What does sound do in films that songs don’t?The only answer to that question is, “More”.
Sound is the backbone of the films. It is like eating juicy dates. The dates with the long seeds. Not the seedless wannabes. You know when you bite into one date, the seed is at the centre, keeping it whole and hearty.
The introduction of the actor as a hero lies in its mass sound track. The horror genre pioneered sound designing. They had to engineer sounds to make people uncomfortable. To make people fascinated and yet terrified. The anticipation was amplified with the sound.
But according to Vishal Menon, the sound doesn’t need to be explicit to underline its presence like an explosion or the shattering of a glass. He currently works for Film Companion.
“If it is done right, you won’t notice it”, said Menon.
This expression summed up the rest of the conversation we had.
It lies in the details, because unlike songs, sounds replicate life. So let us take a normal household scene. What are all the sounds we need to incorporate to make it feel real? The tea cups being taken out of the cupboard, the shutting of the door, lighting the gas on the stove, keeping the vessel on it, children calling out to their mother, phones ringing, dad crunching on the toast, milk being poured from the packet to another vessel, zip closing the school bag, water boiling, birds, cars, washing machine rolling at the back and so on and so forth.
Menon says that in a scene, as many as 30 sound tracks are incorporated on a normal basis. Other films of a wider budget has probably over a 100. Imagine if one of them were taken out. It would seem jarring. It would seem unreal.
He continues, “There is an entire sound library dedicated only for silence”. Even when there are no dialogues, the sound is still present, pronouncing the silence. A film like A Quiet Place will never work without the active engagement and combination of sounds.
Sound becomes a dialogue in itself. It acts as an eco-system allowing the text and cinematography to have space and breathe. Though films are a visual medium and heavily depends on the discerning eye, the ear is just as sharp.
There is a scene in the cult film, Premam, where the actor is dancing and wherever his hand is moving, the camera follows. But the ingenuity of the scene, according to Vishal Menon, and why it worked lies in the inclusion of the sound of the glass each time it moved. The scene would have been just another scene.
He gives us another example of Enthiran 2.0 in which there is a scene where Akshay Kumar kills a tiny bird. “Resul Pookutty did something different with the sound, which is why we remember that sound. Again, they are not big sounds”.
What makes it real on reel, are the small things. As it is, in life.