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Behind The Scenes Of An Indie Film: Part 14—Let There Be Sound...

We forget that we listen to films as much as we watch them.

04/04/2017 9:26 PM IST | Updated 09/04/2017 10:50 AM IST

It's not every day that one gets a chance to be on the front lines of filmmaking. Indie films seem to be buzzwords these days with many low-budget-yet-large-hearted films coming out in the last few years and winning acclaim. Whether there's an indie movement or a wave happening, is for the future to decide. What is indisputable is that filmmakers across the country are picking up their cameras and making their films the way they want, unhindered by monetary considerations.

So when I was offered an opportunity to work alongsideDevashish Makhija(Agli Baar,Taandav,El'ayichi,Abs nt,Rahim Murge Pe Mat Ro) on his upcoming film, I jumped on it. Here's a chance to see first-hand the mechanics of indie filmmaking in action. I have been embedded with the team, assisting Makhija while also sharing my observations with you. The film is now in post-production and you can read all the earlier posts here.

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Almost four months since we finished shooting we are in the final stages of post-production. Last month was all about getting the film seen, getting valuable feedback and then re-editing the film. It was an interesting experience watching Makhija take feedback and mull over it. I got to see what they actually mean when they say "kill your babies." Believe me, it's as gruesome as it sounds.

The last few weeks have also been my introduction to the world of sound design. While there's so much literature online around how films are shot and the cinematographers who shoot them, barely anything gets said about sound designers and what they bring to the film. This even though film is an audio-visual medium!

Sound is where the emotion comes from. More than the image it is the underlying sound that make you feel.Devashish Makhija

Walking back late at night from another of our exciting sessions at the sound studio tucked away in a building in some corner of Oshiwara, I listen to Makhija and Kharade (Kaamod, our sound designer) talk about the lack of awareness regarding the craft.

Swapnil Sonawane

Recording sound is serious business

"Maybe that's because images are more easily accessible but you need to really work hard to observe sound and how it's been used," muses Makhija.

While that makes sense it seems unfair to me. Kharade doesn't seem bothered by this. I guess most sound technicians have made their peace with their place in the value chain. That is not to say that Kharade isn't proud of the value sound designers bring to the film.

"You can take ordinary visuals and still use them to create a powerful narrative using sound design but the opposite cannot be done. Bad sound design can kill even the best filmed moments," notes Kharade.

"Sound is where the emotion comes from. More than the image it is the underlying sound that make you feel," adds Makhija.

"Image is 2D while sound is 3D. It makes the experience of cinema immersive," chips in Kharade.

I take some time to process that. It's probably one of the most profound things I've heard in a long while. That does seem true. Try watching any of your favourite cinematic moments without sound and you will instantly realise how essential sound is to our experience of cinema.

Swapnil Sonwane

The machine that does it all

The profession of sound recording/ designing calls for an almost monk-like focus. And since a lot of the sound designers also record on location, it's also a unique profession in that it has these two diametrically opposite parts to it. While the film's been shot, recording sound is a physical job that requires been in the moment to capture as clean a sound as possible. In a country as cacophonous as ours, where there's barely a corner without loud sound beating down on our ear-drums, that is not an easy task.

And then when you get to post-production with a locked edit the very same person sits calmly in this air-conditioned room looking at the images trying to enhance the film by adding sound that elevates the film. There's some science to it but most of what I see is Makhija and Kharade riffing on the scene, the protagonist's emotional mindspace in the scene, and what they think the audience should feel when they watch it.

Bad sound design can kill even the best filmed moments. Kaamod Kharade

Like in other departments, Makhija is deeply involved yet collaborative. The fact that they've worked together before and have an easy camaraderie makes it fun to be around. Discussions around sound had started much before we started shooting. That's one reason why he enjoys working with Makhija, Kharade admits.

"Very few directors treat sound and its possibilities so seriously," he notes.

"That's because that's where an indie filmmaker is actually on an equal footing with mainstream filmmakers," adds Makhija.

Swapnil Sonawane

Kaamod Kharade in action on the sets of 'Ajji'

Now that's an interesting thought which deserves an entire article by itself—on how indie filmmakers can leverage sound to make up for lack of resources elsewhere. That requires me to watch again some of the films we've spoken about, this time listening more carefully than usual.

Having seen this go from script to film has been such a privilege. Now that we are in the final few laps I am looking forward to seeing the final film, complete with sound and music, before we set sail the film into the world.

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