Bollywood actress Sridevi along with actors Kamal Haasan (l), Rajinikanth (r), and Amitabh Bachchan (2nd from r) felicitate music director Ilaiyaraaja (3rd from l) during the music launch of “Shamitabh” in Mumbai, Jan. 20. (Shashank Parade | PTI)

Indian cinema’s three biggest stars — Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan shared the stage to pay tribute to music maestro Ilaiyaraaja. A Press Trust of India report.

MUMBAI, Jan. 21 – Ilaiyaraaja’s musical achievements were the highlight of the event as the three stars shared their experiences of working with the great composer.

The event also saw the launch of R. Balki’s upcoming directorial venture “Shamitabh,” which has music composed by Ilaiyaraaja and stars Big B, Dhanush and Haasan’s younger daughter, Akshara, who is making her Bollywood debut with the film.

“This is a rare opportunity for me. We worked in “Geraftaar,” the first and the only time, and here we are on stage again. I am here to talk with two legends (Rajinikanth and Haasan) on a legend, who is the musical genius Illaiyaraja,” Bachchan, 72, said referring to the 1985 movie that starred him, Haasan and Rajinikanth.

When asked by Big B about his experience of working with the composer, Rajinikanth, 64, said he shared a very special bond with Ilaiyaraaja.

“I know Raaja Sir from early ’70s. He was a very naughty and mischievous person at that time. We both used to gossip and used to have our drinks together till morning. Suddenly, I saw a transformation in Raaja Sir which extended to his dressing style. And then I started calling him Raaja Swami. He is a saint now and Mata Saraswati lives in him.”

Haasan, 60, who has worked with Ilaiyaraaja in several films, said, “Out of his 1,000 films, 10 percent are mine. He created the songs but we own it. After his transformation, I started calling him my brother … I knew that he would reach the number of 1,000 one day.”

Refuting rumors that “Shamitabh” is the 1,000th music composition of the 71-year-old musician, Balki said, “Let me clarify one thing, ‘Shamitabh’ is not Ilaiyaraaja’s 1,000th film. He will reach the milestone with Bala’s upcoming Tamil film ‘Tharai Thappattai.’ We are here to celebrate that … 1,000 is just a number. We don’t need any excuse to celebrate Raaja Sir.”

The evening witnessed performances by Big B, Dhanush along with singer Shreya Ghoshal and Suraj Jagan.

“I am thankful to Rajini Sir that he came for this function. When I signed ‘Shamitabh’ I never expected that something like this will happen in my career,” Dhanush said.

“I am not a trained actor and I came in this industry accidentally. Without your (Ilaiyaraaja) music I don’t think I could have come this far. It’s been 15 years now and every day is full of your music. Every shot is full of your music. I draw my emotions from your music. Thank you Raaja Sir for everything,” Dhanush added.

The event was also attended by eminent personalities like Sridevi, and her husband Boney Kapoor, Shruti Haasan, Gulzar, Tabu, Abhishek and wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.