An interview with Anup Mukhopadhyay

Saibal Ray
Centre for Sound Design
Saibal: Tell me something about your past.
Anup Mukhopadhyay: I have joined FTII in 1971. The situation of West Bengal at that time was very bad. Those, who goes through the history, knows it very well. It was a complete turmoil during that period. Naxalite movement was going on. Bangladesh war was started. Bangladesh was still not born. But the liberation war was going on. While going to college, we used to cross human corpses. That time I was thinking that it was gradually becoming difficult to stay in West Bengal.  Then I saw an advertisement for the admission in FTII. I applied for that. After that I took the necessary steps to go to Pune. After that what happened was I saw a new world in the film institute. We did not have much connection with cinema. There was a common notion at that time that people associated with cinema are bad people. With this notion going to the film school was a big challenge.

Saibal: How did you grow your interest in sound designing for film?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: It is very difficult to say why sound. I applied for two streams. One was cinematography since I had a interest in photography. And second one was sound because I had a musical environment  at my home. However I got selected for sound. Many people came for viva-voce. Among them only 10 people got selected and I was one of them. After that I entered the institute. It was very beautiful and all colourful.

Saibal: How many films have you worked so far?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: I have been doing films since 1982 on regular basis. In between for two three years I joined SRFTI and stopped working in films. That time I used to work in almost 20 films per year and now I do almost 10 films per year. So over all I did more or less 500 films so far.

Saibal: How many National Awards have you received so far?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: I have received four national awards so far. First one is for ‘Uttara’ (directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta), Second one is for ‘Enough of Silence’ (Directed by Debananda Sengupta), Third one is for ‘Bhalo Theko’ (directed by Goutam Halder) and fourth one for ‘Iti Srikanto’ (directed by Anjan Das). I got a silent film called ‘ Enough of silence’ without any dialogue. That project was interesting because I created the whole sound-from zero to full sound track- for that film.

Saibal: Name some of the notable films in which you worked that you want to share with students?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: In the analogue period I tried to give my best in ‘ Ek Doctor ki Maut’ (Death of a Doctor). Besides  ‘Jatra’ of Goutam is one of my favourite films. Satyajit Ray’s ‘Ghore Baire’ is a film that I would like to mention. I worked in that film.

Saibal: You have worked with Satyajit Ray. How was your experience.
Anup Mukhopadhyay: While working with him I realised that he is not a man, he is an institution. There is nothing much to talk about him. Its all known to all. The experience to work with him is itself an experience. To spend time with him is an experience. As BGM I have recorded Salil Chowdhury’s music. That is another experience. These are indescribable. But the people like Satyajit Ray, Tapan Sinha, Mrinal Sen, Tarun Majumdar, Utpal Dutta, Soumitra Chatterjee, Aparna Sen change the whole cinematic thought process. It is for sure.



Saibal: What about the experience in FTII?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: The best thing what we learned there is how to watch cinema. We started to imbibe cinema unlike the way we used to watch cinema before. The window of the whole world was opened before me. This created a sense of art inside me because all famous people used to teach us. For example Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal used to visit the campus frequently. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Mangesh Desai, Robin Chatterjee used to come for taking examinations and classes. Besides many teachers were from Hollywood, UCLA and Singapore. We absorbed their philosophies. Institute made us keen to know things for life time. The learning does not end in the institute but it starts there.


Saibal: What was your journey to fame after passing out from FTII?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: After graduating from the institute, we lost our track for some time. There was no television wing in the institute. Our convocation happened on 2nd october,1974. On that day when we were leaving, television wing was inaugurated.  But the name was Film and Television Institute of India. I was upset because I could not learn television. I thought if any one asked me what television is, I would not be able to answer. So, I got a chance and joined Bombay TV in 1974. There I found that all the works was being done there with film camera and film sound equipment. So I was happy and became involved. From Bombay I went to Cuttack. There I had a chance to work in a satellite channel. It was known as satelite base production centre or SITE. NASA helped us to build up the channel. It was based on some national and international cluster of villages.  Here I first learned about the satellite channel. I worked there for four years. After that I joined Kolkata TV. They sent me to Malaysia for a training programme with the fellow members of nine more countries. But after returning, I found that there was no infrastructure at all here to develop a TV channel the way we learned it in Malaysia. So I left the job and joined NFDC as a recording engineer cum assistant manager. Almost 16 years I had worked at NFDC. After that I joined SRFTI as a dean. Since the director was not appointed, I also had to work as a director for some time. I worked there for two and half years. But I found myself stuck and was not being able to develop my creativity. So I left and started doing freelancing. From June of 1974 to June of 1982 I worked in television. After that I shifted to films.


Saibal: Please share your important moments of sound designing?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: It is very difficult to discuss those moments unless the film is viewed. But one thing I can tell that it is hard for common people to understand the journey of sound from one track to another track unless he/she has some experience in sound technology. I feel we are the luckiest people since we saw the whole change over. In the institute we learned loop dubbing. At the same time we were given the ability to adapt. After loop dubbing came rock and roll. NFDC brought it to Kolkata, I ran the machine for the first time in Kolkata. In loop dubbing all the artists needed to come together to dub. But in rock and roll we had four tracks and it was magnetic. Loop dubbing was optical. But when the digital technology came, the number of tracks became innumerable depending on the system. Previously editors used to make the all the tracks. Now it shifted to sound department. In optical recording one reel had to be mixed at one go. But after the arrival of rock and roll magnetic system the punching became possible. In digital platform we could again see the sound wave form like optical recording. But the number of tracks got increased. People started abusing the increased numbers of tracks. It has to be so that the ultimate result sounds good. Digital brought much clarity, but it does not mean one has to put sound everywhere. Then it will sound like a cacophony. The concept of mixing is still same. Digital era gave birth to the concept of sound designer. In fact the movies ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Star war’ first introduced the concept of sound designer in the world.

Saibal: What is prospect of the students of sound design to get works in the present industry?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: The industry is going through a change. So the prospect of sound designer is great. It will take some time. But Dolby Atmos has come. Ambisonic sound is coming. So no body knows where the sound industry is leading to. But for sure the situation will change and it will be great.

Saibal:You were the former dean of SRFTI. How was your experience to establish a world famous national institute of film and television?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: We took the help from NFDC and CCW of Govt of India constructed the buildings. Initially we had trouble finding teachers. But slowly we overcame those problems and now it is running fine.


Saibal: What was your advice to the present students of sound design?
Anup Mukhopadhyay: Patience. Only if you have patience you can be a sound designer. Hours after hours you have to be able to sit in a chair and play with the sound.*


*Recorded using callX - Automatic Call Recorder for Android.

*****

With a postgraduate diploma in film and television from SRFTII in Kolkata, Saibal Ray happens to be a Dolby Scholarship Holder. Having published three fictions, Saibal has worked with prestigious organizations such as SRFTII, Linear Electronics, Acoustics and Audio Video Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Ramoji Academy of Film and Television and Amity University. He was also a fellow member of Asian Film Academy in Busan in South Korea.

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