Forget the much-hyped Oscar nomination that he has received for his exemplary work in sound-mixing for Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire (SM), India's best known sound designer has just won the prestigious BAFTA award for his sound editing in Slumdog Millionaire. And Resul Pookutty can hardly contain his excitement. Because he been nominated for the super-prestigious Cinema Audio Society Of America's (CAS) award for sound. This is indeed a big moment for the much-neglected art of audiography in Indian cinema.
Resul said, "Quite honestly the CAS award is a much bigger honour than the Oscar nomination, though nobody knows about it in India. I'm the youngest nominee for this award. When Danny Boyle called to tell me about it, I felt it was like getting a lifetime honorary badge that will open doors for me in cinema everywhere,"
But Resul is no mood for celebrations. His brother barely 50, has suffered a heart attack and he's currently attending to the family crisis. Working on Slumdog Millionaire was more an ache-walk than a cakewalk for Resul. "It was only after I saw the first cut, did I realize what we were up against. Doing all the sounds in the slums live was not easy. Slumdog Millionaire was a small-budget film to begin with. We never imagined it would turn out to be so big. As we shot we realized how new and unique Danny Boyle's language was. And I had to match the language," says the soft-spoken audio maverick who had designed the sound for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black and Saawariya.
Interestingly, Madhur Bhandarkar's film on street people Traffic Signal also had its sound designed by Resul. "Yes. But that wasn't done in live sound. But every bit of the sound in Slumdog was done on location. Danny shot with multiple cameras on the crowded streets of Mumbai. During the first week there was absolute chaos. To shoot on location in Mumbai one has to be very patient."
Resul changed his method of working. "I had to record the sounds of Mumbai. I used as many as sixteen microphones planted all over the roads and lanes with people running around with no knowledge of what wires they were tripping over. There would be a hundred people talking all at once in a crowd scene. I had to capture two people conversing in that crowd without resorting to artificial means of audiography. I had to go more by my instinct than the technique."
What Resul thinks would tilt the audio Oscar his way is the raw lived-in quality of the sound in Slumdog Millionaire. "All the other nominees have very sophisticated polished texture of sound. In Slumdog Millionaire what we hear is the chaos of Mumbai, unfiltered."
Resul admits that the sound design is a much-misunderstood and neglected art form. "Our industry is still quite ignorant about the use and quality of sound in cinema. After all these years I've received just one award, for Black. Even for that I didn't get the National Award. And I think my work in Feroz Gandhi's Gandhi My Father and Saawariya are far better than SM. I got no recognition for it at all. In India, we always look at the commercial success of a film before recognizing it. I feel frustrated when I put my heart and soul into a work and then it goes unappreciated. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. SM doesn't change that. Santosh Sivan once told me to shoot the rising sun is the greatest joy in life. I want to savour that moment that Santosh talked to me about."
Resul shares the BAFTA, CAS and Oscar nominations with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke. "I did the location sound mixing. I gave them all the raw material .The other two did the final mixing. I'd have liked to do the final mixing. But out there the work is very specific. And besides I couldn't take the time off for the final mixing."
Resul is currently looking forward to Sanjay Leela Bhansali's next film. In the meanwhile he's doing the sound of Rajat Kapoor's Rectangular Love Story, Saurabh Shukla's Pappu Can't Dance Saala and new director Sharad's Rangeen In Love. "I make sure that I do one big film so I can support the rest of the films that I believe in."