Music icon

Ilaiyaraaja son Yuvan is a music icon who made Tamils ​​say “I don’t know Hindi, go away”

Owhile every Tamil music composer is a friend, a breakup doctor and a lonely companion to his fans, Yuvan Shankar Raja is a “drug dealer”. No kidding. The youngest son of MP Rajya Sabha and Padma Shree Ilaiyaraaja, Yuvan’s playlists are affectionately tagged by his fans as “U1 Drugs”, “Yuvan’s Pain Songs” on Spotify, YouTube and other platforms streaming. As the ever-charming music composer turns 43, his musical, personal and political journey is markedly different from that of his father. The year 2022 is also special for Yuvan as he successfully completes 25 years in the music industry – that too without having composed music for either of the two big stars of Tamil cinema, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.

After converting to Islam in 2014, Yuvan changed his name to Abdul Khaliq but continues to use the original name professionally.

He was only 16 when he composed the music for his first film Aravindhan in 1997. While most identify Thulluvadho Ilamai (2001) as his breakthrough album, he made his mark in 1999 starring Surya Poovellam Kettuppar.

We can go on telling fun facts about Yuvan: he went to the same school as his cousins ​​– director Venkat Prabhu, singer Premgi Amaren – and actors Surya and Karthi. He left school after class 10. He was also the first to introduce remix songs into Tamil cinema.

No Kamal, no Rajini so far

Reaching the heights where he is today, without the support of big names like Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan, is no small feat. He did, however, blackmail Haasan Neruppu Vaayil in Pudupettai (2006) in a roaring voice.

In stage shows, whenever he starts humming the “Hmmm…” part of Idhu Varai of Goa (2010), her casual, mellow voice captivates audiences and creates an atmosphere “to feel” the love in her life.

His Oru Naalil song of poodhupettai was written by the late lyricist Na. Muthukumar. The song is deeply philosophical and has a Shakespearian reference: “We will stand by and watch all the happenings of the world. Let’s consider it a huge room and keep playing it.

As new talents from the South Indian film and music industry are emerging, Yuvan’s fans are not jealous of the new entrants. For them, he is already a legacy with more than 100 film scores to his credit.

Among filmmakers, Yuvan’s collaborations with his brother Selvaraghavan, Ram and Ameer Sultan remained largely successful and led to the production of long-running Tamil albums in KaaDal Konden (2003), Katyouradhu thamizh (2007), and paruthiverian (2007).

Affectionately referred to as “BGM King” by his fans, Yuvan has raised his game with each collaboration with actor Ajith Kumar. In fact, Ajith fans love watching their ‘Thala’ (head) simply walking through a scene with Yuvan’s background music. When acting and music go hand in hand, the two excite each other and elevate the stage.

Yuvan also sang for Ilaiyaraaja and vice versa. When Yuvan, Venkat Prabhu, and Premgi Amaren come together on stage, it’s a platform for light-hearted conversations filled with fun confessions. They discuss how Yuvan was “inspired” by many of his father’s songs.

We can think of no other musical director who has composed as many unreleased films as Yuvan. The albums for Pesu, Kadhal 2 Kalyanamhave a separate fanbase.

Yuvan launched his own music label “U1 Records” in 2015. Three years later, he composed music and produced his first film. Pyaar Prema Kadhal under its own banner, YSR Films.

A few radical Hindu figures like SG Suryah, Secretary of State of BJP Tamil Nadu started criticize and spitting hate at him on social media. Yuvan also gave an appropriate response to those who headed to the comments section to “shame” him for his newfound faith.


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Politically yours, Yuvan

In September 2020, out of the blue, ‘Metro’ actor Shirish posted a image of him having a chat with Yuvan Raja on Twitter.

Yuvan, pictured, wears a t-shirt with the caricature of poet Thiruvalluvar saying, ‘I am a Thamizh-speaking Indian. Shirish also wears a t-shirt that reads, “I don’t know Hindi. Go away.” This set Twitter on fire and many celebrities like Shantanu Bhagyaraj and Udhayanidhi Stalin showed up wearing the same t-shirt and expressed their contempt for the imposition of the Hindi language. The sales of t shirts have also risen sharply among Tamils.

That indicated one thing. When it comes to activism, Yuvan takes a very nuanced approach like that of AR Rahman – speaking out whenever the imposition of Hindi rears its ugly head and affirming Tamil identity in subtle ways.

In April, when Ilaiyaraaja was embroiled in controversy for drawing parallels between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BR Ambedkar, Yuvan distanced himself politically from his father and posted a photo of himself wearing a black T-shirt and dressed (dhoti) on Instagram with the caption ‘Dark Dravidian and proud Tamizhan’. This has earned him a lot of love and respect from the people of the state, who are mostly opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Now in 2022, Yuvan’s hit songs like Yedho Seigirai and Oh Shala resurfacing in “Tamil mood videos” on YouTube and Instagram help us see his journey and virtually transport us to his “peak years”. ‘Vibe videos’ are a trend in which old Tamil songs are taken and synced with Tamil comedy scenes; the climax includes the high-pitched part of the song.

Yuvan announced that he was interested in directing films. And on September 10, he will perform in Chennai after 11 long years. Yuvan, even after 25 years, continues to fascinate us with his experiences.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)