8 Table Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

Nov 20, 2023
Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja: Comparison is never an easy task, yet more so when it comes to music legends from different eras. Comparing Ilayaraja with A. R. Rahman who brought international renown to Tamil Music can be even harder; their similarities being mere coincidental as Ilayaraja chose not to venture beyond Tamil Music while Rahman, on the other hand, used Bollywood Films as his springboard into popularizing his work across India. This article serves as my attempt at finding similarities and discrepancies between these two musical giants – please forgive me if I have offended either one or another musical legend!

Who is AR Rahman?

AR Rahman
Figure-no-01: AR Rahman
  • AR Rahman is an Indian music composer, singer and producer. Born A. S. Dileep Kumar in 1967, Rahman is widely considered as one of the most influential and greatest musicians in Indian cinematic history. Rahman primarily composes for Tamil and Hindi film scores but has composed songs in other languages too.
  • AR Rahman first gained prominence during the early 90s with his breakthrough soundtrack for 1992 Tamil film Roja. It marked a new era in Indian film music characterized by an eclectic blend of Indian classical, electronica and world sounds; Rahman was known to combine traditional sounds with cutting-edge technologies in an unprecedented manner that revolutionized India’s music scene.
  • AR Rahman is a celebrated composer who has contributed his talents to both critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies such as Bombay, Dil Se, Lagaan Rang De Basanti Slumdog Millionaire Rockstar. Working alongside many well-known actors and directors in India as well as abroad has allowed AR Rahman to build up an extensive repertoire.
  • AR Rahman has earned numerous citations and awards for his contributions to music, including two Academy Awards and two Grammy Awards, along with BAFTA awards and National Film Awards. Additionally, he received honorary degrees and was bestowed one of India’s highest civilian awards- Padma Bhushan.
  • Rahman is not only well known for his film work but is also actively engaged in humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives. A respected figure within the music business, Rahman is often lauded for his versatility, creativity and innovative approaches to composition.

Who is Ilayaraja?

Figure-no-02: Ilayaraja
  • Gnanathesikan Ilayaraja was an Indian conductor, composer, and songwriter best known for his contributions to South Indian cinema – particularly Tamil cinema – especially during his time living in Pannaipuram (Tamil Nadu) India on June 2, 1944.
  • Ilayaraja has long been recognized as one of India’s greatest composers, providing music for over 1000 films across different Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam Kannada and Hindi. His signature sound blends traditional Indian elements with contemporary contemporary melodies to appeal to audiences of all generations.
  • Ilayaraja’s musical style can be defined by his understanding of both classical music and folk influences, combining these to produce compositions with intricate arrangements, rich melodies and soulful renditions. His mastery of instruments makes him well-recognized among music enthusiasts worldwide.
  • Ilayaraja has composed the soundtracks to numerous films, such as “Nayagan”, “Mouna Ragam”, Thevar Magan”, Roja” and Thalapathi”. His collaborations with filmmakers and lyricists resulted in many chart-topping tracks and iconic musical moments that remain unforgettable to this day.
  • Ilayaraja has received many honors and awards for his contributions to music, including five National Film Awards. Additionally, for his outstanding service to music he received one of India’s highest civilian honors- Padma Bhushan award.
  • Ilayaraja’s work extends far beyond just movies. He has released albums independently and composed music for other projects (symphonies and orchestral pieces included). Ilayaraja’s impactful contribution has left a long-lasting mark on South Indian Film Industry while his melodies continue to be beloved among music enthusiasts today.
  • Ilayaraja is widely acknowledged as the finest music composer of Indian cinema, thanks to his distinguished musical style and ability to elicit emotions through his compositions.

Table difference:

Aspect AR Rahman Ilayaraja
Early Life and Struggles Born in Chennai in 1967 Born in Pannaipuram, Tamil Nadu in 1943
Musical Journey Known for his fusion of genres Known for his classical and melodic compositions
Cultural Impact Global recognition and appeal Iconic status in South Indian cinema
Filmography Composed music for various languages Primarily focused on Tamil cinema
Collaborations Collaborated with international artists and filmmakers Worked with renowned directors and lyricists within South Indian cinema
Awards Two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and several National Film Awards Three National Film Awards and multiple regional awards
Legacy and Influence Pioneering sound, global collaborations, and technological advancements in music production Timeless melodies, influence on classical music, and focus on background scores
Discography Studio albums, non-film compositions, and chart-topping songs Film soundtracks, independent albums, and devotional music

Early Life and Struggles Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja are two acclaimed composers of Indian music who share many similarities, though each had very distinct early lives with challenges they overcame to achieve success in music composition. Here are a few key distinctions.

