To agree on a list of any subject, is a matter of some serious clashes, from movies to grocery. Music lists, even more so. So to start by saying that these are the greatest hits that Tamil music has to offer, is sure to raise a lot of debate, but, hopefully this would do justice to most favorites. This list isn’t in any particular ranking but a compilation of songs that will move you, shake you or simply transfix you.
Pudhu Vellai Mazhai from Roja
A.R Rahman woos us perennially with this soulful number which even today is very popular among music lovers. Shot with a snowy backdrop and an irresistible melody an absolute hit from the first note.
Paadariyen Padippariyen from Sindhu Bhairavi
A song that classical aficionados to the taxi man played on absolute repeat for the sheer mesmerizing quality of tone tenor and pitch that even today is heralded as an instant classic.
Janani Janani from Thai Mookambikai
With devotional movies a staple diet of the older Tamil generation, this song with its simple tune and sung with such passion cemented a place at the home’s tape recorder.
Mandram Vantha from Mouna Ragam
Brought to life by the Maestro himself, this Illayaraja number was shot when the actor Mohan was cutting his teeth at being a romantic hero and the success of the song and the movie as a whole helped retain that image in the years to come.
Uyire Uyire from Bombay
It is a number that even today helps mend lover’s passion and is impossible to not hum along to. Hariharan’s pure unwavering diction and Chitra’s sheer range of pitch is benchmark, period.
Thillana Thillana from Muthu
The upbeat peppy track rose to fame for not just its dance happy nature but it also brought the hitherto exotic concept of Belly-Dancing to the screen with Meena and Rajnikanth keeping toe to toe in enough blingy gold to bankrupt most countries!
Kannan Oru Kaikuzhandhai from Badhrakali
With Yesudas lending his honeyed voice to the black and white era of Illayaraja’s peak, the song was filmed on Sivakumar as the crooning husband and Rani his besotted wife.
Mukkala Mukkabula from kadhalan
Prabhudeva as an actor was a mixed idea, but Prabhudeva as a dancer was epitomized by this song. His upbeat energy and the foot-tapping beat was infectious to its listeners. Mano as a singer delivered what could be, the perfect dance anthem of the era.
Inji Iduppazhagi from Tevar Magan
Kamal Hassan has a penchant for occasionally treating his fans to his musical talent. This along with the harmony of S Janaki, a heavyweight who demands perfection, resulted in a song that is now synonymous with a rustic romance.
Enna solla pogirai from Kandukonden Kandukonden
Shankar Mahadevan crooning his heart out to Vairamuthu’s lyrics and composed by A R rehman is a treat to ears. There isn’t much more of a recipe for success beyond that. With Ajith and Tabu frolicking in the desert, the song stuck with the listeners for its absolute auditory magic.
Oh La La La from Minasara kanavu
The closest to Moulin rouge a style of singing that the average Tamilian was going to get, with Kajol making a shock southern flick and an explosion of pep that stays through the song.
Unnaithane Thanjam from Nallavanukku Nallavan
It was a tune that followed the style of the era, and played to the tastes of the masses. The soulful voice and the now familiar electronica harmony with Illayaraja going through a phase of combining various elements was lapped up my music lovers
Kadhal Sadugudu from Alaipayuthey
This was a super hit in both its versions – Hindi and Tamil. S.P Charan, a veritable nobody, built a career thanks to the songs traction and never looked back.
Munbe vaa en anbe vaa from Sillunu oru kadhal
This song is more recent than the rest, and part of a movie that lived out the fantasy of young lovers everywhere and was THE song for declaring undying love during its period of fame.
Satham illada thanimai ketten from Amarkalam
It was a fast paced lyrics-heavy song that had a tune that could wake up and shake of anybody’s cobwebs of laziness with a fast and SPB’s’s commanding tone of delivery.
Chinna chinna aasai from Roja
Roja features quite a few times on this list, not for any other reason other than the sheer success it tasted musically and the absolute magic it weaved. This song with its sweet tune was a kid’s favorite.
Unnai ethir parthen by Swarnalatha
It was another track that held its ground against the racy numbers and the groovy beats with just a great voice and a phenomenal background. That by itself is a catalyst for success.
Roja roja…from Khadalar Dinam
It is a beautiful song from an otherwise unimpressive movie. Honestly that’s about as far a description that’s apt for this one.
Columbus from Jeans
Rahman’s voice and the combination of Prashanth and Aishwarya Rai, though odd more than made it up in gyration and blinding color, made it a big hit.
Girlfriend from Boys
A movie that garnered its fair share of flak for its theories, but that itself was a further pull to an already popular song among those young guns who wanted something edgy and fresh.
Oh Shanthi Shanthi from Vaaranam Aayiram
Harris Jayaraj has the uncanny ability to make a tune so catchy that even if it’s just a chorus, it plays on one’s mind like a soundtrack to your thoughts and that’s what this song ultimately did.
