Resul Pookutty’s journey is into the depths of a sound. In his hands, the shy, shapeless, intangible entity, content to play second fiddle, grows layers and acquires individuality. He chases layers of sound, picks them out from a melee of noises and tags them to the perfect image to let it bloom.
Currently working on the coveted Swedish project “Liv and Ingmar”, Resul says, “During our shoot in Sweden, I heard this one sound and told my assistants to record it. It has been a year since and now when we are doing the mixing, I wanted that sound and they were left frantically searching. They never thought I would remember it,” he says.
His fastidiousness is not merely a quest for perfection. It is an endeavour to create an artistic whole. “There have been instances when a sound has left an impression on me and I have used it at a particular point. To tell the truth, people have called up to talk about that sound at that place. When that happens, it is as if a conversation has ended,” he says.
It is the sublimity of sound that Resul explores in his work. His is the face of deeply technical aspects like sound designing and mixing in India and he perseveres to blend technique and artistry. Resul shared the Academy Award for Sound Mixing with Richard Pryke and Ian Tapp for “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009, and believes the film had moments when technicality was transcended to embrace art.
“In the film, I was toying with the idea of listening and hearing — the idea of making one smell the city through its sound.”
He believes recognition came his way for this effort, as there were technically superior movies like “The Dark Knight” in the fray.
A subconscious art
Until international accolades came his way, with BAFTA and the Cinema Audio Society Award, Resul's name and work remained nebulous to an average Indian moviegoer. “That is the tragedy of sound. You may hear everything, but you may not be listening to everything. Sound is a subconscious art. A cameraman makes you see a story through his play of light and shade and we try to give an oral texture to the image,” he says.
Resul's repertoire includes milestone movies: “Black”, “Gandhi – My Father” and “Ghajini”. But “Slumdog Millionaire” and his heart-felt speech at the Oscars made him the most recognisable face among film technicians. And the euphoria has still not died down. He was received warmly at the Kozhikode airport recenlty when he arrived as the guest of honour at the IIM– K graduation ceremony. “It makes me wonder whether I deserve all this,” he says.
His eloquence at the Academy Awards brought on another engagement – that of a speaker. Resul says the thought of talking to an audience torments him. “I am not a speaker, not a thinker. I am just a mediocre sound man,” he says and adds in jest, “Maybe I should have made that regular award speech, ‘I thank the Academy, my neighbour…”
Recognition has also made his work calendar busier. He has recently worked on “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” directed by John Madden (famous for “Shakespeare in Love”), and he finds it unbelievable that he has got to work with the likes of Danny Boyle and Madden. “John comes from a radio background and he understands sound.”
An intense emotional involvement with work and with life's little things defines Resul. He says not a single day passed without his crying when he worked on the Kolaveri-movie “3”. “It happens often, I see the subject, the artistes performing and I am drawn into it. While working on ‘3', I would get depressed and had to get my doctor's help to get out of it,” he recounts.
He made a similar emotional connect with Dame Judi Dench during “Marigold Hotel”. “Judi Dench looks a lot like my mother and I have lost my mother. On the third day, I went and confessed this to her and even tried to woo her with a gift.”
Resul goes on fondly, “She is a lovely artiste and a beautiful human being. She went back to England, found out more about my work and called up to say, ‘Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.'”
The artist for whom “remembering” is a key element to his work naturally recollects his association with sound — the soul of his craft. “My first experience of sound as a narrative was through the radio. Also my Physics studies brought me closer to sound, but I really discovered sound during my years at the Film Institute in Pune,” he says.
Despite a surge in international projects, Resul is determined to work from India. “I don't want to leave my country — my work is here, my people are here.” Apart from a handful of international projects, Resul is set to work on the projects of Balki, Anubhav Sinha, Feroz Abbas Khan, and Anant Mahadevan. “There are also talks about a light and sound show with Revathy and also with Shobana on a dance show,” says Resul.
“My work is very diverse. I just go by the flow…the past 15 years of my life is buried in strips of celluloid.”