In his almost 20 years of career as a film sound designer, National award-winner PM Satheesh has worked on movies from both South industry and Bollywood, and hence is well versed with the working pattern of both the set-ups. His latest project is the mammoth blockbuster – Baahubali. Thanks to director SS Rajamouli’s vision and a never-seen-before scale, the franchise has raised the bar of what’s called ‘quality filmmaking’ notches higher, and has filmmakers across the country call it a benchmark in the movie business. But Satheesh believes it’s not just the grandeur of the film that sets it apart, but also the discipline and intent with which Rajamouli and producer Yarlagadda made it.
In an interview to indianexpress.com, Satheesh, whose filmography also includes international collaborations, spoke about his experience creating those impactful sound effects for the period film, Rajamouli’s obsession with perfection and why a film like Baahubali will not come naturally to filmmakers in Bollywood.
“What we lack here (Bollywood) is discipline. Why is that stuff like this (Baahubali) happening in Telugu cinema and is being pulled off wonderfully there because the money for the film of this sort goes into the production. It’s not eaten up by a few big stars. If you have a 600 crore-film in Mumbai, at max Rs 100 crore will go into the production, if you are lucky. Otherwise, everything is siphoned out to a few stars and people. In Baahubali, every penny has gone into the production that’s why it shows,” Satheesh said before adding that in Bollywood, he has had to struggle even for the most “basic” requirements.
“If you look at the sound budget of Baahubali, people in Bollywood will faint because they will not spend that kind of money for the quality. That’s a huge difference. We ask anything to the production of Baahubali, if that’s justified, if we can logically and rationally explain that to the producer or the director, it’s done. Nobody asks another question. But here, we have to struggle so much to convince them for the basics. So, you need to have an intention and a discipline to put that money into the production,” he said.
While talking about intent and dedication, the sound designer mentioned Rajamouli and said that one needs to be as conscious about quality as the filmmaker to be able to pull off a Baahubali.
“Baahubali sets a standard of quality, our culture has been like ‘let’s somehow save the money and if that works then good’, as opposed to Rajamouli, who on the last day of the sound mixing, was editing the film because some of the CGs (computer graphics) were not up to his mark. He removed those scenes from the story. He had the courage to remove that after the film was mixed and ready to be put out. That’s how quality conscious he is,” Satheesh revealed.
Besides Rajamouli’s passion, it was also his openness to suggestions, which impressed Satheesh. “During the making, we had discussions on sound effects. What was good about them was that he wanted to see the versions we had churned out. This was because the makers had a set picture in their mind, so, they wanted to see someone else, who are experts of sound, how do we approach. It would be quite nice rather than corrupting our mind with what they want because it’s a different point of view. So, I feel he looks at what he has in his mind and what others have to say and then decide the best for the film.”
Unlike the first part, for which Satheesh and his team of four had to travel abroad to design the sound, all the work this time was done in India, and the designer is glad it turned out this way.
“Ramoji Film City (in Hyderabad) has godowns, where all the properties used in a film are dumped. So, we could use them to create sound. A lot of properties that you see in the film, we actually used them to create sound. This time we didn’t go abroad for the sound design because there we don’t get enough properties. We called the guy here and all the work was done in India. It helps when you have real stuff to design the sound effects.” Satheesh has used Dolby Atmos technology for the film, and the designer said he felt like a child owning his dream toys.
“For a sound designer, Dolby Atmos is a way through which a child can get all his dream toys and he or she can play with them any which way around. It’s the format, which gives us the perfect 3D space sound and now, it’s up to us how to use it. I have always worked on Dolby and Atmos is the ultimate thing. What better can you get than this? There are times that we overuse it, but that’s because we don’t believe in subtleties, we like more of ‘in-your-face’ kind of things. But I think with time, we will start using it judiciously. At least, I make sure that I am not using it to create any shock value and its effects should go perfectly with the story.”
The sound editor, who has worked on Bollywood films like Angry Indian Goddesses, Kaminey and Ishqiya, now has actor Saif Ali Khan’s next in his kitty. Directed by Akshat Verma (of Delhi Belly fame), the movie’s working title is Kalakandi. The film, which has been shot, is now ready for sound mixing.
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