Sound bytes: Sampath on his association with AVM Studio

A scene from Parthiban Kanavu. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

His punctuality amazed me. A school boy then, I would knowat once it was 6.15 a.m. whenever I saw K. Sampath walk to the bus stop in West Mambalam. He would smile and wave to me as he walked past. Now, he may be leading a quiet retired life in Mylapore, but the sparkle in his eyes and the warm smile of the sound engineer is still in tact.

Sampath has been associated with the AVM Studios, with whom he worked for 52 years without a break! After earning a Diploma in Cinematography and Sound Engineering from the Central Polytechnic, he joined AVM Studios as an apprentice in 1956. He fondly remembers his father who gave him the independence to choose his career path.

Recalls Sampath, “Even as a student, I had practical training at the Studios, unwinding and winding cables before and after a recording or shoot. After joining, I started handling the ‘boom’ microphone. (It is similar to the dinosaur cameras one finds in reality shows). AVM was famous for clarity of dialogue recording done live during shoots. I was trained by P.S. Mishra in the techniques of handling various microphone models. He would insist on listening to the song during the final rehearsal before going in for the actual recording. His hearing was so sharp that he could reproduce the exact sound using a mixer and balancing instruments.” Sampath has great respect for Mishra, who introduced magnetic recording that facilitated listening to songs immediately after the recording was over.

He continues, “However, it was Mukul Bose, who trained me in placement of microphones for instruments and voice. The songs he recorded speak of his brilliance. This knowledge held me in good stead.” Not many know that Sampath took cello lessons from Dhanraj Master for a few months.

Mukul Bose was the chief sound engineer for all the Hindi films of AVM, and a well respected one at that. It was during his stint at AVM that other sound engineers such as J.J. Manickam, C.D. Viswanathan, Sp. Ramanathan and Gopal Ram got the opportunity to work independently.

In a career spanning five decades, Sampath has seen several technological advancements in sound engineering -- direct film recording, magnetic recording, four-track, multi-track, DSR and digital. He was able to adapt to the changes and became adept at digital recording for AVM’s films and serials a few years prior to his retirement. In fact, Sampath and AVM’s RR theatre became synonymous at one point.

“But nothing can replace the practical experience you gain working with stalwarts,” he says, and narrates an incident. ‘“Actor Chandrababu had recorded a song for a Kannadasan movie. MSV was the music director. Dissatisfied with the recording at three different studios, Chandrababu suggested recording the song at AVM under the supervision of Mukul Bose. Bose found that Chandrababu danced a lot while singing and hence, placed three U 47 condenser microphones in an arc. Much to the satisfaction of all concerned, the song came out well.”

His first song as an independent audiographer was ‘Pazhagum Tamizhay’ in the film ‘Pathiban Kanavu.’ Thereafter his career picked up and he went on to record more than 6,000 songs till his retirement. He has won the State award three times (1989, 1991 and 1993) and national recognition came for his Malayalam movie, ‘Ennu Swantham Janakikutty.’ He has worked with almost all the singers, composers, film directors and producers of three generations.

Sampath attributes his success to A.V. Meiyyappa Chettiar. “Punctuality, hard work, quality in output and patience are some of the qualities that I imbibed from him. Same could be said of his sons Murugan (late), Kumaran, Saravanan and Balasubramanian and grandsons, Shanmukham and Guhan. Kumaran was musically inclined and hence, he was involved in the recordings.”

Sampath signs off by saying, “I have no regrets in life and cherish the memories of my gurus, peers and other technicians whom I met along the way.”

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 3:57:56 AM |

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