Monday 14 September 2015

Check 123: Is Pakistani cinema not sound enough?

10:54 By Lollywood Online

“The lesson is don’t play the visual, play the emotion.” Sound designer Al Nelson was definitely not addressing Pakistani filmmakers when discussing his approach to audio in motion pictures and even if he was, his advice must have fallen on deaf ears.
With the current spate of Pakistani movies noticing a marked improvement in the visual side of the craft, this development seems to have come with an opportunity. With a focus on enhancing the visual side of the craft, filmmakers seem to have been caught napping when it comes to the sound department.
Even though not many Pakistani films can boast of perfect sound design right now, Na Maloom Afraad (NMA) and Moor — have come close to unlocking this achievement. And it should not come as a surprise that both of them were required to bring in foreign and more qualified experts, at one stage or another, to obtain the desired sound design.
Although Jami only availed the services of a foreign sound crew for the sequences filmed in Muslim Bagh, he believes that the audio approach being adapted by the latest generation of Pakistani filmmakers is fundamentally flawed.
“The biggest problem is that our technical approach is also inspired from Bollywood. And like them we continue to dub our films and are not trying to capture on-location sound. We’re just following suit,” the director told The Express Tribune.
Seconding the music video-turned-feature film director, experienced composer-cum-sound designer Kamran Ismail, colloquially known as Kami, noted that filmmakers in the country were still coming to terms with the phenomenon of sound,  given how fast the technology improves in that discipline.
“When it comes to sound design the technology is improving rapidly and it is imperative to keep ourselves up-to-date otherwise there is always a chance of being left behind,” remarked Kami.
He further added that in order to improve the standard of sound in films it was necessary to ‘educate’ the new lot of sound designers.
Using his own example he narrated an incident about how he faced an uphill task when doing ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) for Javed Sheikh’s character in the movie Na Maloom Afraad. “Since his character would stammer I had to keep a count of his stammers in the film so that the dialogues could be synced. That is the sort of attention to detail that is required.”
Aware of the inner workings of the industry filmmakers and sound designers refer to a shortage of time as a major factor at play. Many filmmakers fail to realise the complex nature of a sound designer’s job and are constantly forcing the sound designers to rush through the entire process —  eventually leading to a sub-standard product.
“Ideally a film should be completed at least a month prior to its release but in Pakistan we are working on the audio and finalizing the sound design just days before its premiere,” tells Kami, who has completed the sound design for Jawani Phir Nahin Ani almost a week ahead of its release.
With the new wave of Pakistani films becoming infamous for appearing as an extension of Bollywood, NMA director Nabeel Qureshi was of the opinion that this approach was becoming evident in filmmakers’ over-reliance on OSTs. “Now soundtracks are not just used for the progression of the narrative but directors tend to use them unnecessarily to cover up the shortcomings in sound.”
While the visual side continues to grow with each movie, filmmakers do not seem so optimistic about sound being fixed all of a sudden.
“There are no foley artists or studios [in Pakistan] that can reproduce sound as per our requirements. So, there is still some time before sound can be rectified,” states Qureshi.
Jami on the other hand believes that the only way they can save this aspect of films was if directors drop the Bollywood style of filmmaking. “I’m sorry to say this but at least one or two films will have to fail, or the sound will need to mess up badly, if we are to correct our way of filmmaking otherwise people would continue to rely on dubbing.”


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