He is a known name in the music recording circuit. He was destined to work alongside ace musicians in the Indian music scene. He is the man behind many popular Bollywood tracks from movies like Veer Zara and Aankhen (2002). He is Pramod Chandorkar.
Hailing from Pune, Chandorkar is an acclaimed sound engineer who has worked with the stalwarts of the music industry, some of whom are Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Lata Mangeshkar and others. He currently runs a training institute, SoundideaZ Academy in Mumbai where over 200 students have received their training in sound engineering.
In an exclusive interview with Music Plus, Chandorkar takes a walk down the memory lane and recollects the first day of his job at Radio Vani Studios in 1995,
“I walked in to find 30 musicians waiting to record a song. I found out that I had to record 30 musicians on an Analog 8 Track (a sound-recording technology) which was the most advanced technology you had that time. I had to balance all the musicians on just two tracks.”
“This is where the process of mixing starts because whatever I do at that time, gets recorded on the tape. I can only process on two tracks and on these tracks, there are 30 elements so your mixing process starts while recording. It was tough back then for sound recordists. There were no ‘Undo’ buttons and unlike today there were no screens or monitors where one could see the music scales. We had to be absolutely precise while recording a song. That was a challenge.”
Learning the tricks of the trade while on the job, Chandorkar recalls how he learnt the art himself and how different the technology was then. Back in the day, sound engineers were referred to as sound recordists, maybe because songs were recorded live first and then mixed. Along with recording the songs, a recordist would also handle the microphone placements and record the song in just a single take. Making a mistake meant the entire song has to be redone which would cost time and money.
(Pic: Lata Mangeshkar & Pramod Chandorkar)
Recording music is a luxury business now. These days no one records, everything is programmed. Recording happens rarely when someone is doing a solo instrument or vocals unlike the earlier days.
“I don’t want to compare then and now. Both are great in their own way. The way things are done now is different than before. I am lucky to have experienced it and it has actually helped me grow as an engineer,” says Pramod.
Being a musician also helped Pramod to record his songs. Having worked with almost every music composer, singer and producer and hundreds of films, Pramod picks ‘Veer Zara’ as his most treasured work. The 2004 Bollywood film had the biggest names of the industry including Yash Chopra, Lata Mangeshkar, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam and Late Madan Mohan’s music. According to Chandorkar, the film’s melodic songs had some great stories behind them.
“When Yashji heard the song ‘Main Yaha Hun Yaha’ from the movie ‘Veer Zaara’ which we had recorded with dummy vocalists, he was of the opinion that the scale was too high. He pictured the song being whispered by the hero to the heroine and hence he wanted the scale to be low.”
Known for his perfection, Yashji wanted the song to capture the emotion of the scene. Chandorkar added,
“Yashji asked us to scrap the recorded version and asked us to record the entire song again. Recording it again would cost around Rs. 15-20 lakhs but he chose quality over the costs.”
The experienced engineer recalls how Udit Narayan, who sang ‘Main Yaha Hun Yaha,’ was reluctant to sing the song on a low scale because he had never sang a low note before. However, Yash Chopra convinced him to sing it and even predicted that Udit Narayan would be remembered for it. As it turns out, Yash Chopra’s prediction did come true.
(Pic: Jack Joseph Puig & Pramod Chandorkar)
Even though recording was his vocation, live-mixing has always been Chandorkar’s calling. Once, he had mentioned that he wanted to mix Sonu Nigam’s live show and that opportunity did knock on Chandorkar’s door. Excited to take up this task, Chandorkar said,
“The crowd coming to Sonuji’s concert have obviously heard his songs umpteen number of times which make it even more important to make it sound the same as it is ingrained in their minds. That’s my responsibility, my work starts there and I have to try and make it more interesting.”
According to him, working on live shows is a different experience where various factors have an influence of their own. You have to adjust as per the venue, infrastructure and gear available. Sometimes, the artists themselves may not be in the pink of their health to perform and yet making them sound good becomes vital. When asked if he ever faced such a situation, Chandorkar said,
“I was once mixing Sonu Nigam’s concert in 2009 in Bangalore when Sonuji was suffering from a sore throat. But he still decided to perform and at the end of the show he collapsed and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital.”
Another incident which is close to his heart was when legendary Ghazal singer Jagjit Singh had composed a song which was sung by Sonu Nigam. Remembering the time when they were recording the song at Sonu Nigam’s home studio along with Ghazal legend Talat Aziz, Chandorkar said,
“After the recording, Jagjitji sat down with the harmonium and started singing. He sang for more than two hours with Sonuji and Talatji. With no audience, witnessing a private concert of Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh was a dream come true moment.”
Bagging numerous awards for his work, Chandorkar picks his favourite,
“Of all the awards I have won, nothing comes close to the one conferred by Lataji. The award of being her chosen engineer surpasses all accolades I’ve ever received.”
The philosophical Pramod signs off with a valuable life lesson, ‘Jitna zyada riyaaz karoge utna behtar banoge’ (the more you practise, the better you get).