In conversation with Emmy nominee Nirupama Rajendran

The sound-effects editor, who has secured an Emmy nomination for her work in The Tinder Swindler, talks about the experience of working on the documentary and her desire to work on Indian films
In conversation with Emmy nominee Nirupama Rajendran

When the year's Emmy nominations were announced, Nirupama Rajendran was busy working in her studio in London. And her phone hasn't stopped buzzing since. The 23-year-old sound-effects editor has just been nominated in the category of 'Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera)’ for her exceptional work in the British true crime documentary film, The Tinder Swindler. "Initially, I thought the film had been nominated, and that made me happy too. Even the thought of my work getting nominated didn't cross my mind. My career has just started, in fact," says Nirupama, adding that the realisation of an Emmy nomination is gradually sinking in. I ask how she is, and she’s profusely grateful for the question. “The last couple of days have been so overwhelming that I didn't even have the time to think of anything. Thank you for making me think of myself."

Nirupama says that The Tinder Swindler was an interesting project to work on as it had a cinematic style to it despite being a documentary. The film is about Simon Leviev, an Israeli conman who used the dating application Tinder to lure money from women to support his lavish lifestyle. The documentary interviews the women victims and shows them uncovering his true identity with the help of journalists. "This documentary is quite cinematic as the narrative switches back and forth a lot. We wanted the sound design and effects to be quite slick," explains Nirupama, and credits her sound designer for providing her with complete creative freedom. "We had only 7-8 days in which to work on every little effect. From keyboard touches to screenshots, it’s a bit of everything, and the mixing decides what must be accentuated."

As the documentary speaks of the plight of many victims, Nirupama had to show sensitivity with her approach. "We were cautious not to glamourise Simon Leviev's character and personality. Instead, we focussed on the victims and highlighted their experiences." Born to Malayali parents, Rajendran and Smitha, Nirupama presently works for Molinare, a post-production company based in London. She was, in fact, in her hometown, Kozhikode, when the film premiered on Netflix in February this year. "It was a great feeling to watch it with my family, and I could see how proud they were." Nirupama is a keen follower of Indian cinema and the sound scene here. "I love the work in Fazil's old films, and more recently, I really liked the sound design in Kumbalangi Nights and Minnal Murali. Once I gain enough experience, I hope to work in Malayalam and Tamil cinema."

Nirupama is aware that not many understand the nuances of sound and the work that goes behind it, but it’s a big blow to her that The Academy chose to combine sound mixing and sound editing into a single category. "When the general audience doesn’t notice the sound work, it feels like a compliment because that means they were so immersed. It’s such a shame though when The Academy categorises us into one big amorphous group. I hope they rethink their decision," signs off a hopeful Nirupama.

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