'We recorded the sounds of numerous superbikes for Valimai'
Sound designer duo Sachin Sudhakaran and Hari Haran M share their experience of creating soundscapes for Rocky and Valimai
30 minutes into Arun Matheswaran’s gory triumph, Rocky, we get—what I would describe as— the most violent scene in Tamil cinema in years: a road-roller runs over a cadaver. While the image swiftly cuts to a black screen, refraining the viewer from witnessing the brutal imagery, the vehemence of the savage act seeps into our minds effortlessly. This impact can be attributed to two factors: one, the human brain’s proclivity to deeply remember negative experiences, and secondly, the sound of the bones cracking. Although we barely ‘see’ any gore in the scene, the sound leaves a visceral impact. However, for Sachin Sudharakaran and Hari Haran M, the duo behind Rocky’s soundscape, the scene was just another day at work. So how did they go about this? “We have a repertoire of bone-breaking sound effects and we enhance them with different layers, by repurposing the sound of vegetables breaking. That scene was no different; we put together layers of different effects, from the breaking of a pumpkin to the sound of the road roller,” says Sachin.
Sachin and Hari have contributed to the sound design of a wide variety of films ranging from star vehicles such as Master, Kaithi, Rangasthalam, Saaho, and Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, to intimate character-driven films like Game Over, Helen, and Dear Comrade. The duo agrees that the process behind these types of films is definitely varied. For “sound-oriented films” like Rocky, the duo is involved right from the beginning of the process. “For Rocky, Arun Matheswaran gave us the script and narration even before the filming began. The initial idea was to shoot the film in sync sound, but it couldn’t be realised due to the sheer logistics and budget involved. However, while working on the sound mix during the post-production phase, we gave it a sync-sound treatment,” Hari shares.
While the conventional time for sound design can range from 30-45 days, Rocky was a different ball-game altogether, Hari adds. “Arun was clear about communicating the story through sound, and it’s not a film that can be done under strict time restrictions. We had close to six months to work on the film and, I believe, the difference in the quality reflects in the output .”
ALSO READ: Editor Nagooran: I watched Rocky more than 100 times
The duo has also worked on the highly awaited actioner, Valimai, and the experience gained over the years helped in recreating the sound of numerous chase sequences in the H Vinoth directorial. Hari admits that they didn’t know how to record the sound of a vehicle while working on Kaithi, but by the time they came to Valimai, they were fully equipped. They share that a bus chase sequence in the film—the one seen in the trailer—required expertise to capture the sound. “The sound has to be recorded from different angles, both interior and exterior,” Sachin shares. I ask him whether they actually place a mic under the heavy vehicles to capture the sound. Sachin nods and adds, “Inside, outside, everywhere. Every angle matters.”
Working on Valimai’s bike stunt sequences was an altogether different experience, Hari says. “We recorded the sounds of a crazy number of bikes and even superbikes and dirtbikes. Sometimes, the actual bike might not sound optimal for the visual, and we would interchange the sounds to find the perfect match. Since it wasn’t feasible to record the sound on the sets, we would record it separately. The makers' decision to retain the bikes even after the shoot came in handy for us,” Hari says. “Recording a bike would also mean we would fit the mic on the rider as he rode it, and record the sounds of the engine and muffler separately.”
For an average viewer, the sound of the film remains largely constricted to the music and the background score, but Sachin firmly believes that things are changing. "In addition to filmmakers, who are realising that sound is as vital as music, common people too are starting to take notice of aspects such as sound design. It's an exciting time," he concludes