AR Rahman:

AR Rahman was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on 6 January 1967 to conductor and composer Sriram Rajan (Tamil/Malayalam movie composer).

Religious Background: Rahman is Muslim by heritage. Rahman faced financial struggles as he raised his family after the untimely death of his father and had to support them alone.

Music Training: Rahman underwent formal instruction in Western Classical music and Indian Classical music despite financial restrictions, becoming proficient with multiple musical instruments while also learning theory and composition techniques.


Gnanathesikan Ilayaraja was born June 2nd 1942 in Pannaipuram (Tamil Nadu), India to rural parents. As such, he grew up as a villager.

Ilayaraja came from a farming family. Daniel Ramaswamy worked at a temple nearby as bandmaster.

Due to his financial and family circumstances, Ilayaraja’s formal education was limited. In his early years he experienced numerous hardships such as poverty and lack of opportunities.

Ilayaraja, an untrained musician, learned his craft on his own without formal training. Through passion and natural ability he managed to master various musical instruments independently.

Both AR Rahman and Ilayaraja faced similar struggles early on in their careers; however, their backgrounds and experiences differed considerably; for instance, Rahman was fortunate to inherit musical training from both his family and formal training; Ilayaraja struggled financially but overcame obstacles by trusting his musical instincts to reach success. Both composers nonetheless made major contributions to the music industry while experiencing great success throughout their respective careers.

Musical Journey/Musical Style and Approach Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

These two famous composers each possess distinctive musical styles, journeys and approaches. Here are some key differences between them.

Musical Journey

AR Rahman:

  1. Ar Rahman’s Approach to Fusing Traditional and Modern Elements: He is well-renowned for his groundbreaking efforts at merging traditional Indian with contemporary elements to form his signature musical palette, seamlessly merging genres like classical music, folk music, electronica and world music into his signature sound.
  2. Global Recognition and Influence: Rahman has made his mark globally through films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) and its music has had an immense effect worldwide, leading to collaborations among acclaimed international musicians.
  3. Technological Advancements: Rahman has long been at the forefront of employing cutting-edge digital production techniques, electronic instruments, and synthesizers in order to craft cutting-edge and contemporary soundscapes.


  • Classical and Folk Influences: His musical style draws influence from both classical and folk traditions, drawing heavily from Indian classical music as well as traditional folk melodies from rural areas of his homeland of Kerala, India. Ilayaraja skillfully incorporates folk melodies and classical ragas into his compositions to give them emotion and authenticity.
  • Melodic Compositions and Intricate Arrangements: Ilayaraja’s melodic compositions and intricate arrangements have long been celebrated, featuring rich harmonies and complex chord progressions in his pieces. Additionally, he possesses an exceptional musical acumen.
  • Simplicity and Traditional Instrumentation: Ilayaraja’s compositions are often strikingly straightforward despite his mastery of complex musical techniques. His music exudes nostalgia and timelessness through traditional Indian instruments used in his performances.

Approach to Music

AR Rahman:

  1. Experimentation and Genre Diversity: AR Rahman is well known for his pioneering experiments in different musical genres. His music seamlessly transitions between styles, including Western and Indian classical music as well as pop, jazz, and rock genres.
  2. Emotional Connection: Rahman is widely revered for composing compositions that stir profound emotions. His music embodies films, stories, and characters perfectly while touching hearts around the globe.
  3. Narrative-driven Approach: Rahman’s music often provides the finishing touch to an already captivating narrative and enhances storytelling. Working closely with directors to fully comprehend their vision of film as well as any emotions it elicits, Rahman composes music that supports their narrative.


