Women have always been at par with their male counterparts when it comes to reigning the music industry. The industry has always had as many talented female playback singers as male but when it comes to getting behind the mixing desk, it has been a different story altogether. More than 90 percent of sound engineers are men. However, that did not deter Namita Nayak Chopra to pursue a career in sound designing and effects way back in the early 90s.
Namita Nayak Chopra talks about her eventful journey of over 25 years in the industry as a sound engineer.
Having given over 25 years to the industry, Namita stands tall as the first professional woman audiographer in the country. She is also the first Odia woman to have bagged a Filmfare award, that too in sound designing for the film 1942: A Love Story. A pioneer in the field of sound, Namita also has introduced Dolby technique to Indian cinema. In fact, she has also audiographed the first Dolby 5.1 Odia film, Eka Eka in 2013 that won the State Best Sound Design Award.
A student of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Namita also has a ‘social’ side to her and has earlier worked on issues like child abuse and woman abuse and conducted many programmes to help children and the community.
Currently, she is working on the revival of Sanskrit as a spoken language and also reading and researching on the sound aspect of ‘Samaveda’. A member of International Association of Women in Radio and Television, she has also been the Centre state facilitator for Odisha for SPIC MACAY.
Mumbai-based Namita, who is married to Dr. Vir Chopra and is the sister-in-law of renowned Bollywood director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, has recently also turned into a creative producer. In conversation with My City Links, Namita shares about her life and journey.
Tell us about some of the interesting projects you have worked on.
I have audiographed for many feature films, documentaries and short films. ‘Indian Fashion and Technology’, ‘Children We Sacrifice’ and ‘Rabindranath Tagore’ are some of the internationally renowned documentaries I have worked for. One of my short fiction films, ‘Life is Beautiful’, has been to the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. That apart, the other documentaries I have worked on include ‘Bhavantarana’ (feature on Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra), ‘Bamboo Flute’, ‘Manjar’, ‘Shadows of fear’, ‘Raman Raghav’ among many others.
Some of the Hindi films for which I have given sound include Hawa ka Rang, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, 1942 – A Love Story, Kareeb, Sarfarosh, Bada Din, Filhaal, Iqbal, Char Adhya and Kali Salwar. I have also audiographed for many Odia films including Ahali, Eka Eka and Magunira Sagada.
I also did the sound designing and mixing for a bilingual (Hindi and Bengali) short film titled ‘In Search of Happiness’. Recently, I have also completed a documentary feature titled ‘Priya Charu Shile’ based on Odissi Dance Guru Ileana Citaristi as a creative producer.
You have worked with many known and famous personalities. Who among them has been your personal favourite?
Well, honestly speaking, I have been very happy to work with all my directors because I have learnt many things from each of them. But, in case I have to name some, Kumar Shahani, Gopi Desai, Sriram Raghavan and Vidhu Vinod Chopra are ones I have enjoyed working with the most. They have given me the creative arena to experiment with sound direction instead of just being a sound recorder. The most exciting part in my career was when I did the ‘Dolby’ work with Vinod because that gave me an opportunity to change the sound designing standards of Hindi films.
Who will you give the credit for your success?
The credit for my success goes to my education and the upbringing of my family. My father Nabin Chandro Nayak, a retired Senior Legal Advisor cum Account officer in Post & Tele Communication Department of Govt of India and mother Prafulla Nayak, a retired financial advisor to Chief Secretary of Finance, Odisha Govt (O.F.S) are very much responsible for what I am today. That apart, my creativity and out of the box thinking have also helped me script a success story.
If not audiography, what else would you have done in life?
I did my graduation with Physics honours, so I might have become a physicist, a scientist or a microbiologist. Also, I learnt Odissi dance for many years from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, having started my training when I was in Class IV. So, there was also a possibility that I could have turned into an Odissi dancer.
It seems you have a vast knowledge about different languages. How did you develop an interest for the same?
Actually I know about 13 languages, but I can speak six languages fluently. The list includes Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Assamese, Hindi and English. I became familiar with Marathi and Gujarati when I started staying in Mumbai. Bengali was taught to me by my mother. I learnt Assamese in my school days. Also I know a bit of Telugu, which was taught by my father. That apart, I am fluent in Odia, but as it is my mother tongue, I don’t include it in the list.
Any other hobbies apart from your profession?
Not one, there are many. I am a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified deep sea diver. I have been doing scuba diving for the last 14 years. I also love ‘star watching’ and have a personal telescope with me since I was in Class IX. The movement of stars and constellations fascinates me. Then, I am an avid reader of space because I am interested in radiophysics, astrophysics, ‘Black Holes’, black body radiations, gravitational waves and such things. Also, I like to listen to a lot of music. That apart, I still practise Odissi though I don’t go for stage performances.
Any message for the upcoming audiographers of Odisha?
First of all, people aspiring to become audiographers should enquire about the course they are supposed to do and what scope does it offer for growth. They should research to understand the scope of the project and have proper knowledge about recent updating techniques. They should upgrade themselves with the technology and try for excellence according to their capacity. That apart, they should be talented and creative enough.
Being an Odia, what do you have to say about Odisha?
I feel and take pride in being an Odia. Odia people are skillful in every sphere, be it in the preparation of 56 bhog of Lord Jagannath, Ikat sarees, Odissi dance, sand art or any other thing. Odisha has a prosperous and rich history, heritage, culture and tradition. That apart, the state is famous for its cuisine, textile, art, sculptures and rich natural mines. Odisha is the best place for investment now, as it possesses mines of coal, manganese and bauxite. It is the state to look forward to with immense potential for development of trade and tourism. I am proud to be born as an Odia, and that is the reason I have retained my initial surname ‘Nayak’ even after marriage.