Audiographer Justin Jose: I am aware of sound always

The audiographer talks about his experiences in Bollywood, Hollywood and other industries, even as the Malayalam film that he has worked on, Kamala, is set for release later this month
Justin Jose
Justin Jose

Audiographer Justin Jose is always aware of sounds around him. While relaxing in a hotel room, in Kochi, he says, “There is the sound of the AC; my friend, sitting on the bed, is tapping on the laptop; there is the sound of our conversation; and the muted sounds of the traffic outside.” Then he smiles and says, “If you listen, sound is everywhere.”

Justin had come to attend the inaugural ceremony of the first national Clubby MiniMovie Festival last month. He is a member of the jury. The audiographer says he had been working on a Malayalam film, Ranjit Shankar’s Kamala, which is scheduled for release on November 29. “It was a challenging film, but Ranjit gave me a lot of freedom,” says Justin. “I enjoyed working with him.”

The Mumbai-based audiographer has a thriving career. He has worked in more than 300 films, spread across 15 languages: Hindi, Bengali, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Ladakhi, Latvian, Arabic, Urdu, Malayalam, and Konkani.

Asked how he understands films whose language he does not know, Justin says, “Because of my experience. When I see the rushes, without sound, I usually get an idea of what the story is all about,” he says.

Many films that he has worked on have become hits, including Baahubali, Padmaavat, Bajirao Mastani, Kesari, and Sanju, Uri: The Surgical Strike, as well as regional language versions of Spiderman 2 and Karate Kid.

Justin won the National Award for the Best Re-recordist for Bajirao Mastani in 2015 and for Walking With The Wind in 2017.

On average, Justin takes about 200 hours, spread over many days to do the sound for a two-hour Bollywood film. But the work, he says, has been fun and rewarding. When Justin was working on Raju Hirani’s biographical tale of actor Sanjay Dutt called Sanju, the film had two sound designers, Jeetu Chowdhury and Biswadeep Chatterjee. They were sitting on either side of Justin at the Rajkamal Studios and watched him work. “When I did some mixing, they would give me suggestions,” says Justin. “It was a hugely enriching experience from me. Both are top sound designers.”

Asked to define his work, Justin says, “I do sound design and mixing. This means merging the background score, dialogues, special effects, and songs. The mixing engineer will narrate the story behind the scenes so that I get an idea of what is happening. When there is a scene between two characters, the dialogue level is different for both, so I have to adjust the sound. As for the background score, I have to see the scenes between five to ten times to get it right. It is a creative process.”

The audiographer says that directors are unique characters. “The story begins in their imagination,” he says. “So they know it inside out. The film is like a child to them. They have a tremendous passion and love for film-making. It consumes their day and night. Even when the director is working with me, he is also doing the colour corrections, the VFX effects and checking the music at the same time. There are so many aspects to look into.”

The Thrissur-born Justin is also consumed by his work. “Yes, I love it,” he says, with a smile. “Last year, I worked on 23 films in a row, and enjoyed every moment.”

His future projects include a couple of big-budget Bollywood projects, a Tamil film by Jeethu Joseph, as well as Kochi-based show director Manoj K Varghese’s debut film.

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