Legendary recording engineer A.N. Tagore is no more

A.N. Tagore, the last of the great ‘live’ song recording engineers, passed away on May 11. Photo: Indermohan Pannu

The next time you hear Mubarak ho tum sabko Haj ka mahina (Coolie), Chitthi aayi hai (Naam), Ek do teen char (Tezaab), Hanste hanste kat jaaye raste (Khoon Bhari Maang), Humko aaj kal hai intezaar (Sailaab), Jumma chumma de de (Hum), Yeh kaali kaali ankhen (Baazigar), Choli ke peeche (Khal-Nayak) and Main to raste se jaa raha tha (Coolie No. 1), pay attention to the sound as well!

For it will showcase the unparalleled finesse and craft of whiz-kid recording engineer A.N. Tagore, the man who was the legendary recording engineer of Mehboob Recording Studios, beginning in the 1970s as assistant and then moving up until live recording stopped in 2001. Tagore died unsung on May 11.

In 1971, legendary filmmaker Phani Majumdar introduced him to recording ace Robin Chatterjee with whom he became an assistant, as per his son, Aditya Tagore.

During this long phase, Laxmikant-Pyarelal were the top composers who worked only with him, followed by Anand-Milind, Anu Malik, Rajesh Roshan, Bappi Lahiri, Aadesh Shrivastava and many others. For those unaware, a song at Mehboob was recorded on 35 mm film tape, which explained the great sound!

Said a shocked Anu Malik, “This is truly very, very sad news, and for me a personal loss. He was tremendous human being and a brilliant recording engineer. In the 1980s, when I started out with Poonam and many more films like Ek Jaan Hain Hum and Sohni Mahiwal, it was he who did all the magic. His smile would calm me down. He had the ability to manage the dates of so many composers and also deliver fantastic sound. I pray to God that his family gets strength to bear this terrible loss. Mere words cannot describe his greatness. He’s a chapter to be written about.”

Said Boney Kapoor, “I have known Tagore-da for over 40 years. He would assist Robin Chatterjee at Mehboob, and his work would be largely outside the studio about arranging and mixing the tracks. Later, he became the chief recording engineer and he always knew exactly what Laxmi-ji (Laxmikant) and Pyare-bhai (Pyarelal) wanted. A chain smoker, he was a genius at work and would also look after his staff well. A very amiable gentleman, his father had been a musician with L-P and Kalyanji-Anandji. I have recorded songs at Filmcenter and Famous Studios, Tardeo, but the sound of Mehboob was something else.”

Subhash Ghai stated, “How many songs did we record together with Laxmikant-Pyarelal through Karz, Hero, Saudagar, Ram Lakhan, Khal-Nayak and more! You made my ears sensitive to the art and craft of music. I remember I used to reach earlier than the time of my recording jut to observe you at work!”

Writer Anees Bazmee. Chiranjeevi. Allu Aravind. N N Sippy and director Ravi Raja at the Aaj Ka Goondaraj recording. A.N. Tagore can be seen in the background. Photo: Pravesh Sippy

Producer Pravesh Sippy said, “He was the genius at Mehboob Studios when we recorded the songs of Sargam, Meri Jung and Aaj Ka Goondaraj.”

Filmmaker Suneel Darshan added, “He was an absolute genius in his forte as even without the latest technology and equipment he mixed, mastered and delivered the most remarkable songs and background music and never let his composers down.”

Stated J. Naidu of Prasad Productions, “At that time there was a belief that at least one song should be recorded at this studio by Tagore-saab! When Rajesh Roshan recorded the first song of our Udhar Ka Sindoor, his entire family was in attendance since it was a big break for him.”

Musician and music conductor Paresh Parikh lauded Tagore’s “thorough knowledge of sound and acoustics and his unequalled grip on 4-track sound.”

Declared Alka Yagnik in a message, “So many songs he recorded of mine…so many memories…Tagore ­da is a huge part of my journey… we are losing all geniuses one by one…May he rest in peace!”

Said an emotional Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam, “So, so sorry to hear this! Those were the precious days of my life. He was such a sweet and affectionate person and had such a wonderful ear for songs and sound. May his soul rest in peace.”

Shabbir Kumar was equally affected. “My first song ever, Mubarak ho tum sab ko Haj ka mahina from Coolie was recorded by him, and later many more of my landmarks films like Ek Jaan Hain Hum, Sohni Mahiwal, Pyar Jhukta Nahin and the song Sajan aa jaao from Aag Hi Aag. He would keep the microphone away from my face and when he first did that, I asked him how my voice would be heard. He told me that since my throw was good, a ‘blow’ would come if it was kept near my face!”

Anand of composer duo Anand-Milind recalled how, in one calendar year, 284 of the dates were with them! His brother and partner Milind stated, “I think that he was the last of the great recording engineers, and we did so much work together that we had a great tuning with him. He always gave us the best sound even with the old German recording console at Mehboob. I am emotionally overcome at this news.”



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