Vaseegara from Minnalae
In a world filled with songs of men expressing their love is strange and loud ways, the soft, sultry voice of Bombay Jayashree is an exotic treat for the ears.
Arima Arima from Endhiran
A song that director Shankar claims that even if Hariharan himself wanted to replicate the absolute energy the song radiates, it would be impossible. The song with Rajnikanth’s in aerobics is a proper king’s introduction.
The title track and the most mesmerizing song to come from the soundtrack is already a heavyweight.
Nerrupu da from Kabali
Hype, Hype and more Hype is what the song received with just those two words making it into the trailer and it doesn’t disappoint in full either.
Usilam patti from Gentleman
A serenade used on every tall woman post the release of this song, the catchy tune and Arjun-Sarja pulling off the road Romeo perfectly.
Chinna thaayaval from Thalapathi
A touching song from a grim Mani Ratnam film, howcasing Rajnikanth in a departure from his machismo to reveal a softer heart.
Ulunthu Vithaikaiyilae from Mudhalvan
Swarnalatha once again sparkles with her signature style of delivery that leaves the listener yearning for more. Her simple, clear and resonating voice lingers through the mind of the listener.
It is an off-beat song for an off-beat movie, one that experimented with auto tune bits and some very good sound editing, typical of Yuvan Shankar Raja.
Ballelaka from Sivaji
Another ode in praise of Rajnikanth, but the sheer energy and pageantry blew the minds of the populace who lapped up the familiar drum beats and the frenzied lyrics.
Mankatha theme from Mankatha
A song now best recognized as the ringtone of every one below the age of 25, the song serves as the intro theme to Ajith Kumar and now serves as the entry theme to all and sundry.
Pachchai Nirame from Alaipayuthe
The best way to describe it would be to call it a A R Rahman staple, without which the playlist is nowhere near done
Kadhal Rojave from Roja
One of the top songs in the list, it features SPB at his melodic best with a subtle background track tune that accentuates his voice and pitch variations that only he could carry off.
Mustafa Mustafa from Prema Desam
Every friendship has an anthem and this is one. From schools to reunions after decades, this song blared across speakers and found a foothold wherever it was heard.
Kicku Yerude from Padayappa
It is a song revolving around a tipsy Rajnikanth, but with hidden innuendos and social messages weaved into the song so innocuously, but yet in a way that it reached as a party piece.
Enge enadhu kavithai from Kandukondein Kandukondein
It’s a song that is both a lyrical and instrumental masterpiece with even the setting being that of a recording studio.
Kathirundhu Kathirundhu from Vaidehi Kathirundhal
Vaali has a flair for writing lyrics that make us ooze buckets of emotion, and Jayachandran with his melodious voice ensured it happens and that was achieved.
The duo of Chitra and SPB was unshakable and unbeatable at their peak in the 90’s with this song being a simple elegant reminder.
Why This Kolaveri from 3
No hit list is complete without the addition of the woman scolding rant that put youngster Anirudh on the map.
Mannipaaya from Vinaithandi Varuvaaya
Music with Yuvan Raja is always a treat, soulful and stirring and this one is no exception.
Unai kaanadha naan from Vishvaroopam
Kamal Hassan shows off great skill with this song all while executing flawless kathak, that’s as perfectionist as it gets.
Rasaali from Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada
It is almost the latest addition to the list but one worthy of it, establishing itself as the road trip song of the day.
September maatham from Alaiypayuthey
The beach song as it was, was a fun side to every playlist that often got played exclusively on loop.
Paartha nyabagam illayo
A blast to the past where a doe eyed songstress was all it took to remain in the hearts of the listeners.
Oruvan Oruvan mudhalaali from Muthu
The horse racing, swashbuckling Rajni voiced by SPB sings his way into our heart with his devotion to his master
En Uyire from Uyire
Vairamuthu and Mani Rathnam lyrically and visually waltz their way into immortality with this track with every bar of note being so beautifully held together.
Venillave Venillave from Minsara Kanavu
This one is another one of Prabhudeva’s redemption from acting, with scintillating tunes and a smooth silken voice. This came during the era which favored dream sequences.
Chinnanchiru vayadhile from Meendum Kokila
SP Shailaja, someone who the laymen would have never noticed even if she was right in their faces, changed the music scene with one simple ballad.
Snehithane Snehithane from Alaiypayuthe
It is another woman centric love ballad which garnered critical acclaim with its melodious rendition.
Which list would be complete without the equivalent of the most tongue twisting rap songs the generation has to offer!
Every song in this list has had its impact on the world, be it to the average Joe who plays it on the radio, or the die-hard music lover. That is the power of music, and that is the very reason to this date, we insist on having songs incorporated into our movies in one form or another.