Happy Birthday Devi Sri Prasad: When Kamal Haasan called him the next Ilaiyaraja


As Devi Sri Prasad, fondly known as DSP, turns 43, let’s take a trip down memory lane to the audio launch of Manmadhan Ambu, where Kamal made a big claim about the musician.

DSP with Ilaiyaraaja (Twitter/ Devi Sri Prasad)

Though Devi Sri Prasad predominantly works in Telugu cinema, he holds commendable popularity in Tamil. His tryst with Tamil cinema goes back all the way to Vijay’s Badri (2001) – for which he composed the background score and sung tracks – Angel Vandhale and King of Chennai. Over the years, DSP has made several chartbusters in Tamil including Kattu Kattu (Thirupaachi), Daddy Mummy (Villu), En Peru Meenakumari (Kanthasami), and the entire album of Sachien.

However, DSP’s work for Kamal Haasan’s Manmadhan Ambu (2010) can be termed as one of the most important albums in his career for two reasons. One: it is by far the most experimental and distinct work in his discography. Except for Oyyala, the rest of the album is unlike anything he had done till then. While Neela Vaanam still stands out as a heart-wrenching number (credits to the incredible visuals too), DSP’s composition for Kamal’s poem turned out to be the peak of his experimentation. The second reason has more to do with Kamal’s praise for the album than the songs themselves. At the audio launch of Manmadhan Ambu, the Vikram actor said, “I wouldn’t easily accept anyone as great. First would be MSV (MS Visawanatha) and then straightway it would come down to Ilaiyaaraja… and I would say no one else comes close in that list. I believe he (DSP) would come up there in the list.”

Given how overprotective Tamils are of Ilaiyaraaja and how rarely Kamal gives appreciation, the statement led to a huge controversy back then, and the actor was criticised for placing DSP next to music legends of Tamil cinema. Kamal later clarified that DSP is a huge fan of Ilaiyaraaja and he considers his statement to be the only befitting appreciation to the former.

Of course, it is unreasonable to compare Ilaiyaraaja to DSP or anyone for that matter. The 79-year-old maestro’s achievements still stand unparalleled. With thousands of songs in his discography, the veteran sort of had a monopoly in Tamil cinema, which is hard to emulate in current times. However, similar things can be said about Devi Sri Prasad.

DSP holds a unique place not just in the South but across the country. Musicians in the South have chosen to play in their own region. On the other hand, DSP’s catchy tunes effortlessly took him places. The demand for his tunes was such that many Hindi projects re-used his tunes from the South. Ringa Ringa from Arya 2 (2009) became Dhinka Chikka in Ready after two years, and Aa Ante Amalapuram from Arya (2004) was remixed for Maximum (2012). The tune of Akalesthey from Shanka Dada Zindabad (2007) was used thrice! It became Daddy Mummy in Hindi film Bhaag Jhonny (2015)  and Tamil film Villu (2009), and as Om Namaste Bolo in Telugu film Ready (2008). It is something DSP is often criticised for – that he copies himself, but the right way to look at it is how the tunes still serve the purpose despite the multiple re-usage.

In other words, DSP was making pan-Indian music even before the term became a trend. With Pushpa’s Srivalli and Oo Antava Oo, DSP tunes are now transcending Indian boundaries too. There can indeed be only one Ilaiyaraaja, or as Tamils like to say “Raaja Raja thaan.” But the same can be said about DSP too.


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