composer’s genius is beyond question, the undeniable truth is that he’s no longer as consistent and effortless in delivering hit albums from time to time.


The veteran has worked in many popular films this year - Vetri Maaran’s Viduthalai Part 1, Krishna Vamsi’s relationship drama Rangamarthanda, this week’s releases Sharman Joshi-Shriya Saran’s musical Music School and Naga Chaitanya’s Custody. Viduthalai, among them, is certainly a cut above the rest, at least for its stellar background score that complemented several critical junctures in the film with great finesse.

However, in the case of Rangamarthanda, the composer’s work is rather mediocre and seems like a pale shadow of his glorious past. There was ample scope, heightened emotions and drama in the film to showcase to worth, but the music did little to enhance the viewing experience. Even with the latest release Music School, a rare musical in mainstream cinema, the songs hardly make an impact.

With Custody, he’d teamed up with his son Yuvan Shankar Raja for the first time and the result is yet again a disappointment (except for a retro number Timeless Love). Most Telugu, Tamil audiences have expressed their unhappiness with the songs. Ilaiyaraaja is no doubt a relevant brand today, but his form has been worrisome lately. Is it time for him to gracefully retire and focus more on his shows?

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