Ilaiyaraaja has produced some of the best compositions, both in his soundtrack and his background score work, using the violin. Rakkamma from Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathi (1991) is one such upbeat dance song that employs the violin to great effect. The violins are the mainstay of Rakkamma’s rhythm section. The opening refrain, to this date, is instantly recognisable.

Rakkamma, Thalapathi (1991).

Such a song would be ripe for a strings-based instrumental cover and the Kochi-based group Orfeo Quintet has done exactly that. Consisting of a string quartet (Carol George and Francis Xavier on violin, Herald Antony on viola and Maria Grigoreva on cello), a drummer (Benhar Thomas), a percussionist (Binoy Joseph) and a pianist (Robin Thomas), the group has previously produced similar covers of Padakali from Yoddha (1992), Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal and Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic (1997) soundtrack.

The band has broken down, rearranged and condensed the original Ilaiyaraaja composition into a tight four-minute piece. The cover has received mostly praise from YouTube users, with one of them stating that his initial concerns about the cover’s quality (“Another cover! Hope they don’t screw up my Raja!”) were proven to be unfounded.

Rakkamma Kaiya cover by the Orfeo Quintet.