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An ear for drama


The foley artist breathes life into cinema by synthesizing authentic sounds.

For the upcoming film, Kya Dilli Kya Lahore, Karan Arjun Singh had to go looking for a wooden crate. One of the scenes has a lone soldier walking through an old, creaking wooden house. And Karan, a foley artist, had to find the right sound of a booted foot thumping around the house. "We took a huge wooden box and had to add a squeak to it to get that 'chooo' creaking sound, "says Karan.

The job of a foley in a film might be unseen but it is not unheard. Whether it is the sound of footsteps, a knife slashing through a body, a crashing car or popping bubbles, a foley artist has to replicate each sound made in a film but after the scene is shot. "It is a challenge to recreate the same sounds in a closed room in Mumbai, " says 39-year-old Karan, who runs his own sound studio.

During shooting, the complete focus of sound recording is on the dialogue and the rest of the tracks are recorded later. Karnail Singh, who entered the film industry as a sound recordist in 1979, learnt the skills on the job (keen observation, good timing and a sense of creative sound).

"Foley wasn't a separate occupation earlier but it is now. But I should also add that it isn't a career where you become very famous, " says Karnail, who is working on Ek Tha Tiger. His earlier projects include Gangs of Wasseypur, Udaan, Don 2 and Agent Vinod.

Thanks to the new crop of directors and slice-of-life scripts, more attention is being paid to aspects of cinema that had been hitherto not taken seriously. "Today sound direction is important;also a lot of filmmakers are trained at good institutes and already have experience assisting a big director in the industry. Even actors now need to know what foley artistes do and contribute to creating authentic sounds, " says Karan. While earlier only the main characters tracks were recorded separately, now most actors have their own tracks. Karan says that while earlier there would be just one to three tracks, he now records up to 60-70 in a film.

A good foley artiste engages not just with the sounds he needs to create but also the emotions involved in a shot - are the footsteps angry, was the cup slammed on the table? "Shah Rukh Khan's footsteps are not the same in every film and cannot be repeated. One specific shot of Madhuri Dixit on a swing in the film Parinda was challenging. The swing had ghunghroos attached to it, so we needed to record each layer clearly but they couldn't be too harsh because the emotion was romantic, " says Karnail.

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