Everyone recognises the faces that appear on screen, but the real heroes who go unnoticed are the ones behind the screens. Such is the case of the professionals who work on the sound of a film.
You recognise a song by the dance moves of the actor/actress or by the landscape in which it was filmed but rarely do people realise that the experience of a song is complete only when the singers, composers and lyricists along with a team of extremely talented technicians including sound engineers, producers and arrangers put their heart into it. This core team hardly get the opportunity to step into the limelight, however they do possess some of the best stories, anecdotes and incidents which occurred during the recording and rehearsal sessions.
In a bid to honour the work of these real heroes, Music Plus reached out to the men and women, whose music we all sway to, to share their experiences through a new series ‘Behind the Recordings.”
National Award-winning sound designer, recordist and engineer, Bishwadeep Chatterjee, a name unknown to many but the music he has worked on in his extensive career is known to all, met with Music Plus to share his memorable moments while working on various projects.
Chatterjee, began his musical journey in 1987 and has worked with a plethora of artists including stalwarts of the music industry. The FTII alumnus began his career in Mumbai with a post-production studio. However, his heart always felt that song and music recording was his true calling.
With passion in his veins, Chatterjee worked on big projects such as Devdas and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam as a music recording engineer. His long-standing association with ace filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, offered him opportunities to work out of the box.
“During the recording for the song ‘Dholi Taro Dhol’ from the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I realised that we don’t have dhol (an Indian musical instrument) in the song. We had a brilliant Djembe solo which would not match with the visuals. So we called in for the dhols, the Nashik dhol, Gujarat dhol, Oriya dhol and we got the biggest percussions in the Indian context.”
(From L to R: Ismail Darbar, Bishwadeep Chatterjee, & Sanjay Leela Bhansali)
Adding to it, Chatterjee said,
“I wanted to give a nice drum beat to the song. I wanted consistency in the entire album, I took 2-3 days to mix a single song. This was something that was unheard of. No one had ever mixed a song like this. For the final mastering, we went to the Townhall Studio in London, making the film the first one to be mastered in London.”
When the mention of Bajirao Mastani came, the man’s face lit up. He gave some valuable insight into the making of the music for this blockbuster movie.
“For Bajirao Mastani, I went to Wai near Panchgani where every year Brahmins from across Maharashtra come together to recite the Vedic chants. I wanted to use these chants in the movie because Bajirao was also a Brahmin, this gave his household a perfect soundscape set in that era. We also recorded sounds at a stud farm to add and integrate with horse sounds from my library for the battle scenes.”
Being at the forefront of the whole Indie Pop era during the 1990s, Chatterjee has recorded Silk Route’s debut album ‘Boondein’, Shubha Mudgal and Shantanu Moitra’s ‘Ab Ke Sawaan’. He also overlooked the recording for Euphoria’s album among others. With Shubha Mudgal’s classical background it would have been a different experience to record an Indie Pop song with her.
“Shantanu had already done the drum tracks in Chennai and somebody else had done some solo parts in Delhi and Mumbai. I told him to get these high 8 tracks separately and we would then mix them with additional recording, including Shubha’s voice,” Chatterjee recollected.
Still surprised, Chatterjee went on to say that Shubha nailed ‘Ab Ke Sawaan’ in a single take. It wouldn’t have been so easy even for a singer of her calibre.
“I couldn’t believe that the first take would be so good so we did another take. But then we realised it was pointless because it wasn’t like she was dubbing 2-3 lines in a go, she sang the entire song at a stretch and nailed it to perfection again.”
Shubha Mudgal was already an established name in the music industry as compared to Silk Route.
“When I walked into the studio, I saw the boys rehearsing in one corner. I had never met them before and when I heard them I went, ‘My God!’ I made it a point to listen to the songs as I didn’t want to upset their sound. I found Mohit Chauhan’s voice very unique. His voice had the rawness which was very attractive. I didn’t want to use the mics that I would use to record other artistes.”
He reminisced of the times when technology was not as advanced as it is today, a transition that gave birth to experiences which heavily influenced Chatterjee’s work in the industry. After years of labourious work in the music industry, the year of 2014 turned out to be Chatterjee’s luckiest. He won his first National Award for the movie Madras Café wherein he used the Dolby Native Atmos technology which wasn’t a common practice in the Indian movie-making business.
“Madras Café was a very interesting subject. I saw the movie after director Shoojit Sircar shot it and I mentally pictured the entire soundscape,” Chatterjee said.
Having previously worked with Shoojit on films like Piku and Pink, one might think that it would have been easy to convince him to use the Dolby Native Atmos technology in the movie, but that was not the case.
“I knew I was making my life more difficult. They had preponed the release date so I had less time to complete my work but I still wanted to do it in Dolby Native Atmos because I wanted the audience to feel the choppers flying over their head. I wanted to give the jungle various layers as though they are walking through the jungle. There were various atmospheric layers in the jungle, the top layer had a different sound so did the rest of them.”
When asked about Shoojit’s reaction to his work in the movie, Chatterjee broke into a chuckle, stood up and recounted,
“After we had finished with a couple of reels, Shoojit saw and heard them and immediately stood up and said, that year all the awards would be mine. Hearing him say that was the biggest award for me.”
Truth be told, Shoojit has got it right. Chatterjee not only bagged a National Award but also a couple of awards from the film fraternity.