Rewind with Ilaiyaraaja: The gate to fame

Ahead of the upcoming Ilaiyaraaja concert, Isai Celebrates Isai, the Isaignani, in this column, reflects on an old photo of his from the TNIE archive.

Published: 20th May 2019 03:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2019 01:00 PM   |  A+A-

Ilaiyaraaja with directors Santhana Bharathi and P Vasu.

Ilaiyaraaja with directors Santhana Bharathi and P Vasu.

Express News Service

‘This photo was taken during a composing session for Panneer Pushpangal. Vasu’s appa Peethambaram was the only makeup man to work with both MGR and Sivaji. He, in a sense, handed over Vasu to me during his debut, and said, “En paiyana neengadhaan paarthukanum.” Santhana Bharathi’s father, Mr Santhanam, was also a well-known name in the drama circles. 

Back then, Kodambakkam didn’t have a bridge over the railway lines. There was only a gate. Celebrities who went out to shoot had to cross this railway gate to reach any studio. So, those living in the nearby slums would queue up there daily to have a look at their favourite actors and technicians and shout, “Thalaivar vaazhga”, until the gate opened. I used to cross the gate exactly at 6:45 am everyday. My fans noticed this pattern and started gathering there in large numbers. Only during my last concert did P Vasu reveal that he and other top directors of Tamil cinema like Manivannan had once been a part of that crowd. It has taken me twenty five years to know this. 

When I cross the bridge today, I think about such times and wonder, “Idhu nejamaave namba Chennai dhana?” Time does fly.’


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