'The Sound Story' album, released by Sony, will have songs in English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Malayalam.

Resul Pookutty reveals how The Sound Story on Thrissur Pooram was made
Flix Music Monday, December 17, 2018 - 18:45

Sound designer Resul Pookutty's The Sound Story had its Indian premiere at the Chennai International Film Festival on Sunday. While the film might make us believe that the Academy-winning sound designer has finally found his big break as an actor, Resul shares that the experience had been more of a surprise than anything else to him.

“As a kid, you always want to be someone else and so, I wanted to become an actor. I applied to become a child actor but never got selected. Starved for three days,” he chuckles, adding, “but watching me on screen has been a surprise. I want to hide my head under a blanket (laughs). I'm a much better sound man than an actor.”

Resul calls The Sound Story the greatest archival of sound in the country. The film on Thrissur Pooram, an annual Hindu festival held at Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur, was made when Rajeev Panakal called Resul with an offer to produce his dream - of recording the festival. Interestingly, this was for the first time that Resul, who hails from south Kerala, attended the Pooram.

Resul remarked that it was quite unfortunate that the government does not show as much interest as it should for recording and preserving the music played at the Pooram.

“We’ve got so much money but not for preserving,” he said.

The Sound Story album, released by Sony, will have songs in English, Hindi, Urdu, and Tamil in addition to Malayalam. “Three tracks of my recordings will also be a part of the album,” says Resul.

In fact, Resul says that the film, which he refers to as the “dream”, was a way of dodging the media’s “What’s your next big project” question that was frequently thrown at him after his big Oscar win.

“I am an ordinary guy thrown into extraordinary situations. Media kept asking me what my next “big project" was. I said Pooram only to escape,” he chuckles to the audience.

The story in this 100 minute film is quite simple. In fact, the fictional story, written and directed by Prasad Prabhakar, was born after the team finished recording the Pooram sounds.

“We met the only woman mahout in Asia to talk to her about the elephants in the Pooram. That was when we realised that the elephant carrying the main deity is blind. This was extremely interesting for us and thus came the idea of dedicating the film for visually impaired people," he says.

The film, in fact, has an emotional climax when Resul plays the recorded sounds to a small gathering of visually impaired persons, some of whom are experiencing the sounds for the very first time.

For the film’s story, the makers chose a visually impaired aspiring music composer, a tribute to and a reinterpretation of the visually impaired elephant, who plays an important role in moving the story ahead.

Prasad, while answering a question from the audience after the film’s screening, shared that he had followed Resul with 24 cameras, and that the latter was oblivious to it.

“I only showed him after editing all the footage we had,” he laughs.

For recording the Pooram itself, Resul says that the challenges were aplenty.

“Firstly, the market is not equipped enough to record the number of tracks that I wanted. I recorded 128 tracks for three hours without stopping. To put this is perspective, we use a maximum of 20 tracks for films. I had three levels of backups and not just in one format alone. Also, Pooram happens in May when the weather is unbearably hot. Imagine computers heating up and recorders jamming. It was a very strenuous task, a lot like going for war.”

These are the words Resul uses in the film as well. An extravagant amalgamation of sounds, the Pooram festival has about 300 artists playing the percussion instruments in addition to a parade of elephants and lakhs of people just experiencing it. The festival concludes with a sensory delight of fireworks, all of which is planned to match the sounds produced by the Pooram’s percussion instruments.

The difficulty involved in recording one of the largest sound festivals in the country is quite apparent from what we see in the film. Recording each performance that extends up to three hours each is a physically daunting task, says Rasool after the film’s screening.

“After recording one such ilanjithara melam session, my entire left side was paralysed. While watching the film, someone asked me why I was walking with a slant in my posture. It was because my one half was paralysed,” he says.

The Sound Story, which has been dedicated to the visually impaired, will also be the first film to be released with its script in braille. The team is presently deliberating a theatrical release for the film.

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