KOLKATA: Devoted listeners of Tamil and Malayalam music are no strangers to the wondrous works of music maestro Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja. Many fans would even argue that some of his best work was done in collaboration with master filmmaker Mani Ratnam, with the likes of “Ilaya Nila”, “Thenpandi Cheemaiyile” and “Rakamma Kaiya Thattu” becoming some of the gems of South Indian music through the decades. Hence it’s no surprise that Ilaiyaraaja’s music is also fast expanding into the playlists of people even outside his homeland, in not just its original form but through regional renditions as well.
In the latest among such regional renditions, ace vocalist and musician Usha Uthup released a Bengali rendition of Ilaiyaraaja’s 1987 classic “Nila Athu Vaanathumele”, a cult favourite from Mani Ratnam’s famous film ‘Nayakan’. The lyrics to the Bengali version “Bhoi Maa Bhoiee” were reimagined in Bengali by actor Kharaj Mukherjee to Ilaiyaraaja's composition, who also accompanied Uthup in the vocals.
While “Nila Athu Vaanathumele” is a peppy track that features a lovestruck Kamal Hassan in the film, “Bhoi Maa Bhoiee” is a devotional song dedicated to Goddess Durga, describing the essence of Durga worship during Navratri. The throbbing beats of the original were toned down in the devotional version with sounds of the conch shell and a guitar that’s more soulful and prominent to suit the tastes of devotional song listeners.
The number raked up thousands of views in just a few days, which comes as no surprise in the week of Durga Puja when Bengalis across the globe tune into devotional songs surrounding the ten-handed warrior goddess.
Ilaiyaraaja’s “Nila Athu Vaanathumele” is also not without its own interesting backstory. It has been stated that the tune of this song was composed by the music maestro for another song in ‘Nayakan’, titled Thenpaandi Cheemayilae, which was rendered by Ilaiyaraaja himself in the same movie. But director Mani Ratnam felt that though the music is good, it did not suit the narrative for Thenpaandi, leading to Ilaiyaraaja coming up with a new tune for the song. However, ‘Nila Athu Vaanathumele’ was retained in the movie and emerged as a legendary song unto itself.