Resul Pookutty on venturing into film direction: I was learning every day from everyone

"Otta", which was released in theatres in October this year, featured actors Asif Ali, Arjun Ashokan, Indrajith Sukumaran, Sathyaraj, Adil Hussain, Indrans and Divya Dutta.
Resul Pookutty (Photo | EPS)
Resul Pookutty (Photo | EPS)

PANAJI: "We are filmmakers first and then practitioners of any particular craft," says Oscar-winning sound mixer Resul Pookutty, who recently made his directorial debut with Malayalam film "Otta".

Pookutty, a sound designer, mixer and editor, has worked on more than 100 movies across languages including "Slumdog Millionaire", for which he won the Oscar, "Ghajini", "Enthiran", "Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja", "Pushpa" and "Radhe Shyam".

His maiden film as a director, "Otta", was based on author S. Hariharan's book "Runaway Children", and working on the project was a huge learning experience for him.

"It made me aware that you have to conduct your life every day as an inspiring person. You can have all the money in the world, but not be able to make a film. You can pay people, they'll come and do work for you. But they won't create something new. If you want them to create something new along with you, you have to be a very inspiring character. And for me, in the 80 days that I shot, I was learning every day from everyone, despite the fact that I worked in more than 100 movies. For me, I was taking baby steps.  It was an enriching experience, very beautiful," Pookutty told PTI in an interview.

"Otta", which was released in theatres in October this year, featured actors Asif Ali, Arjun Ashokan, Indrajith Sukumaran, Sathyaraj, Adil Hussain, Indrans and Divya Dutta.

Becoming a director does not mean that Pookutty will stop working as a sound mixer, he said.

The artiste believes anyone working in cinema is a filmmaker first and then a "practitioner of a particular craft".

"There are editors and cinematographers that become directors, they have not left their core job. I have not left my sound. I will not leave my sound. We've always been filmmakers. We are filmmakers first and then practitioners of a particular craft. Unless, there's a good filmmaker inside you, you're not a good sound man. You're not a cameraman or an editor unless there is a serious filmmaker within you. So you just found that out and then you just shift it," he added.

Decoding his job as a sound mixer and designer, Pookutty said he makes the "first selective listening" for the audience who will watch the movie.

"Sound in films is a subconscious art, you see things. When you see things, you understand what you're seeing but when you hear, you're hearing, not listening. So there is a difference between hearing and listening. As a sound man, I am making selective listening for my audience. I want him or her to hear a particular thing and walk them through the narrative graph of the film. That's what I do," he said.

Every film has its challenges, but language has never been a barrier in his work, Pookutty added.

"To me, language doesn't matter. It is just a sound. Other than that, I don't look at language as a text. For me, it is an everyday expression. So I'm able to work in Russian film, I'm able to work in Scandinavian movies, I'm able to work in Punjabi film. At the same time, I will create music for a Tamil movie or Malayalam movie and Hindi, so I just keep jumping around. So, as long as you understand that aspect of life, you can create new rhythms for every sequence."

Pookutty is currently attending the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), where he was part of a panel discussion "Road to Oscars".

He believes that compared to all other works of art, filmmaking and films are very refreshing and life changing.

"Every film is a huge journey of someone's life. You see human relationships, places, people, culture and language. Every film is walking through a lifetime. So, if you watch 50 films, it's like 50 lifetimes that you've gone through and so of course it is going to enrich you. It will change you as a human being. It has made me a better version of me over time every time I do a film," he added.

Pookutty said a platform like IFFI enables storytellers to understand how their contemporaries across the globe are doing and what they're doing.

"You understand cinema as a language and as a celluloid art, that's what IFFI has given us. When we grow up, become what we have become, I will come back to IFFI and impart whatever knowledge I have acquired along the way," he added.

The Indian film industry has grown a lot since Pookutty won the Oscar back in 2009 and credit goes to newer voices, the artiste said.

"When we won the Oscars, somebody asked me and Rahman when we were eating. 'So what is the big deal? You guys won the Oscar.' Rahman said the next 10 years is going to be Indian cinema's golden period. "When you look back now, look at Assamese films, Tamil, Marathi and Malayalam films. The youngsters came and completely changed the paradigm of filmmaking. I'm a storyteller. And the younger lot just came and took over. They gave us a new dimension," he added.

The 54th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) will conclude on November 28.

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