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Missing Late H. SRIDHAR - The major strength behind A.R. Rahman's Exclusive Sound Quality. (By Bobby Sing)
28 Jan, 2014 | Articles on Cinema / Articles on Music, Poetry and Life

H-Sridhar - Bobby Talks Cinema.com

Though this article might not interest every reader due to its technical subject mostly related to the process of recording a soundtrack in the studio. But for all friends having a keen ear and an immense love for quality music, I hope this strikes a chord somewhere in your musical hearts like a few beautiful notes and the words remind you of the good old times of the 90s when a new era of digital music was introduced.
The thought of writing this article came to me the day I was handed over the Music CD of latest A.R. Rahman soundtrack composed for Imtiaz Ali's HIGHWAY. Being a Imitaz Ali-A.R. Rahman combination film post their ROCKSTAR, I was eager to go through the musical tracks and found some of them quite interesting too after a long gap from the master composer. But what really surprised me was the mediocre musical arrangement and sound quality of the album, which supposed to be the key merit of every A.R. Rahman soundtrack before 2009. Now undoubtedly the master has delivered many great songs in the recent times too, but honestly the sound, the texture, the feel & the warmth I used to cherish & enjoy in the 90s and in the first decade of 21st century too, was somewhere missing in HIGHWAY and also in most of the soundtracks delivered by Rahman in the last few years.
As a personal observation, I strongly believe that these major factors actually went missing post the sudden demise of another maestro calmly working on all Rahman songs backstage in the studios, popularly known as H. SRIDHAR (Sridhar Hariharan). And this is a name which is proudly included in the list of “The Best Sound Engineers Ever” all over India as well as abroad. The master craftsman sadly left us on 1st December 2008 and he was the man who hugely contributed to the overall impact of almost all A.R. Rahman songs in that particular era and there can be no denial to this fact unarguably.
Recalling those college years in the early 90s, I still remember how Audio Shops used to have only A.R. Rahman cassettes for checking their new and repaired tape recorders or stereo systems due to his exceptional, out of the world sound quality. Those were the times when the music was not heard on small PC speakers or tiny headphones while travelling, but was played on big boxes installed in almost every music lover’s home with a visible pride. And in those years I too used to repeatedly play Rahman’s Tamil cassettes bought from Karol Bagh’s South Indian shops, to have the great listening pleasure on my high end audio systems, with all the like-minded friends sitting around the 2 huge speakers kept on the floor. We all used to have a great time listening to the songs (or rather sound since we couldn’t understand the words) of all South movies namely, ROJA, GENTLEMAN, PUDHIYA MUGAM, KADHALAN, THIRUDA THIRUDA & more. At that time Rahman was not involved in Hindi films much and it was only in the later years, that I came to know about the actual name responsible for all that great sound achievement in his soundtracks, who was none other than Late H. SRIDHAR.
Honestly, I don’t know if many would agree with me or not but personally I have been searching for that same finesse or sound quality heard in films like ROJA, DIL SE, GENTLEMAN, THIRUDA THIRUDA, SAPNAY, BOMBAY, RANGEELA, LAGAAN and much more since last 4-5 years. But perhaps that is the difference, a highly qualified, experienced and visionary Sound Engineer can make to the well composed music of another maestro in terms of an end product to be presented before the listeners.
For friends not well aware of this valuable post, in simple words a Sound Engineer is that important person who actually decides how all the recorded sound, music and voices will be heard by the ultimate listeners through a quite tedious, un-nerving and responsible job of A Final Mixing. In other words, he is the last person to design how each single track in a recorded project would sound on your respective audio systems making that highly important final impact in totality. And remember, in today’s digital world, your whole album can sound many times better in terms of sound quality if mastered by a highly talented and responsible person, knowing (& loving) his job well.
Probably that is the reason why I always find something missing in the well composed tracks & background scores by the world renowned composer A.R. Rahman in the recent years and I am sure the maestro himself would like to agree and admit the invaluable contribution Late H. Sridhar used to make in his recorded tracks, working silently behind the main stage.
Among the works & awards won by Late H. SRIDHAR –
He worked with many renowned directors of Indian Cinema as Mani Ratnam, K Balachandar, Bharathiraaja, Shankar, Kamal Hassan, P. C. Sreeram, Priyadarsan, Sibi Malayil, Ramgopal Varma and more in around 200 movies.
After being the pioneer engineer of Digital Sound for Indian films in the DTS format, Sridhar also introduced six-track surround sound mixing in Indian Cinema.
He was awarded with Four National Awards for Best Audiography for Mahanadi in 1994, Dil Se in 1999, Lagaan in 2002 and Kannathil Muththamittal in 2003.
Late H. Sridhar also contributed in international artist’s albums such as George Harrison, Late Pt. Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain, L. Shankar and John McLaughlin.
In 2010 he was awarded (on sharing basis) the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Album for a Motion Picture – SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Song- Jai Ho).
(However I personally feel that the team had earlier done much better works worthy of such reputed awards than Jai Ho or SM!!!!)
Concluding the write-up, I frankly feel as if A.R. Rahman-Sridhar was a blessed combo exactly like R.D. Burman & Gulzar, who also complemented each other like two God sent musical identities completing the other. And as Gulzar has found RDB in the present age Vishal Bhardwaj, I hope A.R.Rahman also finds a Sridhar soon among his present associates to give us that soothing, compelling and stunningly mesmerizing sound once again.
With all my respect to the master of his art, Late H. Sridhar.
Cheers!
HIS BLESSINGS
(Note : All interested friends, can hear a rare and exclusive interview of the master H. Sridhar at the following link taken by London based journalist, Ashanti Omkar.)

