Take a list of the best sound designers in the country and Resul Pookutty would adorn one of the top spots. The Oscar-award winning sound designer is a man of bubbling enthusiasm and cogent stances. City Express met up with Resul who was in the city for the promotion of his latest movie, the Mammootty-starrer Pathemari.
What was your approach to the sound design of Pathemari?
(Director) Salim (Ahamed) and I first discussed the story of Pathemari on the sets of Kunjananthante Kada. One of my relatives was employed in the Gulf during my childhood days and I have vivid memories of his homecoming. The movie was constructed on the template of these very personal memories. Moreover, the story takes us to time and places removed from ours, like 1960’s Dubai or 1980’s Bombay, and I have tried to mark these by bringing in sounds from these periods into the soundtrack.
If you visit a labour camp in the Gulf, the first sound that catches your attention is that of the air conditioner’s. The change in the noise of air conditioners and the traffic are incorporated to give a sense of the passing time and the cities in transformation. If you look at the images in the movie, the past is represented colourfully and the present is monochromatic. I have done the same with the soundscape. And specifically for this movie, I never let the sound leap out of the frame. The approach for the sound construction has been one of restraint, which is markedly different from my work in Pazhassiraja.
The scene inside the sloop, with hapless voyagers staring at their uncertain future, stands out for the effect it created with sound track. How did you go about it?
In the initial stages of production itself, we were very particular on the rendition of the protagonist’s first voyage aboard a sloop. Parts of the scene was done with visual effects and had we used real sounds, it would have stuck out. In this particular scene that you mentioned, I used the gurgling sound of water on the background. Salim said the sound was spot on as it conveyed the loneliness and entrapment of the voyagers beautifully. In fact, Salim had only three changes to suggest in the final track.
You have been very vocal about the disregard shown to technical standards in projection and exhibition.
If you look at the requirements that a multiplex has to satisfy to open operation, it can be widely classified as ‘civil norms’- with number of seats or car parking high on the list. I have not seen any rules about the quality of image or sound being mentioned in these guidelines. The standards set by the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE) are never followed. Some of the guidelines that we follow were last revised at least two decades ago.
A crowd had vandalised a theatre screening Pazhassiraja for the poor sound quality in the theatre. This should open our eyes. We have been taking about the crisis in cinema, but have not done enough towards rectifying it. Isn’t cinema an audio-visual medium? Shouldn’t we be concerned about giving the audience a good cinematic experience? Wouldn’t a good story become many times beautiful with better technical aspects to boot?
What about your involvement in the FTII protests. Is it part of your larger politics?
Let’s not bring in my politics here. The issue at stake has to do with quality. The chairman of the premier film institute in the country has to be a man of some stature. He/she should be a able to inspire the students. No student comes to the institute to become a lesser known TV actor.
I lend support to the struggle as parents would if they came to know that the man heading their ward’s school is not apt for the job. I told the same thing to (Union Minister) Arun Jaitley. He said it was a government decision. Well, if a government decision is wrong, would it become right if you cling on to it?