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Music director Deva, who has been composing for Tamil films for the past 30 years, for the first time held a public concert, and it’s going viral. On the occasion of his 72nd birthday on November 20, Deva who is most famous for creating the soundtrack to which Rajinikanth attained true ‘Superstar’ status in the 90s, performed at the Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai.

Fans were in thrall as the concert tapped into their nostalgia — and none other than their idol Rajinikanth himself spoke at the event.

Sharing an anecdote, which speaks volumes about Deva’s musical spell, Rajinikanth recalled how Singapore’s former President Nathan had expressed a desire to have the song ‘Thanjavur mannai eduththu…’ from the film Porkaalam to be sung at his funeral. His wish was indeed honoured and the song was sung during his last rites. The song had been composed by none other than Deva, Rajini said, narrating the story in his inimitable style, amid a standing ovation.

Posters of the concert, which show Rajini and Deva rubbing shoulders with each other, carried the title ‘Deva the Deva’, a nod to the title of the Rajini blockbuster ‘Rajathi Raja’. The music for that film had been scored by Deva, which no doubt played a big role in the movie’s roaring success.

Singapore’s former President Nathan had expressed a desire to have the Deva song ‘Thanjavur mannai eduththu…’ from the film Porkaalam to be sung at his funeral. His wish was indeed honoured and the song was sung during his last rites, Rajinikanth said, narrating the anecdote to audience at the concert

The music for early box office hits of Rajini were composed by maestro Ilaiyaraja, apart from  Chandrabose. Deva could have entered Tamil cinema joining hands with Chandrabose. But he missed the bus then. Nevertheless he made up for it when he got the golden opportunity to score music for Rajini’s films in the 1990s.

The first Rajini film Deva composed for was Annamalai, a massive hit. Before that, Rajini’s Mannan for which Ilaiyaraja composed the score, became a runaway success. In particular, the song ‘Amma entru azhaikkaatha uyirillaiyae’ struck a chord with the audience, raising Rajini’s stock. But soon after, Rajini and Ilaiyaraja seemed to have had some sort of falling out.

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When Rajini took up the film Annamalai, he wanted to prove that his popularity would remain intact even though Ilaiyaraja would not be composing for it. It was this dicey situation that threw up an opportunity for Deva. Rising to the occasion, Deva composed memorable tracks that endeared him to the multitude of Rajini fans.

In his concert three decades on, Deva recaptured the mood that rocked Rajini fans during the 1990s.

Making his debut as a musician in the film Manasukketha Maharasa, Deva filled the gap between two giants — Ilaiyaraja and A R Rahman — successfully. His music, which enlivened even the most ordinary of lyrical lines in the film Vaikasi Poranthaatchu, sounds staggering even now.

Deva has scored several melodious songs such as ‘Aendi soodamani’ in the film Pammal K Sambandham, ‘Intha nimisham’ in the film Hello, ‘Salomia’ in the film Kannethirae Thondrinaal and so on. Music legend M S Viswanathan appropriately added an sobriquet to Deva’s name: ‘Thaenisai Thendral’ (breeze of honey-sweet music).

Deva in his career has faced adverse criticism too. In a commercial magazine, to a reader’s question about what Deva would have been had he not become a cine musician, the answer carried a contemptuous tinge: “He would have become a xerox shop owner” — an oblique reference to Deva having been accused of being a copycat.

Yet his melodies have gone down well with the people. That was the message the concert made loud and clear.

When Rajini took up the film Annamalai, he wanted to prove that his popularity would be intact even though Ilaiyaraja would not be composing for it. It was this dicey situation that threw up an opportunity for Deva

Even as Rajini was on his way in, the auditorium burst into rhapsodic applause as the popular theme music of Baasha pounded through the speakers. The moment was a throwback to cinema witnessing massive crowds of fans in rapture back in the 1990s.

The practice of every letter of Rajinikanth’s name appearing stylishly in the credits accompanied by thunderous background music started with the film Annamalai.  Thereafter, every Rajini film title card has carried this leitmotif.

Also Read: In Ilayaraja land, Disco Raja Bappi Lahiri made an occasional flash

After Annamalai, Rajini acted in Pandian directed by S P Muthuraman. But instead of Deva, Ilaiyaraja scored the music for the film. Pandian, however, did not become a hit like Annamalai, and neither did its songs scored by the maestro capture the popular fancy.

In all, Deva composed the score for three of Rajini’s films, Annamalai, Baasha and Arunachalam. Deva has also worked in the films of other leading actors — Kamal, Ajith and Vijay.

Will Deva get to score for a Rajini film again? We’ll have to wait and watch. But there’s no denying that the Deva-brand ‘Superstar’ theme music is still reverberating in the minds of Rajini fans to this day.


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