Tags : Missing Late H. SRIDHAR, The major strength behind A.R. Rahman Exclusive Sound Quality, Articles on Music, Articles on Cinema by Bobby Sing, A.R. Rahman-Sridhar
28 Jan 2014 / Comments ( 10 )
Zeeshan

Dear Bobby,
This is true that Rehman's 90's work was better than present but this also can't be ignored that not any other even reached his level till now.
Regards

Bobby Sing

Dear Zeeshan,
Yes, there is no denying of the fact that A.R. Rahman has surely reached a new height representing India in the whole world. But at the same time another truth remain that he has done much more appreciable work than the one for which he was actually given the OSCAR.
And futher his last few years are really not comparable or as per his own standards set...........sadly.
Cheers!

Hari

Hello Bobby,
I think one of the main reason why his latest songs do not sound as good as the older ones are because they are very loud. Dynamic range of the songs are compressed a lot to achieve this. I remember reading somewhere that Sridhar hated this technique. Rahman's Songs have huge dynamic variations and that needs to be the there in the Final Master put out to the public.

It is also the reason why Thiruda Thiruda had a very low volume on the original CD. But crank it up and it sings. Do that to a modern CD and you will get temporary hearing disorder. Look up Loudness war.

Regards

Bobby Sing

Hello Hari,
Thanks for writing in with this valuable info which though might not be useful for friends not knowing the technical details of mixing the sound. But the point does sounds valid and I would surely try that with the Thiruda Thiruda CD and more soon.

Keep Visiting and Writing in,
Cheers!
HIS BLESSINGS

Sadasivam

Dear Bob..

As a die hard Rahman fan I agree the whole article with no objection. I miss dear H.Sridhar sir. Now I am hearing lagaan. But I feel great in its sound. But nowadays though the composition and tunes are great enough,the final mixing part is not up to the mark. Sadly. Still we can enjoy A R. But If Sridhar sir is still with him that will be surely a different dimension.

Reply me.
Thanks.

Sadasivam.C
Tamilnadu

Bobby Sing

Thanks for agreeing to my viewpoint here Sadasivam.C and yes certainly with Sridhar Sir, ARR would have surely given us much better sounding gems in the recent times.
But as they say its destiny and both ARR and us - his fans would have to accept that.

Do keep visiting and writing in,
Cheers!

Sadasivam.C

Dear Bob..

Thank you for the response
Keep Blogging.
(Now I am Listening to Dilse re :) )

Thank you.


Sadasivam.C
Tamilnadu

Bobby Sing

Its my plesaure Sadasivam.C
Keep Visiting and Writing in.

Cheers!

KJ-Singh

Hi Bobby,
This day, six years ago he passed away but people are still listening and enjoying his work.
Your article is definitely incisive and here I must add that Sridhar was not only AR Rahman's sound engineer but also the person who pushed AR in his music as well. He would refuse to mix until AR had changed a particular sound or arrangement. And they both worked on the audio part of the sound tirelessly. That is what resulted in the music you all hear and appreciate so much. I had a great time working with him, first as a live sound engineer for AR Rahman concerts and then, starting with Rang De Basanti till Gajini. Delhi6 was my first mix for AR, without Sridhar and it was a huge task to live upto the standards set by them.
I just finished mixing a documentary on AR Rahman and going through that you get an idea if how much Sridhar was involved in the sound of AR Rahman.
We shared so many common concerns of the audio industry, to pushing the barrier for better sound in India, over endless cups of Saravana Bhavan coffee, chilled cola and his cigarettes. (I smoked as much as he did. Passively!) Apart from missing good audio, I miss someone I could talk to and relate to, as a friend. We should all go listen to his mixes today as a homage to his talent.

Bobby Sing

Loved to see you here KJ Singh Ji and felt great reading your valuale comment remembering the master.
The association, bonding and understanding between a composer, arranger and a sound engineer is something which can be rightly understood by only a few who really know the hard job and have experienced it themselves.

Would love to see the documentary on AR Rahman in the coming days and once again thanks a lot for sharing your personal moments with all friends of BTC here.

Keep Visiting and Writing in,
Cheers!
HIS BLESSINGS

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