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In the early days, Ilayaraja’s brother R D Baskar would visit the offices of producers in Chennai, seeking an opportunity for the Ilayaraja-led Pavalar Brothers to compose music for their forthcoming films. However, there were no takers. At one stage, Raja even told Baskar not to visit these offices. “The opportunity will come to us”, Raja would say.(This is the third part of a series on the maestro. (Read the second part here)

One day, their friend Selvaraj (story writer and director) came to their rented house in Mylapore and told them that producer Panchu Arunachalam wanted them to meet him. Rasaiah (as Ilayaraja was known then) was away on some composing work. So, Baskar and brother Gangei Amaran walked all the way (they had no money even for a bus ticket) from Mylapore to Palmgrove Hotel where Panchu Arunachalam wanted Ilayaraja to be there too. The two walked again to Vauhini Studio where they requested him to meet Panju. Fortunately, Rasaiah had some cash with him and paid for the taxi fare. “In those days, it was just 70 paise but it was a lot of money for us”, said Baskar.

Rasaiah recounted, “Panchu Sir was in a small room. He was seated in front of a small table, dressed in a lungi and banian. The room smelt of cigarette smoke and liquor. I said I had seen him when he came along with Kavignar (Kannadasan) to write a song for the film Sabatham. Panju sir too recalled and said we had met then. He asked me to sing a few songs for him, and I sang, and used the table for percussion. Panchu sir said he was currently making a comedy film, and that these songs would have to be used in a different film.”

Rasaiah recalled, “When so many directors and producers rejected our songs even when we played with a full orchestra and regular singers, it was amazing that Panchu sir said I would have a good future and gave me the opportunity later.”

Selvaraj had written the story for a film titled Maruthavachi. Panchu Arunachalam decided to do the film, and it then came to be called Annakili.

Lata Mangeshkar was supposed to sing the first song but…..

Ilayaraja revealed that Lata Mangeshkar had been decided as the singer for the first recording, “Annakili Unnai Thaedudhae” but for some reason she could not come. Therefore, S Janaki was fixed for the recording. Rehearsal for the song was conducted at a kalyana mandapam. Pooja was conducted at AVM recording theatre but just before the song recording, the power supply was cut, and the recording theatre was plunged into darkness.

Ilayaraja said he could hear someone muttering aloud, “Good sign”.

A few others commened that it was a great beginning. Obviously, Panchu Arunachalam had to overcome many dissenting voices in his family and outside to book Rasaiah for the film. Panchu’s family members were against signing Rasaiah for the film.

Bad Omen, someone said at the song recording

Ilayaraja said, “That this should happen on our first day was terrible. I was grief stricken and went out of the recording theatre. Director P Madhavan, who had come to see the recording, had just then returned from a pooja. He offered me some kumkumam from a packet. I applied it on my forehead. S Janaki too consoled him, saying these things were common, and things would be alright soon. A little later, power supply resumed but there was another problem. They rendered the first take but it could not get recorded!”

“Even today, when I happen to hear that song, my mind goes back to all the troubles we faced before recording it”, Ilayaraja said.

“Even today, when I happen to hear that song, my mind goes back to all the troubles we faced before recording it”, Ilayaraja said.

He had reason to be worried as music was composed by Rasaiah for two or three films but they could not be completed.

Many believe that Annakili was Ilayaraja’s first film venture. Actually, he had composed music for two or three films earlier but as was quite common in the film industry in those days, the films were never completed and released.

As his earlier attempts at film music failed, he waited for Annakili release with fingers crossed !

There was another hurdle he had to cross. Rasaiah, who was later known as the King of R-Recording, was not able to do the RR for his first film. He was stopped from doing so. Why was Ilayaraja not allowed to do the re-recording for Annakili? (To be continued)

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