Please tell us about yourself

Ganesh Gangadharan, sound designer at Yash Raj Films, believes sound in films should complement the action

As the waiter, very helpfully, puts a rather noisy pedestal fan near our table, Ganesh Gangadharan winces. “This is the kind of sound that is unnecessary!” And he would know. He is the sound designer at Yash Raj Films (YRF). The sounds keep coming, his keen ear catches each and he illustrates which would do in a film and which wouldn’t. “A café can have the distant sound of the traffic, not too loud.”

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Ganesh has designed sound for films such as Dhoom 3FanSultanBefikreMeri Pyaari BinduTiger Zinda HaiHichkiSui Dhaga;Made in India, and most recently Thugs of Hindostan, besides having worked as sound editor on a bunch of other films since 2006. Ganesh recently signed his first Malayalam film, Oridathumillathoridam, as sound designer—it is a ‘homecoming’ he is excited about.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

A Kochi native, Ganesh was a software engineering student, who used to play the keyboard as he was ‘curious about music’ and sound. He did his schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya 2 (Naval Base). While looking for online sound engineering courses, he stumbled on to the School of Audio Engineering (SAE); at the time he was working for a software company in Kochi. Some enquiries later, in May 2005, he headed to Mumbai for the audio engineering course at SAE. While working as a student supervisor at SAE, he landed the assistant sound engineer job at YRF.

‘Good sound’ in a film, according to him, is unobtrusive and not “in your ear”. “It shouldn’t be jarring, it should complement the action unobtrusively and not take attention away from what is happening on-screen. Sound enhances the storytelling… anything that distracts from the story is not a good sound.”

Tell us about your work

Often his job entails ‘cleaning up’ the sound in a film, removing the obtrusive and the disturbing. The dialogues usually don’t require work, but in the case of the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Fan, it did. “Usually in a film where one hero plays a double or multiple roles, the voice rarely changes. For that film, we decided we would make the characters—Gaurav and Aryan Khanna—sound different. Gaurav is the smaller Shahrukh Khan, so we shifted the pitch of his voice slightly… if not aesthetically done it would sound artificial.”

Of designing the sound for Thugs..., he says he worked extremely hard on the sounds. Challenging as the variety of sounds were—sword fights, creating sounds of battles where canons were being fired, fist fights, gunfights, horses, a village being attacked by fireballs—the work was interesting since he had to, on occasion, create new sounds despite having a handy library of sounds. “Even with a sound library at hand, I had to layer with my inputs.”

Any interesting experiences?

Each film brings its set of challenges for the sound designer. Ganesh tells of Dhoom 3, his first film as independent sound designer. “Recording the sound of the bike, new in the market at the time, took time and effort. We couldn’t take it out on the road, because of the paperwork involved. We went to Film City and worked out a way.”

It also takes creative, out-of-the-box thinking to solve some hitches. “In Thugs… Amitabh Bachchan has an eagle, the Indian Tawny Eagle, which doesn’t sound very impressive. It’s cry is more of a squeak… and since it was Amitabh Bachchan’s it had to sound impressive. I got creative and used the sound of a Red Tailed Hawk. A bird watcher would know in an instant…but all I can say is ‘I know, sir! but it had to sound a particular way!’”