  1. Emotional Depth and Soulfulness: Ilayaraja’s compositions are revered for their soulful melodies and emotional depth, capable of conveying love, melancholy or longing emotions with ease. His music can capture everything from joyous celebration to longing or melancholy reflection.
  2. Lyricism and Poetic Sensibility: Ilayaraja’s music is an ideal complement to his lyrics. A poet with an excellent grasp of poetics, Ilayaraja incorporates poetry into his compositions to enhance their lyrical impact and maximize the impact.
  3. Strong Focus on Background Score: Ilayaraja pays close attention to background scores when creating his films, with seamless integration between visuals and musical score that enhances their dramatic impact and elevates overall cinematic experience.

Both AR Rahman & Ilayaraja have received much acclaim as composers, yet their musical styles & journeys differ considerably. Rahman stands out with his blend of traditional and modern elements as well as genre diversity and technological advances; Ilayaraja’s fame lies more with classical folk influences and melodic compositions.

Cultural Impact Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja are two iconic figures in Indian music who have had significant impacts on culture at different points in time.

Here are some key differences in their cultural impact:

AR Rahman:

  1. AR Rahman has achieved global recognition and influence: His music has garnered worldwide acclaim and played a vital role in introducing Indian Music to international audiences through films like “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) – not only receiving critical acclaim but also reaching wider audiences and earning him global prominence.
  2. Rahman played an influential role in revolutionizing Indian film music: He revolutionized traditional tunes by adding modern elements and exploring multiple genres while employing cutting-edge technologies. His influence can be felt today among future composers as his innovative style has altered the landscape for Indian cinematic compositions.
  3. Collaboration with International Artists: Rahman Has Worked With International Artists Rahman has collaborated with international artists such as Mick Jagger and Hans Zimmer to expand his global influence, while encouraging cross-cultural music exchange.


  1. Iconic Status in South Indian Cinema: Ilayaraja has achieved iconic status within South Indian Cinema, particularly Tamil Nadu. Since the early 1980s, his music has played an essential role in Tamil movies – becoming timeless classics that remain beloved within Tamil-speaking communities worldwide.
  2. Deep Connection with Tamil Culture and Identity: Ilayaraja’s compositions often reflect Tamil culture and identity, featuring classical ragas, poetry, as well as traditional Tamil folk songs – helping celebrate and preserve Tamil heritage.
  3. Extensive Contribution to the Regional Film Industry: Ilayaraja has made an extraordinary impactful contribution to regional film industries in South India. His extensive body of work encompasses Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi movies – and has left an indelible mark upon them all as well as cultural fabric of South India.

Ilayaraja had an enormous impact on Tamil film music while AR Rahman has had global renown. Both composers left an indelible mark on Indian music but their effects differ in terms of reach, recognition, and connections with specific cultures.

Filmography and Discography Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja are two well-known Indian film composers with extensive filmographies. However, there are key distinctions between their discographies:

  • Filmography

AR Rahman:

  1. Multilingual Films: AR Rahman has composed music for films made in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu Malayalam and English languages and produced many projects that showcase his versatility and cultural reach.
  2. Collaborations with Renowned Directors: Rahman has worked with some of the world’s premier directors from both Indian and International film industries, such as Mani Ratnam and Shankar. Imtiaz Ali and Danny Boyle are also among his collaborators.
  3. International Films: Rahman has garnered international acclaim for his musical contributions to international films. Most notably, his collaboration with Danny Boyle on “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) won him two Academy Awards.


  1. Predominantly Tamil Films: Ilayaraja is an award-winning Tamil film director known for his extensive body of work as one of its foremost composers, having composed music for numerous films over multiple decades and becoming one of its most renowned creators.
  2. Multilingual Projects: Although Ilayaraja’s focus has primarily been Tamil films, he has composed music for films in Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi as well.
  3. Iconic Collaborations: Iconic Collaborations Ilayaraja’s longstanding association with actors and filmmakers from Tamil cinema are legendary. His collaborations with directors like Balu Mahendra and Bharathiraja have resulted in iconic movies with memorable soundtracks.
  • Discography

AR Rahman:

  1. Studio Albums and Independent Projects: AR Rahman’s studio albums and independent projects showcase his musical prowess beyond film soundtracks. These records feature original compositions by Rahman as well as collaborations with other musicians as well as experimental sounds.
  2. Non-Film Compositions: Rahman has also composed music for other projects aside from films, including stage productions and musicals, which showcase his creativity and versatility beyond film industry confines.
  3. Chart-Topping Music: Rahman has produced several chart-topping tracks that have enjoyed wide commercial success across various platforms and are therefore included in his discography.


