Hari Kumar Pillai, the man behind the sound of 'Peepli Live'

The movie is far from commercial. A comic satire on a farmer's threat to commit suicide and the following media and political response, Peepli Live is setting a new record at the box office. One of the first films from India to compete in the Sundance Film Festival, the movie was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival where it received rave reviews. While Anusha Rizvi (director) and Aamir Khan (producer) are basking in the success of the film, so is the movie's sound designer Hari Kumar Pillai.

Working with live sound

An alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, Hari has used location sound in Peepli Live. “The movie had artistes who were performing in front of the camera for the first time. As most of them are theatre artistes and are used to delivering dialogues complete with nuances at first go on stage, we had to catch it right the first time too. That is because emotions and feel of the dialogue may lose its flavour when dubbed in a studio,” says Hari who has worked on Madhusree Datta's Memories of Fear, Kundan Shah's Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naan and Vinod Chopra's 1942-A Love Story, to name a few.

As most of the film was shot in a real village, Bhadwai in Madhya Pradesh, Hari and his team had to work around it. “We wanted to capture the real village life. However, there were things in the movie [sounds] that we wished to highlight and some that we wished to block without disturbing the villagers and their daily life. Aamir was also keen that we work with location sound,” says Hari, who hails from Adoor but was brought up in Kolkata.

“I was exposed to films of various genres while in Kolkata. I was always fascinated by the sounds in movies. I am also a music buff who enjoys listening to folk songs from across the globe. The sounds behind these songs encouraged me to learn more about it.”

And so upon hearing that FTII offered a course in sound designing, Hari decided to enrol at FTII.

“I was lucky to get the opportunity to work with G. Aravindan on his award winning film Vasthuhara while studying there. He used location sound in the movie and I learnt the art from him.”

Mehangai Dayan

The song Mehangai Dayan in Peepli Live, which is doing well on the music charts, is the highlight of the film feels Hari. “ It is probably the first time that a song has been done live on location in an Indian movie. I decided to do it that way to keep the rustic feel of the song. The folk touch to the song by Raghuveer Yadav, has come out well.

“In fact many who have watched the movie say that is exactly how the song and feel of the song would be when musicians, be it in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, get together to perform. That was what I was hoping to achieve and I did.”


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