Mediamind would make for a cramped 1BHK as they say in Mumbai. A single bedroom apartment at Pali junction, a noisy neighbourhood where you need ju-jitsu-type skills to avoid being mowed down by the anarchic traffic. Walk in past a small lobby and enter a room about 6ftx6ft and you are in one of the popular recording studios of the modern film music industry. Never mind the fact that there is just enough space for a mixing apparatus and more than six people would definitely make for a crowd here.
Like Mediamind, there are a dozen studios in and off the chaotic Pali Road stretch in Bandra. On the cramped roads that branch off the market area, in narrow apartment blocks are small creative hives where music composers and programmers and maybe a musician or two churn out those blockbuster film songs. No one has a clear idea exactly how many recording studios have mushroomed in the residential flats on this stretch. Other enclaves in the suburb have recording studios too—St Andrew’s Road, Ambedkar Road, and further down the western corridor, Juhu and Andheri.
These are among the more expensive studios that charge more than Rs3,000 an hour. If you want to get away with less than Rs200, there are options for you, too. These are what an upcoming musician calls “toilet studios” because that is about all the space they need to function. Adarsh Nagar in Andheri apparently is the hub of “toilet studios”, some of which have just enough vertical space for a man to stand straight. The size of recording space no longer dictates the quality of the music, but what kind of acoustic effect can a space like that produce? Well, if you just want to scratch up a basic song, it can’t really matter all that much. Today, you can set up a personal recording studio in your bedroom with just a fast computer to run the music software.
On the first trip I made to a recording studio, I could barely breathe for all the anticipation building up in my tech-challenged head. Now, finally, I would get to see genius musical minds at work in a cavernous studio with sound bubbles, mulling over score sheets at a harmonium over endless cups of tea and cigarettes. Think back to those black and white photos of the golden years of film music, the preoccupied musicians, the singer frowning in concentration to get the notes correct.
Then came the 1BHK culture shock. And I realized that far from being an exception, Mediamind is the prototype of the modern day recording studio. If anything, it was bigger than several others.
I ask Kapil Gupta, who heads the Cine Musicians Association, if he can put a number to the recording burrows in Bandra and he tells me there are so many that even he finds it difficult to identify or locate them. And can a music programmer help me, I ask him? “They don’t need to come to studios any more. They make CDs at home and send them to the composer,” he says with a hollow laugh. At this rate, it can’t be long before the burrows become extinct, too.
The huge recording studios of the old days shut shop in the late 1990s. All those names you saw flashed as the credits rolled in all black and white films and many colour ones: Famous, Film Centre, Bombay Lab, Shree, Mehboob and Sunny Studios have junked their monstrous mixers. The shooting spaces and dubbing studios remain busy, but the music recording units packed up long ago. The only ones that are even vaguely like the sacred sound institutions of the past are Yashraj and Empire. The last, owned by the filmi families of Nadiadwala and Lakdawala, incidentally, is already being cleaved into two smaller studios.
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