Life is Full of Sound and ...
On the days of dubbing of a TV film or serial he would appear with a few metal boxes containing air horns, pulleys, time pieces, bells, vessels, spoons, buckets and even used toys that you would find in the cupboards of children or piled up in raddi shops for recycling. When a character rides a cycle in the film, we often don't notice the sound of the bell. Or when the hero drinks tea and puts the cup back in the saucer, there has to a sound of the ceramic cup hitting the saucer. Or when a door is opening, a small creaking sound has to be created. When a woman draws water from the well, the sound of the pulley, the clang of the bucket hitting the water gives richness to a scene. Such sounds are not recorded while shooting but created in the dubbing room.
I used to observe Raj Marthandam, sound effects artist, create such sounds in the dubbing room after Ramesh (FTII Sound Engineering Alumni) had completed the edits painstakingly sitting along with the director. I only got briefly introduced to Raj and since I would be going with the news team covering local events for Doordarshan, I didn't get much opportunity to interact.
Indian cinema had an old tradition of using location sound as post production facilities weren't advanced in those times. Today there are big collections of digital libraries having all possible sounds on earth. The idea of using location sound in Indian cinema was revived after a long time by Oscar award winner Resul Pookutty. As the 67th National Film Awards were announced I felt we still do not attach importance to sound effects or people like Raj Marthandam who helped the film and TV industry in the pre-digital era with their ingenious ways of producing original sound on track.
I did an internship for about a month in a TV studio named Roshni TV Pageant in Trivandrum as part of my master’s programme in communication and journalism in Kerala University. It was run by Mr KRS Nair, a political journalist with Blitz. I had run out of options after completion of studies, as mainstream media had already filled their quota of interns. I had gone to meet him seeking an internship in Blitz. However, he said he had to file only one political story a day and he was quite influential among the politicians and ministers. It was easy for him to get stories over phone or write news analysis. However, he suggested that I could learn more about news production and TV production if I could spend some time in his studio.
I remember the visit of Prime Minister Shri PV Narasimha Rao to assess the flood situation in Kerala. John Ulahanan, the Doordarshan correspondent who had attained stardom in those days was assigned the task of reporting and interviewing the Prime Minister and accompanied by the Roshni TV Pageant crew. It was my first experience of getting involved with the coverage of a VVIP event and seeing a Prime Minister at very close quarters. He spoke only in measured words and sentences.
Even as most of my internship days were lonely and without much action just being a silent observer to what’s going on in TV entertainment and news. And It didn't help much for my career but enabled a peep into how TV programmes were made.
On some days, I would land up in KRS Nair's office cum residence in the heart of the city (his studio was far on the way towards airport) and I would find him taking stock of his footage used by Doordarshan. His income depended on how many seconds the Roshni TV footage was aired and I could understand the stress he was going through. His son was a journalist in PTI. Sometimes, he would talk about great leaders especially of the Left front whom he was closely associated with. I think his studio was inaugurated by E K Nayanar, the then Chief Minister of Kerala.
I lost touch with Mr KRS Nair after I became a journalist, but one day I read the news that he was found dead in a lodge in Kollam as he had gone broke due to losses in TV studio business. Many of the crew who worked for him went in search of greener pastures. While John Ulahanan, the star performer of Doordarshan news in the 1980’s and 1990’s had to succumb to liver or gastric problems as he turned alcoholic. He was closely related to one of the best newspaper editors India has ever seen- Mr B G Varghese, who gave a new meaning to development journalism.
Media guys are normally passionate about what they do and want to make some impact in society. They are those who believe life is all sound and passion (not fury). Many fall by the wayside and people forget about them and celebrate the victors.