Recording sounds live in the slums of Mumbai for Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire was chaotic and far from easy, says Resul Pookutty, who has been nominated for an Oscar for sound mixing in the rags-to-riches story. He adds that none of the crew ever imagined the film would go on to become so big.
"It was only after I saw the first cut did I realise 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 realised how new and unique Danny Boyle's language was. And I had to match the language," Resul, one of India's best-known sound designers, told IANS.
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. 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," he explained.
And the sound designer says he relied less on technique and more on instinct while working for the film that has received a total of 10 Oscar nominations, including three for music maestro A.R. Rahman.
"I had to record the sounds of Mumbai. I used as many as 16 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 technique," said Resul, who has won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for his work.
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... what we hear is the chaos of Mumbai unfiltered."
Resul, who has designed the sound for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black and Saawariya, admits that 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 a National Award. And I think my work in Gandhi My Father and Saawariya are far better than Slumdog Millionaire. I got no recognition for it at all," he rued.
"In India we always look at the commercial success of a film before recognising 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. Slumdog... doesn't change that. Santosh Sivan once told me that to shoot the rising sun is the greatest joy in life. I want to savour that moment that Santosh talked to me about," the soft-spoken sound wizard added.
Resul shares the BAFTA 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 time off for the final mixing."
Resul is now looking forward to Sanjay Leela Bhansali's next film. But he is currently busy doing the sound of Rajat Kapoor's Rectangular Love Story, Suarabh Shukla's Pappu Can't Dance Saala and new director Sharad's Rangeen In Love.
"I make sure I do one big film so I can support the rest of the films that I believe in," he said.