In Indian films, sound -- the element -- was never heard. Drowned in the din of music and dialogues, it was never a factor. There was no resonance, just cacophony.
India woke up to the resonance factor on that Oscar night, when Resul Pookutty won an Academy award for Best Sound Mixing in Slumdog Millionaire.
But long before the Oscar blast, Malayalam filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan used sound as a leitmotif [recurring musical theme] in his films. For Adoor, known world over as one of the finest filmmakers ever from India, sound is as important as any other factor in a film.
Every Adoor film is a rich kaleidoscope of sounds. Be it a bleating of a calf, or an owl's hooting, Adoor deftly used them as part of the film. Nature and its innate sounds came lively though it went unnoticed mostly --in Adoor's films.
Says Adoor, "Sound is as important as the visual in films. I am very particular about the sound factor. In fact, I always have a separate script ready just for sound. Mostly, I will be a part of the process. I have uniquely used many sounds to convey a message or any idea. Only a close scrutiny will make you hear the sound. Like some scenes in Mukhamukham."
That makes Adoor perhaps the only filmmaker to have a script exclusively done for sound while shooting.
For his film Kodiyettam, Adoor travelled all over Central Travancore to record sound. In fact, the sound recording of the film took longer than the shooting schedule.
Adoor adds, "As a director, I will work in tandem with the sound recordist. I am actively involved in the process. For Kodiyettam, I did the sound recording.
Adoor explains an interesting experience while shooting Nizhal Kuthu (Shadow Kill).
"For sound mixing and recording, I brought a person from France for that film. When I showed him a separate script for sound, he was amused. He said he has not seen anything like this -- a script for sound -- even in France," says Adoor.
Adoor is extremely happy at Resul Pookutty's Oscar feat.
"I am really happy for him. One, for his achievement. Then, his win made people realise that there is an element called sound in films. Sound generally means background score and dialogues. Many directors don't even use other sounds. Even if someone uses, it is lost in the din of dialogues and music."
Says Pookutty, "Adoor and Mani Kaul are real masters when it comes to sound. So was the late Aravindan. I was awed by the way Adoor used sound in his films. My favourite Adoor film is Elipathayam for all reasons. Adoor uses sound to extract drama while for Aravindan, it was for lyrical purposes."
Pookutty adds that Adoor uses music as a leitmotif while top commercial filmmakers use it just as a narrative tool.
Asked if he would work in an Adoor's film, an excited Pookutty said, "Definitely, if that opportunity comes."