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Ear to the ground

The first woman sound engineer in India, Geeta Gurappa says it’s the passion which keeps her going. Y. Sunita Chowdhary reports



Storming a bastion Geeta Gurappa makes it sound real

Sitting in the last row at the Taj Residency with her two daughters and watching the launch of Satyameva Jayate is Geeta. She is India’s first woman sound engineer. A consummate professional, Geeta is a sound recordist who has worked for over 600 films. So what is Geeta’s job? Basically, convincing the listener that what they are hearing is real, she laughs, and says, “Well, that’s not as simple as it sounds.”

Geeta was born and brought up in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, but she did her schooling and higher secondary in Bangalore. Her father, a civil engineer, goaded her to take up the three-year course in sound engineering at Sri Jai Charmarajendra Polytechnic because he wasn’t sure about his daughter getting a good rank in engineering. Geeta had seven other girls doing the diploma but none of them have taken the sound field as a career and opted for broadcasting companies. Was it easy getting a break after her academics? Geeta says the course helped her a lot in getting first hand knowledge of sound recording and processing and thereafter went on a technical tour in the metros to meet the seniors. One can choose to work in films, in a TV tower, as a spot recorder, BPOs, shows and live events, she adds.

Her first stint was as an apprentice at Saket Electronics, a recording studio owned by Shankar Nag. She learnt the aspects of post-production work of Kannada films and then joined Lahari Recording Company as a sound recordist. But what are the prerequisites to being a sound engineer? Geeta replies emphatically, “One should love music, should be creative, ears should be tuned to the sound.”

She admits that she has to put in as many as 12 hours a day and sometimes she doesn’t get home until 2 a.m. How long does the post-production work take? She adds, “It differs from film to film. The sound effects, background score, final mix and lab processing takes on an average two months, sometimes some finish it in one month. Aamir Khan and Mani Ratnam take around three months to complete. The dubbing of Dil Se had taken one month and the background score of Satya took 25 days. “I’ve done the background mixing of Dasavataram, the post-production work went on for two months. It is not a clerical job, one should have passion to get it all right.”

Geeta is currently with Real Images. She’s been here for 15 years and Real Images is the first studio to start digital recording in India. She is happy that of late a lot of avenues and mass communication institutes have opened up for girls who want to explore sound but laments that there is no single coaching institute in Andhra Pradesh for technicians and that producers are importing technicians from Chennai and Mumbai despite it being the largest producer of films and that too big budget ones.

Geeta is married to musician and music director S. Chinna whom she met at a recording studio when he worked for Raj Koti. She is a Kannadiga, he is from Andhra. They understand each other well and help each other in balancing their lives. She says, “It was tough when I had my first daughter but later everything fell in place. He plays music and I record and mix it for him.” Geeta was among the all-woman team headed by Revati when they did Mitr in the USA. Now, she is working with Jeevita and says that women make terrific technicians. “Your wavelength is the same, co-ordination is easy and one can move along freely.”

The best compliment Geeta says was from music director Chakravarty who in 1990 at Prasad’s recording studio remarked that it was the best thing in his career to spot a woman working in a recording studio. A defining moment indeed for Geeta who has made her mark in the male dominated industry.

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