Kuldeep Singh – Veteran Audiographer
When Kuldeep Singh won Filmfare’s Best Sound Recordist award for 1961 for his handling of the sound track of ‘Junglee’, he was already a fairly old hand at the sound recording business in films. He had been in films for nearly twenty years and during this period he has recorded more than twenty-five films, including ‘Anarkali,’ Munimji,’ ‘Paying Guest,’ Love Marriage’ and ‘Sarhad.’
Giving his reaction to the Filmfare award he won, Kuldeep Singh said, “I am happy to win the award. In fact, it is a long-time since I had been hoping to win the award.” And he added with a mischievous smile. “The award was overdue!”
The man who felt that the Filmfare award was overdue to him was born on January 21, 1924, in a village in the Rawalpindi district. As his father, who was an officer in the Foreign and Political Department, was alternately stationed in Delhi and Shimla, Kuldeep’s earlier schooling was divided between the two cities. Matriculating from Delhi in 1939, he joined college as a science student.
During his college days in Delhi, he was an average student interested in sports (he played badminton and hockey), occasionally participating in student politics, and very fond of films. K. L. Saigal was among the stars he greatly admired. In 1942 Kuldip had almost joined the Air Force when somehow the Independence Movement interfered to hold him back. Said Kuldip in 1965, “Many who were selected along with me, are squadron leaders today.”
As one of the leaders of the squadron of sound recordists, Kuldip said that it was Mathematics which disheartened him a lot during his B.Sc. days and finally drove him away from studies and into films. Fed up with his struggles with algebra and calculus, Kuldip was anxious to quit studies and join films “as anybody.”
His opportunity came through Rai Bahadur Chunilal (Music Director Madan Mohan’s father), the then chief of Filmistan Studios, who was a friend of Kuldeep’s father. Rai Bahadur offered to take Kuldeep into his sound department. The sound department in films looked far more attractive than the Mathematics department of his course, and so, leaving his college in the fourth year, Kuldeep landed in Bombay towards the end of 1943, still a youth not quite out of his teens.
After an apprenticeship of a year in the sound department of Filmistan, he became an assistant sound-recordist and over a period of some four years assiduously learnt the tricks and techniques of the recordist’s trade from such skillful technicians as Mukul Bose, who was chief recordist at New Theaters, Calcutta before coming to Bombay (and recorded Guru Dutt’s films) and S. B. Vatcha.
‘‘It was Mukul Bose,” said Kuldeep, “who taught me in a memorable way the technique of perspective in sound recording. One day, he refused me the use of a second microphone to pick up the voice of a character whom the scene required to move a little away from the camera which however, had to remain stationary.”
The first picture whose sound track Kuldeep handled as a full-fledged, independent recordist was ‘Actress’ (’48). After ‘Actress,’ he recorded numerous films including ‘Anarkali’ (1953). He rated ‘Munimji’ (’55) among his early “best recorded film.”
Though it was usual in the film industry for sound-recordists to be attached to a particular studio, Kuldeep was that rare breed of recordist who was attached to a particular producer-director, Subodh Mukherji in this case, with whom he was associated in ‘Munimji,’ ‘Paying Guest’ (’57) ‘Love Marriage’ (’59) and ‘Junglee’ (’61). Although in ‘Junglee,’ he was, besides being the recordist, the production executive also, he always asserted, “Recording is my first love. I will go on doing it.”
He had a favorite method of emphasizing the importance of sound in a film. He asked people to imagine the furore the audience would create were the sound to be switched off for five minutes during the screening of a film. Although many a cinegoer harried by the noise of the average Indian film may retort that the switching-off of sound would often be ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished,’ Kuldeep was right in meaning that in films sound is too important a department to be neglected,
And yet, he said, producers and directors generally did not give sound recording as much consideration as is due to it.
While facilities in the other departments of film making improved fast, in the matter of sound recording, Kuldeep remarked in 1962, “We still have studios that are not sound-proof, cameras, that are not ‘blimped,’ and producers who think that the placing of the dialogue and music on the sound track exhausts the scope and function of sound recording. He said that, in the earlier days of the sound film, a popular sales slogan of the producers used to be “hundred per cent talking film!” Most of our producers, added Kuldeep, still seem to be anxious to justify that slogan.
Talking about the things that could have help improve the general quality of recording in our films, he suggested that, “producers must spare more time for re-recording than the mere one shift or two shifts they devote now.” And producers must, he said, have their own recordists (like they have their own cameramen) to record the entire track, unlike the prevalent practice in which different tracks were recorded in different places and by different people.
Kuldeep believed that a thorough training, both theoretical and practical, is essential for a sound recordist. And he thought that the Government established Film Institute in Poona was doing a good job in the direction of providing training to film technicians. he also felt that as most other industries send frequent delegations abroad to obtain knowledge of the latest developments and techniques in other countries, the film industry also should send technical delegations abroad.
Happily married and father of two daughters, talking about his hobbies, Kuldeep said, “I am fond of writing and my wife is fond of reading.” Whenever he had some spare time and an inspiration, he dashed off articles for publication in Film Weekly and Screen. Some of Kuldeep’s published articles were written about such colleagues as Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Subodh Mukerji, and I. S. Johar.
“Why didn’t he write an article on himself?” to which he replied with a smile, “The subject doesn’t inspire me yet!”
He kept working till the late eighties and recorded films like Sharmilee (’71), Amar Akbar Anthony (’77), Teesri Aankh (’82), Manzil Manzil (’84) and Locket (’86).
According to imdb.com, he also wrote the dialogues for the Punjabi film, Pagadi Sambhal Jatta in 1992.