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‘Madras Café’ sound designer on the art and craft of auditory imagery

National Award-winning sound engineer Bishwadeep Chatterjee on the art and craft of auditory imagery.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh |
Updated: June 13, 2014 9:19:43 am
Bishwadeep Chatterjee Bishwadeep Chatterjee

Of the many awards and praises heaped on him for his work in Madras Cafe, sound designer Bishwadeep Chatterjee remembers his father’s reaction the most. Referring to a particular scene from the film when a bomb goes off, his father asked him if the ringing noise he felt in his ears was his imagination or one of his son’s aural tricks.

It was of course, a well-executed piece of work by Chatterjee that simulated the real frequency of a bomb explosion. But what made it special is that sound designing, normally expected to just aid the narrative from the sidelines, took this all-important scene forward and made an impact on the average audience, like his father. No wonder he won the National Award for his work in the film.

We are at his Khar studio, Mumbai, where Chatterjee, dressed casually, is sitting on his console, setting visuals to music, ensuring it meets his director’s desired audio-visual effect when played out on the big screen. “You have to work on sound keeping in mind the end product, whether it is the Dolby surround sound of cinemas, television or radio,” he explains.

Chatterjee has “pretty much worked on every aspect of sound,” from sound designing for films, songs and music to designing studios and boasts a solid body of work in his two decades in the industry. His films include 3 Idiots, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and most of Rituparno Ghosh’s films that have won him numerous awards over the years.

Chatterjee considers himself lucky to belong to a generation that has “seen passing away of the old analogue technology in the late ’80s and the arrival of digital in the late ’90s”. His self-designed studios, in Mumbai, are shaped like a pentagon, a concept he picked up from two London-based sound designers, who have worked with the likes of Pink Floyd while setting up a studio in Santacruz in 1998.

“I didn’t want the perforated walls and the carpet floors in the studio where sound frequencies distort and become dull,” says Chatterjee, an Film and Television Institute of India graduate in sound recording and sound engineering, who started out with the non-film music industry working with artistes such as Silk Route and Kavita Krishnamurthy.

Chatterjee is currently working on the music of Bobby Jasoos while The Coffin Maker is yet to release. “I am not in a hurry. I want to give my best, and for that I need elbow room. I don’t take up offers where the producer hands me a deadline. It’s more about working with like-minded people.”

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