Insightful documentary that makes noise on an unknown field
Avinash Anthony’s 2019 short shines a spotlight on the invisible sound designers who work so hard to make their work and achievements invisible.
On the 94th anniversary of the world’s first talkie, The Jazz Singer (1927), it’s important to note how the arrival of sound in feature films both changed and elevated cinema. Closer to Us, Avinash Anthony’s short documentary A Few Sound Men (2019) serves as an introduction to those unaware of the trade and those who indulge in it.
Using the expertise of several sound designers across India, in Mumbai, Chennai and Kochi, the short film begins by making us understand the profession. A quote from one of the sound designers stands out in particular: “Sound design isn’t about making you hear things, it’s about making you feel things,” he says.
Many viewers are unaware of the realities of sound design, which happens to be a field largely dominated by men. Veteran sound designer and three-time National Award winner Bishwadeep Chatterjee, who has worked on films such as Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Uri: The Surgical Strike (2018), ironically shares even his mother didn’t know exactly what he has. made for a living.
But the short film establishes how these people understand the story and the characters, and strive to make you feel emotions through their sound – be it effect or tone. A Few Sound Men features interviews with a number of experts such as Dileep Subramanian, Parikshit Lalwani, Kunal Mehta, Vinod Subramaniam, Kunal Sharma, Allwin Rego and Sanjay Maurya, Debashish Mishra and Madhu Apsara. Together they have been featured in films like Jab We Met (2007), Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), Kahaani (2012) and Badlapur (2015).
The consensus seems to be that the sound should be quiet in the cinema. They believe that if you notice their work, they have done a bad job. A few also joke about sound design – the frequent difficulties they face and how invisible they are in the larger frame of cinema.
But that doesn’t mean that we, as an audience, shouldn’t appreciate the diligent work they do, operating under often difficult circumstances to get the job done.
Sound designers have also spoken out about the lack of resources available to their profession. While their Hollywood counterparts have three to four months of post-production to complete their work, here in India they usually have one month.
A Few Sound Men also takes a look at major and minor changes to the profession, with the arrival of synchronized sound and the way dubbing is performed by seasoned actors when the new generation is not used to duplicating. their performance in a recording studio. They particularly emphasize the distinction between height and volume, which makes all the difference when working with actors during the dubbing process.
Delightfully, the short film also highlights the often overlooked work of noise artists and includes contributions from veterans Sajjan Choudhary and Karnail Singh. Sound designers take note of what a sound art work is, recreating key sounds and effects in post-production, and these artists have exemplary dedication to their work.
The short film also explains how the field has evolved over the years and how the digital switchover has completely changed the nature of work. Going digital involves some loss to the art of sound, which in turn brings less respect to the process. Not everyone understands the need for sound and where to use it.
The sound designer of the short film, Sreejesh Nair, uses basic examples to educate the uninformed. Avinash Anthony, along with Sumer Kotwal, created an introductory yet penetrating look at the world of sound design, allowing viewers to experience the necessary but thankless work that makes cinema the emotional roller coaster that it is.
A Few Sound Men airs on YouTube.