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Tapas Nayak on how to approach sound as a character

Tapas Nayak during the session   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Very few filmmakers understand the importance of sound literacy,” said renowned sound designer Tapas Nayak, who was in the city for a masterclass session on the topic, ‘No sound, no cinema’, as a part of the recently-concluded Independent Film Festival of Chennai. Nayak kicked off the session by showing a six-minute war sequence from Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The idea behind showing this particular clip was to make audiences understand the confluence of a good edit and its aural impact on screen. “Walter Murch was the editor as well as the sound designer for Apocalypse Now. Even today, this sequence is the best example as to how beautifully sound was treated in the film,” he said. Nayak started out as an assistant in Lagaan when sync-sound wasn’t as fashionable as it is today. Looking back, Nayak said that he was fortunate to work on a project that was bigger on canvas. “Almost every Bollywood film uses sync sound these days. However, our approach towards Lagaan was different. We tried mono-mixing for the first time.” He added: “Despite the technological challenges, the ‘60s and ‘70s era produced some of the best aural films.”

Music as a character

A great film, according to Nayak, is the one that treats sound as a character, without manipulating the audience. He said that the Kamal Haasan-starrer Pushpaka Vimana is one of the greatest achievements in terms of sound. “When I saw it during my school days, I was shocked. I thought: how could they even pull off something like this?” Elaborating, Nayak said that Singeetam Srinivasa Rao used soundscape to define the traits of his character. “There’s a scene where Kamal records noises from a nearby slum. That’s the approach the director was taking. He created a character whose relationship with sound enhances the visual impact on the screen.” About using melodrama as a device to push the story forward, Nayak said, “Indian cinema operates in a way that it’s difficult to make films without music. The moment you add music to a scene, you’re immediately guiding the audience to think in a certain way. It’s like squeezing out emotions from the scene.”

There’s another treatment to music where it doesn’t dampen the overall mood of the film. To explain the difference, Nayak spoke of how Mysskin used music as an element in Thupparivaalan. “There’s a cruel scene where a character chops the dead body using a chainsaw. Mysskin said, ‘What if we add the sweetest of lullabies on top of that scene?’ When you watch the scene, the music elevates the gruesome act and makes it even more violent. This was the emotion Mysskin wanted to convey.”

Sync sound

Asked why very few filmmakers opt for sync sound technique, Nayak said, “It’s a challenge to use sync sound because one has to be very disciplined. Everything has to be within the confines of the narrative, and filmmakers need to think in terms of sound while scripting the project.” He added, “In Kerala, filmmakers are trying to bring in realism through sync sound. What happens in a dubbed film is that you’re artificially recreating sound.”

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 7:09:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/tapas-nayak-shares-his-experience-as-sound-desginer/article26256050.ece

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