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       Hyderabad Blues

                (published in "Studio Systems" July -August 2002 )

Recently, a show of mine took me to the cyber city of Hyderabad. As it was a long time since I had been there last, I was looking forward to visit Mr. Naidu’s home state and find out for myself the changes that have taken place there.  Alyque Padamsee, my theatre guru and now the communications  advisor to the state’s Chief Minister had painted a great picture of the potential of Andhra Pradesh and his tales of the hard working, visionary  Chandra Babu were still ringing in my ears as I landed in Hyderabad. The show went off like a breeze and the vociferous Rock loving audience lapped up the Classic Rock fare of my band and I. The local papers had flattering reviews the next day and as planned I waited a day more in Hyderabad to check out the city and what is now being perceived by some as the future of India.

Hyderabad has a glowing Film history which has now flourished into a very active Film Industry. I wanted to visit some of the great studio facilities that dot the city and I enlisted the help of local AES member and studio owner/recordist Pradeep Shah to show me around. Unfortunately the early part of the next day was spend in meeting the press, business associates and old friends and it was noon by the time, I was free. That meant that I could not see the Ramaji Rao Film city which is a little far from the city. Pradeep assured me that there was a lot to see as I waited for him in his studio while he added the final touches to the mixing of a new S.P. Balasubramanium song he had recorded the day earlier. 

We were soon on our way to the sprawling Prasad Film Laboratories campus. It was great to see the open and clean environment of a ‘state of the art’ film facility with the latest DTS and Dolby mixing abilities. I saw a background music session for a Telegu film being conducted in pristine professionalism and before we knew it, a whole reel of the film was completed. In the break, Radhakishnan, the recordist showed us around the recording halls, machine room etc. and we saw the new Dolby Pro Tools mixing setup with Control24 etc. We also visited the various dubbing facilities which were housed in another building next to the film laboratories. 

Unfortunately time was scarce and Pradeep rushed me to the Rama Naidu facility next. This is the home of another legendary Indian film family and it is virtually a one stop film factory, from shooting floors to post production facilities. What truly impressed me about both the facilities was their no nonsense approach to work in spite of operating in the glamorous, superficial world of filmdom. Both have invested in the finest equipment and are constantly upgrading so that they can be on par with the latest developments from the west. The unassuming manner of the people involved was also something to be admired and no one would believe at first glance that these people were responsible for some of the finest work coming from the Indian Film Industry.  

A Place for Theatre  

Rainy August saw the launch of another cultural revolution in the form of a daylong seminar held at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai. Organized by the Company Theatre and supported by The British Council Division & Prithvi Theatre, a motley crowd of theatrewallahs, cultural managers and architects got together to discuss the creation of the ideal physical space of performance, an utopia that has escaped the people of Mumbai in spite of the great amount of theatrical activity that takes place in the city. This seminar is to be a part of a longer-term project that seeks to eventually lead to a preparation of a theatre manual with the guidance of British architect Iain Mackintosh. This handbook could set guidelines for future theatre architecture in the country.

Auditoriums have, in today’s world, become symbols of national pride and I can never forget the look of delight on the Armenian’s face, many moons back when he took us on a tour of the grand Opera theatre in Yerevan, USSR. We were to perform there that night during the Festival of India and the huge size of the stage, the revolving balcony, the pianos, the tons of lighting and sound equipment was truly breathtaking, to say the least! Every great nation has these fantastic modern day monuments and the legendary auditoria of America are truly awesome. Hopefully through this seminar, the communication gap between the architect and the theatre person can be greatly reduced. India can then boast of ideal auditoriums that are not only great functional places of performances but also showplaces of a proud nation.

PALM conference in association with AES (India)

The forthcoming PALM conference on 26th, 27th and 28th Sept 2002 promises to be truly exciting. The excellent program being planned by Studio Systems and AES India section and the confirmation of Mr Neville Thiele as the keynote speaker makes this event very important. Neville Thiele, the legendary Speaker design Audio personality, famous for the Thiele-Small parameters and the senior Vice president of AES International, will also be having a special round table session with select Loudspeaker manufacturers of India besides having a seminar for the general attendees of the conference. The importance of the visit of this eminent engineer to the shores of India cannot be underestimated as the Thiele-Small parameters are till today the most commonly used method in the world of describing loudspeaker drivers between driver manufacturer and loudspeaker designer.

In the meantime, the AES India section had another exciting field visit, this time to the works of Sagarika Acoustronics, the leading Indian Duplication and CD Replication Company. Situated in the electronic zone of Vashi MIDC Industrial estate, just outside Bombay, Subhankar Das, the director/engineer of Sagarika showed the members the entire Cassette duplication process. From the mastering stage to the printing and packing, the factory was still recovering from the mammoth initial orders for “Devdas” and the sound engineers were thrilled to see how their work is finally manufactured and packed for the market to hear. The CD Replication plant wad even more stimulating as the modern technology used is astounding. Subhankar took us through the various stages of CD replication, from the stamper to injection molding, plating and printing. The members had a thousand questions and Subhankar was more than happy to oblige everybody.

Music Education

The lack of formal Music Education in Indian Popular Music has been an area that has needed urgent attention for many years. An attempt has finally been made to address this issue and the University of Mumbai has introduced a short term evening course in Composing & Arranging. Conducted by the noted Arranger/Composer Anil Mohile, a veteran of Hindi films and arranger to composers like S.D. Burman, Bhappi Lahiri, Anu Malik etc., the course attempts to give technical skills to aspiring Composers and Arrangers in the Popular Hindi Film scenario. The students are exposed to Music Notation, Indian Classical Raga theory, Composing for Films, Advertising, Theatre, Western Pop Music etc. and the personal experience of Mr Mohile is the prime moving force behind this course. For those of you who don’t know him, he is the man who plays the harmonium and conducts the orchestra at all Lata Mangeshkar concerts.

India finally seems to be moving in the area of free sharing of ideas unlike the old days when the masters kept their skills a secret. The net has also played a great role in liberating our artistes and today we have an Indian music site like www.suraursaaz.com that provides Indian music resources to the entire world. The site offers information on Music schools, recording studios, artistes, disc jockeys, instrumentalists, Bands etc. besides informative articles on Indian Music of every kind. A commendable effort by Nikhil Mehta and his sons, the site is growing every day and promises to be an important force in getting Indian Musicians and Music lovers together.

Mera Bharat Mahaan

A recent email from a NRI friend reminded me of the glory that was India in a bygone era. Truly an impressive list of achievements that any citizen would be proud of! The World's first university was established in Takshila in 700BC and more than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. Zero was invented by Aryabhatta while Sanskrit is the mother of all the European languages. It is also the most suitable language for computer software as reported in Forbes magazine, July 1987. India was also the richest country on earth until the time of British invasion in the early 17th Century. Bhaskaracharya calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart while Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus, all came from India. Chess (Shataranja or AshtaPada) was invented in India and the decimal system was developed in India in 100 BC. Yes, the list is endless! Yet today India is one of poorest countries in the world. It is also one of the most corrupt. We have the dubious distinction of having the second largest Aids population after Sub-Saharan Africa and our Olympic sports history has been dismal with just a handful of medals over the years. What has gone wrong with a country that has such a glorious past and the potential to take on the finest in the world? I guess the answer lies in each one of us.

Think about it.


Nandu Bhende

 

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