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After Ghajini, I went to sets of Slumdog Millionaire with an ego, said Resul Pookutty

The Oscar-winning sound designer was speaking at his masterclass at the recently concluded Mumbai International Film Festival.

Resul Pookutty [File photo]

Keyur Seta

India’s Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty recently looked back at the challenges he faced while recording the sound for Slumdog Millionaire (2009), the film that won him the coveted trophy. He was speaking at the masterclass held at the recently concluded Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF). 

Resul admitted that he had become over-confident after working in Ghajini (2008). “Just before Slumdog [Millionaire], I did a film with Aamir Khan — Ghajini,” he said. “It was fully based on sync sound. I thought if I could do a film with such a big actor like Aamir Khan on the streets of Mumbai, I could do anything anywhere. So I went with that ego on the sets of Slumdog Millionaire. But it [the film] was nothing like I had imagined.” 

Explaining the set-up of the film, he said, “Normally [back then] when we shot a film, we shot with one camera. But Danny [Boyle] had five digital cameras and three film cameras on the sets. At any given point, there were five cameras running.”

Resul said that in the first week, he followed the method he had used during the shoot of Ghajini. “And I failed miserably. Then I thought we should do something that the film demands. This is how you re-invent yourself. I went back to the shoot in the second week. I decided to look at the soundscape of Mumbai," he said.

Resul Pookutty at the masterclass

Resul specifically spoke about the riot scene in Slumdog Millionaire that takes place when the protagonist, Jamaal, is a kid. He showed the scene twice – once without the sound and once with it. 

He added, “Normally when you put a sound man in the noisiest of locations, he chooses the least amount of microphones so that noise that the microphone captures will be minimum. [But] I remember putting 25 microphones for that scene, capturing everything possible.” 

The sound designer thought about how a human brain processes sound while working on that film. “If you and I are talking on a noisy road, the human brain will listen only to what it needs to hear and delete everything else. But a microphone doesn’t have the intelligence of a human brain. It will capture everything.

“How do you make the microphone listen like the human brain processing sound? That’s the idea I worked on in Slumdog [Millionaire]. I used multi-microphones with multi-track recording to arrive at how a human brain processes sound. I would do an online mix of all the sound that came to me. I would mix it on location and at the same time, record everything straight onto multi-tracks so that I had everything available if I needed to make a change.” 

After explaining the scene, he said with a high degree of satisfaction, “That’s what we did for the first time in the world of sound [in Indian cinema].” 

Related topics

Mumbai International Film Festival