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‘SPB has moral right to make money out of Raja’s music’

All your queries on Ilaiyaraja and SPB royalty fracas answered

Chennai, March 22: Just when Tamil Nadu was looking to slip into a comatose state what with no real controversies that the people are so used to coming their way, has mercifully arrived the Ilaiyaraja vs. S P Balasubramaniam royalty imbroglio. Now, the State has found the muse for doing what it does best: Creating memes.

On a serious note, there are any number of explanatory pieces on what the whole issue is and what royalty and copyrights are essentially in a situation like this, but we don’t understand the need for them as the issue is simple: There is no issue. We mean, if Ilaiyaraja has the legal proprietorial rights for his music, and if he chooses to enforce them, what could be the ground for protest by SPB or, for that matter, anybody else? Case dismissed even before it can be filed.

But if we say so and leave off, we in the media are only shooting ourselves in the foot. We need stuff to fill the news pages/airwaves. We need to milk this SPB-Raja standoff for all its worth till we find something else (We are banking on you, Kamal).

So here we delve deep into the royalty-copyright matter in a manner that deeply and truly confuses and confounds people with its silliness (a proud hallmark of this column for several years now).

First up, give us a broad background to the whole issue

Well, S P Balasubramaniyam, an all-time legendary film music singer in these parts, has been on a concert tour across the globe for nearly six months to commemorate his 50th year in the industry. The organiser of this tour is S P B Charan, in his own right, an all-time legendary film music singer’s son.

The commemorative tour, in general, is a hugely popular programme for veteran singers and musicians where they perform iconic hits from their heydays in a memorably offkey fashion. At around 70 years or more, these singers can barely hold their breath while talking, while attempting to sing high-pitch it is a miracle they don’t suffer cardiac arrest. But much of the paying public, too overcome by nostalgia, mistake asthmatic breath for inspired sangadhis.

But it is not mandatory that you need to have put in 50 years of grand work to undertake such commemorative tours. These days, singers and musicians are taking off on such global tours with barely 50 hours of professional singing. For the record, singer Krish, with a sum total of one and half songs under his belt, has performed in many parts of the world.

Stop. You seem to be digressing, what’s with Raja and SPB?

Apparently, after keeping quiet all through this special musical tour for nearly six months, Raja’s camp has sent a formal legal notice to the concerts’ organisers to desist from performing his songs if they don’t pay up the royalty due.  That Raja has asked for royalty money clearly shows that he is after royalty money while other music directors like MSV, despite being inconvenienced by having been dead, have maintained a dignified silence. This is the nutshell of SPB camp’s argument.

SPB, who is known to be a thorough gentleman in the industry, has replied to the formal legal notice through a formal FB post, which Raja’s legal team should formally have access to. The High Court Bench, if the issue gets there, may pass a verdict in this case by pressing the ‘Like’ button.

SPB has also magnanimously appealed to his fans to not make a controversy out of the issue, making people understand that even in such a situation that he has retained his impish sense of humour. We ourselves liked that one, SPB. One day you must try your hand at a full-fledged humour column.

Why is the camp SPB upset?

It should be pretty obvious. What is moral for Raja should also be moral for SPB. If Raja can make money from his songs, it is only moral that SPB can also make money from Raja’s songs. You can’t have two rules for the same situation. Can you?

But what is this IPRS?

It is the Indian Performing Rights Society, which is the deemed apex body that collects royalties, on behalf of musicians, lyricists and music album producers, and spends most of it on its own members (who contribute nothing to music) and administrative expenses. It is a trade union of capitalist world.

What should IPRS do now?

It should intervene immediately and issue a clear-cut, unambiguous clarification as to what is the right spelling of Raja. Raaja or Ilaiyaraja  or Ilayaraja or Ilayaraja? There seems to be a bigger confusion over that. Leave alone his music, it seems Ilaiyaraja has no copyright over his name.

There seems to be a good deal of support for SPB, especially on online forums. So what or who is working against Raja?

Surely, some of his so-called fans. As far as some of them are concerned, in this SPB-Raja faceoff the villain is — why not? — A R Rahman.


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