AR Rahman vs. Ilaiyaraaja

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Difference between AR Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja

Allah Rakha Rahman (born as A. S. Dileep Kumar) and Ilaiyaraaja  (born as Gnanadesikan) are two stalwarts of the Indian music industry. Ilaiyaraaja, a fine composer, singer and lyricist, is easily one of the finest musicians of India. With a musical career spanning more than 30 years, over 4,500 compositions and film scores for more than 950 Indian films, his is a voice that rules the South Indian film industry. If Ilaiyaraaja is the undisputed Monarch of South Indian music industry, Rahman, in a fantastic musical journey spanning two decades and fourteen Filmfare Awards is heralded the “Mozart of Madras”.  

Early Life and Struggles

A R Rahman was born in Chennai on January 6, 1966, and hails from a musically rich background. Rahman’s tryst with music began at the early age of 9. From a founder of the rock band “Nemesis Avenue”, he began a journey that was to win him a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music and concerts with the likes of Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar. Rahman’s struggle has also seen him work as a keyboardist in the troupe of Ilaiyaraaja.

Ilaiyaraaja, who ruled the South Indian music industry in the 80’s, was born in Tamil Nadu on  June 2, 1943. His humble beginnings saw him work with a travelling musical troupe, an experience that gave him an insight into the world of Tamil folk music. A gold medalist from the Trinity College of Music, Ilaiyaraaja is the first Asian to compose a full symphony which was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Musical Journey

Rahman’s career in movies began in 1992 when he composed the soundtrack for Mani Ratnam’s Tamil movie, Roja, a work that won him the Rajat Kamal award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards – a first for a debutant film composer. While Rahman has brought technology into music, Ilaiyaraaja's musical appeal lies in his amalgamation of Tamil folk poetry and melody with popular film music. His composition "Rakkama Kaiya Thattu" was among the songs listed in a BBC World Top Ten music poll.


Rahman has the distinction of winning eleven Filmfare Awards South, four National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe.

Ilaiyaraaja on the other hand has won the National Film Award for Best Music Direction, the National Film Award for Best Background Score and the Gold Remi Award for Best Music.

Similarities and Differences

  • While Rahman came from a musically rich background, Ilaiyaraaja came from a humble background
  • Ilaiyaraaja worked with more traditional modes of music whereas Rahman experimented more with technology and musical styles
  • Given his approach and style, Rahman has won more international awards than Ilaiyaraaja. Rahman has also worked extensively in Hindi films, leaving an indelible mark on the Bollywood film industry
  • In the world of music, if Ilaiyaraaja is conferred the title Isaignani (“Savant of Music”) then Rahman is Isai Puyal (“Music Storm”)

AR Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja Video


comments 8 Comments

  • CHERIPELLI KISHAN . 3+ yrs. ago



  • Sai Krishna . 3+ yrs. ago

Ilaiyaraja songs made a big hit compared to rahman songs....raja songs are evergreen songs whereas rahman songs could be heard only for a short period..

  • Nachi . 3+ yrs. ago

Raja & Rahman are Good in Music and Genius. But Raja is good and top in music with 900 films-4500 songs. Rahman has less films but more awards. Raja king of South and Rahman king of Hindi and the only Music Director known to International.

In short, Raja for Music and Rahman for Awards. Raja's songs are evergreen songs till now but rahman songs have short period live.

Rajas 900 films include - 200 films of Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada but rahman total films not even 200. Raja is the only MD doing music even after 30 years (entered field in 1976) which is unimaginable. No one could match his songs of 80's and many remix songs of nowadays are only from Raja's earlier songs.

Today Rahman is the best. But Raja is the best forever. No comparison. But both are genius. They are the only music directors known to National level and no-one else. We proud of them and We salute them.

  • Maklin . 3+ yrs. ago

No 1come future then illayaraja he is only the best

  • Baszee . 3+ yrs. ago

Rahman was hailed as 'Mozart of Madras'. He is the only musician in India who went through musical revolution over the period of time. Ilayaraja don't know how to revolutionize his music according to time. Then how Ilayaraja can be the best. Can you people make some sense? Rahman is award and raja is music? what the ****? Awards is given for music. It means Rahman is best music and its awards, but raja only music. Someone said Rahman's music can only be heard for short time but raja's music is ever green. If you would like to hear raja's music, then don't claim it for universal truth. The whole world agreed Rahman is the best. Then talking about it is just a waste of time. Raja is beast but Rahman is the best of the bests. If raja's music is best then why international arena haven't noticed it. Truth is raja's music isn't the best. Rahman's is actually the best! Stop comparing and get the fact guys. Old is gold, but new is Diamond!

  • Balamurugan . 3+ yrs. ago

Isaignani is the best for alltime.he composed for long one come to close of his experience&consistency.

If u hear IR songs 10 times continuously, ur feelings are increase in everytime.But ARR songs would be boring in 4th time.

  • kabilan . 3+ yrs. ago

Rahman s d best...even u all know dat fact...rahman can do music like ilayaraja....bur raja cant do it like rahman....rahman s unique...he will create magic until he dies...but raja merely lives.....

  • NaaGu . 3+ yrs. ago

I don't know what is the motive of the person who posted this Video ending it with Sarcastic note that Ilayaraja fans try to downgrade ARR music is not original. Well. I have an answer for you. Although both are Music directors - IR delivers MELODY which people like me are looking for. ARR delivers MUSIC that people like you are interested. People who are used to listen melodious songs of IR might find difficulty in listening to ARR songs more than ONCE or TWICE. That may be one reason why we are not able to accept the recognition MUSIC(ARR) is getting over MELODY(IR). For example, even today if I listen to "Kannan oru kai kuzhandhai" song from Bhadrakaali movie of 1976, it travels like breeze deeply into my soul and every cell in me and puts me into immediate relaxation. That's the power of melody we like in IR music.

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