Ram Gopal Varma Blog #121. The SOUND of SILENCE.

Lot of people tell me that the sound in Bhoot was very frightening. But it’s actually the silence which comes before that which makes any sound effective especially in the scary film genre. Apart from camera work and background music, sound obviously plays the most important role in creating a state of heightened tension.

Irrespective of the genre I always took tremendous interest in sound right from my first film Shiva.

Sound is of 2 kinds; one which obviously is put on visuals that we see such as footsteps, trees rustling in the wind etc and then there’s a creative sound which necessarily does not show the source of the sound. It partly works on the same principle as that of how background music is supposed to work.

In my beginning days, I read in American Cinematographer magazine an account of a scene in a film where a young boy is looking at his braces in the mirror and suddenly the braces creep out of his mouth and start entangling him. To create the sound for this the sound designer apparently recorded thin wires scraping across certain rough surfaces mixed with sand shuffling in a wooden box and as an undertone he added the sound of a dentist’s drill. His reasoning was that along with the background music and other sounds nobody will consciously realize the sound of the dentist’s drill but it will arouse the subconscious fear which is in all of us could have been embedded in as children as we see the drill coming towards our mouth.

In the context of certain films sound design can be of incredible complexity especially when you don’t have a reference point to create a sound which would be both effective and believable.

In AGYAAT since the audience does not get to see the antagonist it was a challenge for Dwarak Warrier my sound designer who worked with me earlier in Bhoot and Company to be able to create the character of the creature purely through his sound play.

Also the sounds of the forest which are pretty exciting and eerie in themselves obviously in the genre and subject of AGYAAT  call for even more dramatic treatment. The forest needed to be felt seemingly alive by itself as an entity and its various moods could only be reflected through its sounds and I must say Dwarak literally breathed life into the jungle through his sound application.

Of course the most difficult task for him was to create the sound for the creature. Like I said since no one can see the creature in the film he literally had to invent new sounds through a variety of experiments which finally are intended to give a form to the creature in the imagination of the audience. The most difficult part of this exercise was that the creature cannot sound like something one has heard before, as that of a lion’s roar or what you have heard from a dinosaur in films etc. At the same time it has to be organic and also it has to match the expressions of the actors. The sound of the creature also has to give an indication to the characters and the audience of its mood whether it is playing with them or whether it’s angry or whether it’s in pain or whatever else.

This near impossible task Dwarak has achieved far beyond my imagination. The most ironical part is that Dwarak is the quietest man I have ever met in my life. When he speaks he is barely audible. He is so shy as a person that one will miss him even if he is in the same room.

The concept and the imagination might have come from me, but the astonishingly innovative sound of AGYAAT  came from the ultra silent Dwarak Warrier.