Ilaiyaraaja’s lawyer has categorically denied the composer made anti dalit statements that are currently being circulated on WhatsApp. He has requested fans and the public to be cautious while sharing and to verify if the composer has officially made any statement before sharing it.
The message being circulated with Ilaiyaraaja’s picture and name, reads, “Why are benefits given to Dalits when there are poor in every caste? It is because of this that the youth in the community are unaware of life’s difficulties and get into wrong activities,” reports TNM.
Ilaiyaraaja’s advocate Pradeep Kumar told Silverscreen, “Someone has put up their own message with his name. Ilaiyaraaja never speaks about caste.” The spokesperson for the composer also said, “We heard there were such messages on social media, but Ilaiyaraaja has not said anything that is circulated in the message. Unless an official word is given, we request you not to carry or share any statement that is supposedly from him. With his birthday coming up on June 2, we don’t want problems. If there is an official clarification from him, we will announce.”
Ilaiyaraaja has always refrained from speaking about caste, even though he is Dalit and his caste and identity are relevant to understanding the struggles he has faced in career, in an industry that has always been upper caste.
In January 2018, when Ilaiyaraaja was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour by the government, The New Indian Express had carried an article with the headline, “Dalit outreach with Ilaiyaraaja’s Padma,” describing the Padma award as the BJP government’s outreach to the Dalit community.
Ilaiyaraaja did not respond to this article, even though the music community, the film industry and his fans widely condemned the newspaper for suggesting that his caste had anything to do with the much due award. The paper later issued an apology.
Ilaiyaraaja is currently busy with preparations for a grand concert being organised on June 2, for his 76th birthday. He will be meeting the press soon to speak about the event. The concert will feature many Ilaiyaraaja hits and for the first time he will be playing music live. KJ Yesudas and SP Balasubrahmanyam among others will perform.