'We have cracked the philosophy of 2.0’s sound'
…says sound designer Resul Pookutty, who wishes that South filmmakers realised the importance of sound in a film
Academy Award-winning sound designer, Resul Pookutty, speaks so softly that I often have to ask him to repeat himself. He may be soft in speech, but is decisively harsh about filmmakers who don’t understand the value of sound design. “Each sound in a film is important enough to merit its own consideration,” he says. That’s how Pookutty and his team approach sound designing.
The sound wizard believes that design and editing must have plenty to do with the creation and selection of the sounds that make up each scene; he views this stage as crucial for the development of a cohesive aural aesthetic. And he prefers to keep it natural. “Sound, when used effectively, can magically enhance the visual quality of a film. But it’s hardly given importance here,” he smiles.
Resul busts the myth that sound designing is just about creating great sound effects. “It’s an invaluable component of film production. I get furious when somebody doesn’t care about it. For instance, during the post-production work of Remo, I stormed out of the studio. They then convinced me and brought me back. Music seems to sell in our industry. Sound, unfortunately, doesn’t,” he laments.
Over the years, he has dug deep to make his sound unique. He has read up a lot, and scoured the internet to stock up on his studio with the best sounds the world had to offer. Despite growing awareness, he thinks a lot still needs to be done. “The makers are ready to spend money on music, but not so much for sound. I have been fighting this for decades,” he says. “There’s this producer, who’s almost scared of me. He once said, ‘Pookutty ooru-la irukaaru, studio-laam ippo ozhunga irukum’ (Pookutty is in town, and so the studios will be in good condition). Because he knows what I’ll do if they aren’t. Naan kelambi poitae irupen (I’ll just leave immediately).”
Sound design to him is more than just trying to bring a director’s vision onto the screen. “I strive to sensitise people about sound. I attempt to adapt the tone of every scene into the core compositional structure of the film,” he says. He is extremely choosy about films. “I want to work with people, who understand the importance of sound. As a technician, I am open to working across languages.. I think every Indian can adapt himself to wherever he goes. Just that in Hollywood, things are more organised,” he laughs.
He says Shankar’s 2.0 is shaping up well. “The storytelling of the film demands a certain type of sound and we’re actually working on the technology now. We’ve cracked it philosophically, but now, we need to find a way to execute it. Shankar is a visionary, and the film will be exceptional technically. As it’s a 3D venture, we are in talks with theatre owners to see what can be done to make the ‘sound’ feel differently.”
He thrives when working on such complex projects because “complexity makes life interesting and worthwhile. It’s not that I go in search of them; I just get attracted to them. It’s nice when people look at sound as a craft, and include it as a part of their writing. Take Kaabil for instance. I had sleepless nights working on it. The audience were surprised that Hrithik Roshan was speaking like Amitabh Bachchan. Even Big B himself was surprised. That’s the beauty of sound! The longer I work, the better I am at imagining what something should sound like. ”
Pookutty has plans to start a sound institute in Mumbai soon. “After I won BAFTA, Rahman told me to start teaching; I’ll do something about it for sure. When I meet people, they constantly ask me questions and that makes me responsible for the field. That’s why I try to keep myself updated with the latest technology, equipment and software,” he says.
You’d think that a technically gifted artist like Pookutty has all had his dreams fulfilled, considering that he has won an Academy Award too. But no, he still has an unfulfilled dream. “I’d love to work with Kamal Haasan.”