  1. Film Soundtracks: Ilayaraja is best-known for his film soundtracks. His compositions have gained immense recognition within South Indian culture. Renowned for their emotional impact and timeless melodies, Ilayaraja’s songs remain beloved classics to this day.
  2. Independent Albums: Ilayaraja has released numerous independent albums featuring his original compositions, which show off his wide array of musical styles and allow him to express his artistic vision.
  3. Devotional Music: Ilayaraja also composed songs and albums on spiritual and religious themes, popular among audiences who sought music for worshipping or meditation purposes. These devotional compositions proved especially appealing.

AR Rahman’s filmography includes filmography, discography and international collaborations; in addition to non-film music ventures. Ilayaraja specializes primarily in Tamil cinema but has an established presence across South Indian dialects; his discography comprises film soundtracks as well as independent and devotional tracks.

Collaborations and Associations Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja have both become legendary composers in India. Over their careers, each has worked with different collaborators and partners, and there are some key distinctions between the two composers that you should know about-

AR Rahman:

  1. Filmmaker Collaborations: AR Rahman has established strong creative bonds with many acclaimed filmmakers. He has worked extensively with Mani Ratnam on films like Roja, Dil Se, Guru, while Shankar has found great success working together on films like Gentleman”, Indian””, Enthiran”.
  2. International Collaborations: Rahman has collaborated with numerous international artists and filmmakers. Most notably he worked alongside Danny Boyle – the award-winning British filmmaker behind “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) which earned international acclaim and two Academy Awards; furthermore he collaborated on projects with international musicians including Mick Jagger and Dido.
  3. Singer Collaborations: Rahman has collaborated with numerous talented singers both inside and outside India. Notable collaborations include those with playback vocalists such as Lata Magnehkar, Asha Bohole, A.R. Ameen, Hariharan and Shreya Gaoshal – just a few among many!


  1. Director Collaborations: Ilayaraja’s collaborations with directors span decades. He has worked closely with some of South Indian cinema’s most esteemed directors – such as Balu Mahendra and Bharathiraja – resulting in some memorable movies and soundtracks in Tamil cinema.
  2. Lyricist Associations: Ilayaraja works with some of the finest lyricists to craft songs with heart. His collaborations with Vaali, Vairamuthu, and Kannadasan resulted in timeless compositions.
  3. Playback Singers: Ilayaraja collaborated with many talented vocalists, each lending their individual voices to his compositions. Ilayaraja worked with a wide variety of playback singers who added their distinct voices to Ilayaraja’s work.

Both AR Rahman and Ilayaraja have notable collaborations and affiliations; however, their partnerships differ in terms of geographical scope and specific individuals with whom they have collaborated. Rahman’s projects span international collaborations involving artists from diverse backgrounds; Ilayaraja has collaborated mostly within South Indian Film Industry; in this industry he primarily collaborated with directors, playback singers and lyricists who all contribute towards his compositions’ success.

Legacy and Influence Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja have left behind legacies that will outlive them both and had a tremendous influence on Indian music culture.

Here are some key distinctions between their influences and legacies:

  • Legacy

AR Rahman:

  1. AR Rahman’s pioneering work and international successes have ensured his legacy lives on. He has won multiple awards including two Academy Awards and two Grammys; these accomplishments cemented his status as an international musical icon.
  2. Rahman revolutionized Indian Film Music through his pioneering sound and musical innovations, from his pioneering fusion of Indian traditional music with contemporary sounds to his explorations across genres and utilization of technological advancements – all which contributed to shaping how Indian film music will progress into the future. Rahman’s innovative sound has left an indelible mark on a new generation and provided guidance for how Indian film music should evolve further in India.
  3. Rahman’s music transcended cultural borders and had an immense global impact. His film score compositions for “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) introduced Indian and global music genres alike to wider international audiences – leading to increased recognition and popularity for Indian music worldwide.


