Sounds of a festival
Academy Award-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty talks about his feature film The Sound Stor/ Oru Kadhai Sollattuma
After working behind the screen for more than 15 years, Academy award-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty is making his acting debut with Prasad Prabhakar's The Sound Story (releasing in Tamil as Oru Kadhai Sollattuma). The film began as a statement Resul made in jest to a journalist at the time of his Oscar win.
"I was asked what my next big project is, and just to shoo them away, I said I'm going to record the Thrissur Pooram," says Resul. "Someone happened to see this and contacted my office a couple of years later saying they're willing to fund the film. That person happens to be Rajiv Panakkal. I said it would be a fruitless endeavour because I didn't think this small idea would amount to anything: it was just a fascination. But they really wanted to do it."
The project first began as a documentary about the famous festival and then evolved into a feature about a sound designer's quest to record the sounds of the event for the visually impaired, and documents his struggles, travails, and eventual triumph. "Though this was something I never planned, in the end, a beautiful film came out of it. We just shot for 17 days."
Resul recalls a fascinating anecdote that provided the impetus for The Sound Story. "I happened to learn that the main elephant of the festival, which carries the deity on its back, was blind. I couldn't believe it. So I asked the mahout how it was possible for the elephant to move in tune to the melam, and she said it was the sound. So I asked myself, 'What if we replaced that elephant with a visually-impaired man? How would they perceive the sounds of the festival? Their ears will become their eyes. I decided I would do this as a gift for those who can't experience the festival without going there. That's how The Sound Story originated."
This was the first time that Resul had ever been to the festival. Up until that point, he had only heard of it from others. "When I went to record there, I had no clue about it. I started reading up and researching on it and then met people like Kuttan Marar (the main chenda artist) and others."
The sound designer and his crew then immediately got to work. They shot without a script, he tells us. "We didn't imagine a film in our heads. We just covered a live event. There are some uninterrupted sequences in the film. One of them was shot for an hour straight with multiple cameras. Sometimes when you're doing something spontaneous, beautiful things emerge. We managed to get some wonderful dialogues which form the crux of the film. And I told the crew I won't dub the film. I wanted to capture live sounds. Everybody had a tough time because I wouldn't let them dub the film (laughs)."
The Sound Story will be released on April 5 in Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, and Telugu.