(born June 2, 1943 as Gnanadesikan) is an Indian film composer, singer, and lyricist. He has composed over 4,000 songs and provided film scores for more than 800 Indian films in various languages in a career spanning more than 30 years. He is based in Chennai, the fourth largest city in India and the centre of the Tamil film industry (colloquially known as Kollywood).
Ilaiyaraaja was a prominent composer of film music in South Indian cinema during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. His work integrated Tamil folk lyricism and introduced broader Western musical sensibilities into the South Indian musical mainstream. He has thrice won the Indian National Film Award for best film scoring.
In the 2000s, he composed a range of non-film music, including religious and devotional songs, an oratorio, and world music. He is married to Jeeva, and the couple's two sons (Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja) and daughter (Bhavatharini) are film composers and singers.
In 1976, film producer Panchu Arunachalam commissioned him to compose the songs and film score for a Tamil-language film called Annakkili ('The Parrot'). For the soundtrack, Ilaiyaraaja applied the techniques of modern popular film music orchestration to Tamil folk poetry and folk song melodies, which created a fusion of Western and Tamil idioms. Ilaiyaraaja's use of Tamil music in his film scores injected new influence into the Indian film score milieu. By the mid-1980s Ilaiyaraaja was gaining increasing stature as a film composer and music director in the South Indian film industry. Besides Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films, he has scored music for Hindi (or Bollywood) film productions such as Sadma (1983), Mahadev (1989), Lajja (2001) and Cheeni Kum (2007). He has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Gulzar, Kannadasan, Vairamuthu and T.S. Rangarajan (Vaali), and film directors such as K. Balachander, K. Vishwanath, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, Balu Mahendra and Mani Ratnam.