  1. Ilayaraja has long been revered in South India, particularly Tamil Nadu, due to his contributions in filmmaking and his prolific body of works that remain beloved figures in audiences that speak Tamil. His cultural status continues to flourish today through various platforms like his films that continue his legacy and his presence is still felt across audiences that understand his language.
  2. Ilayaraja is well-renowned for his timeless melodies and emotional depth. His songs have become beloved classics across multiple generations; his impactful presence has left an indelible mark on Tamil cinema as music enhanced their storytelling and captured essences of stories told through film.
  3. Ilayaraja has long been celebrated for his musical prowess when it comes to film scores. His orchestrations and intricate arrangements have inspired numerous composers to reach new heights of film music excellence.
  • Influence

AR Rahman:

  1. AR Rahman has become known for his groundbreaking approach to genre blending and musical diversity, which blends genres seamlessly while pushing the limits of Indian Film Music.
  2. Rahman has had an impactful impact on global collaborations and cross-cultural exchange with his collaborations with artists from various nations around the globe as well as his success within the music industry, opening doors for collaboration across cultures. Thanks to Rahman, Indian music has now become a global phenomenon and collaborations between Indian artists and international ones continue to increase rapidly. His influence can be seen through this phenomenon, an increasing number of Indian and international artists collaborate due to him.
  3. Technological Advancements In Music Production Rahman’s embrace of technology, digital production techniques and electronic instruments has had an enormous influence on Indian film music production practices. His pioneering use has set new standards while encouraging composers and musicians alike to explore innovative tools.


  1. Melodic Influence and Classical Influence – Ilayaraja’s dedication to melody combined with classical influences has had an indelible mark on subsequent composers who followed in his footsteps, inspiring musicians to experiment with Indian traditional music melodies and harmonies through his compositions.
  2. Background Score and Film Aesthetics Ilayaraja’s unparalleled background scores and ability to enhance storytelling through music have set the bar for excellence in Indian cinema. His influence can be seen both through powerful background music, as well as in seamless integration of audio-visuals.
  3. Ilayaraja has had a profound impact on regional music industries in Tamil Nadu. His style and musical approach have profoundly shaped its sound while continuing to influence musicians today.

Awards Difference Between AR Rahman and Ilayaraja

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja are two acclaimed composers from India’s music industry, having each won multiple awards during their respective careers. Here are some key differences between their awards.

AR Rahman:

  1. AR Rahman won two Academy Awards. In 2009, Rahman took home both Best Original Song and Original Score awards for “Slumdog Millionaire”.
  2. Rahman holds two Grammy awards. Rahman received both of these honors in 2010: Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Award (for Slumdog Millionaire) and Best Song Written for Visual Media (Jai Ho).
  3. Rahman won several National Film Awards for his music direction work on films like Roja, Lagaan and Kaatru Veliyidai – among many others.
  4. Filmfare Awards – Rahman was honored with multiple Filmfare Awards for his outstanding musical direction and background score work in Hindi and Tamil movies.


  1. He won three National Film Awards in India for best music direction for films released between 1983 and 1989- Saagara Sangamam, Pallavi Anu Pallavi, and Guru.
  2. Ilayaraja received multiple Tamil Nadu State Film Awards as Best Music Director for his outstanding contributions to Tamil film.
  3. Filmfare Awards South- Ilayaraja took home multiple Filmfare Awards South awards, such as best music director, best background score and male playback singer (for his compositions).
  4. Kalaimamani Award – Ilayaraja was honored with the Kalaimamani Award in recognition of his exceptional contributions in music and film.

AR Rahman and Ilayaraja have both been acknowledged for their musical excellence. While Rahman has earned international renown through Grammy and Academy Awards, Ilayaraja’s awards mainly stemmed from Indian regional cinematic industries including Tamil cinema. Both composers have made major contributions to this field while being recognized for their talent.


AR Rahman and Ilayaraja are famous composers in Ilayaraja and AR Rahman are legendary composers in the Indian musical industry. leaving each an imprint on the music industry. Rahman is famous for his unique combination of Indian traditional and Western music, adding an innovative touch to soundtracks for films. Ilayaraja On the contrary, is known for his timeless songs and classical compositions that redefined the genre of film music in his time. In contrast to Rahman’s approach, which is contemporary and experimental, the work of Ilayaraja is heavily rooted in traditional tunes. Both masters have greatly enriched Indian music, inspiring generations of musicians, and inspiring people around the world.