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Flautist Sudhakar, who collaborated with Ilaiyaraaja on many memorable songs, no more

Flautist Sudhakar died in Chennai on Tuesday, March 28

Flautist Sudhakar died in Chennai on Tuesday, March 28
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Flautist Sudhakar, who created magic along with legendary music composer Ilaiyaraaja in Tamil film songs such as  Chinnakannan Azhaikkiran in ‘Kavikuyil’,  Ilayanila Pozhigirathey in ‘Payanangal Mudivathillai’ ,  Azhagia Kannney Uravugal Neeye in ‘Uthiripookal’ , Putham Puthu Kalai in ‘Alaigal Oivathillai’ and  Panivizhum Malarvanam in ‘Ninaivellam Nithya’, passed away in Chennai on Monday, March 27, 2023.

“There are a lot of memorable songs for which we worked together. The tonal quality of his flute was outstanding,” said guitarist Sadanandam known as Sada Master, who has been working with Ilaiyaraaja since his ‘Annakili’ days.

Sudhakar made a mark and secured a place as a flautist even when noted flautists such as Nanjappa and Gunasingh were dominating the scene. Besides the flute, he also played the recorder, a Western musical instrument, and its effect can be felt in the song  Azhagiya Kanney Uravugal Neeye. Sudhakar was part of Ilaiyaraaja’s troupe until Arunmozhi alias Napolean, joined the maestro. 

“Sudhakar had an amazing memory and could play everything from his head. He was also a jovial man and would entertain the entire troupe,” recalled Sada Master. 

Sudhakar himself had said that, unlike other musicians, he could not read notes and played everything from memory. Despite this handicap, Ilaiyaraaja retained him as his main flautist because of his sheer talent. He would listen to records and then play back the music, flawlessly. In his conversations he had acknowledged the help rendered to him, by another music director, Govardhan master, in playing notes. 

Before joining Ilaiyaraaja, Sudhakar played for G.K. Venkatesh, Ilaiyaraaja’s guru. He was a government employee and started working with Ilaiyaraaja in public concerts, and later, in his films.  

The first film for which he worked with Ilaiyaraaja was ‘Bhadrakali’. In ‘Kavikuyil’ he played alongside Nanjappa and its songs including  Chinnakannan Azhaikkiran became all-time hits. There was also his work in the background scores for the Barathiraja film ‘Mudhal Mariyathai’ , particularly in the memorable scene when Dheepan throws a flute into the wind after the death of Ranjani. These compositions were pure magic. 

When the Holland-based woman flautist Ninkey visited Illaiyaraaja, the maestro ensured that Sudhakar learnt from her, Sada Master recalled. He played with her for the song  Puthamputhu Kalai in ‘Alaigal Oivathillai’. The flute score in the first interlude of the song  Ilaya Nila Pozhigirathey  from the movie ‘Payanangal Mudivathillai’ continues to haunt generations of film music lovers. The song  Kanne Kalaimane from the much-feted ‘Moondram Pirai’ starring actors Kamal Hassan and Sridevi will also rank high on any Tamil film music buff’s playlist.

Another important contribution he made was to Ilaiyaraaja’s albums  Nothing But Wind and  How to Name It?  

In a condolence message, flautist Napolean said he was saddened by the death of his senior colleague. “I share the grief of family members and fans,” he said.

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