Monthly Archives: June 2010

SLUMDOG DREAMS

Is it luck that shapes a person’s destiny or is it hard work, dedication and perseverance that ultimately count? For long this question has been bothering me, even as life keeps throwing new perspectives in this regard at every corner, after every turn. But I’ve now realized that while luck and divine grace all have their roles to play, the fact remains that success comes to only those who believe in themselves and their dreams. And who proves this better than ace sound designer Amrit Pritam of Ghajini and Asociate production mixer of Slumdog Millionaire fame? For a hitherto unknown young man from a small town of Assam who bagged an IIFA (International Indian Films Academy) award for the very first film which carried his full credits, life has been nothing short of a dream run for him. And while it is natural for one to get carried away by the apparent fame and glory that seems to follow him, it is only when you take a closer look at his journey in life that you begin to take cognizance of all the hard work that has gone into making him the person he is today.

The first time I spoke with him, I was literally transported back to my days in the stadium field of Guwahati where the coaches used to instil in us trainees the importance of the four D’s – Dedication, Determination, Devotion and Discipline. While I had somehow failed to understand the real implications of these elements then, a peek into the lives of people like Amrit and their struggles do help us get a deeper insight into them. To dare to chart a hitherto unknown territory and make it one’s profession calls for a lot of courage, determination and faith in one’s abilities; to silence the critics by making it to the top calls for a lot of skill and perseverance – all of which have been displayed by Amrit in ample proportions.

For the unacquainted, this young man from Assam had made the entire country stand up and take notice of his skills in two of Bollywood’s most talked about bestsellers – Ghajini and Slumdog Millionaire – last year. While the Aamir Khan-starrer Ghajini was the first film to carry his full credits as sound designer, he had assisted internationally-acknowledged sound designer and Oscar winner Resul Pookutty in the latter. It was Resul Pookutty who gave him the first chance to work as a Sound Designer in Ghajini and both the films did exceptionally well; Ghajini brought him an IIFA award while Slumdog Millionaire went on to win a Global Globe and eight Oscars, including one for best sound mixing. Success, however, does not come easy and Amrit is a perfect case in point. Though he had been slogging it out in Mumbai for the past many years, even having had to borrow money from friends to sustain himself, it was only after he had worked for more than 40 films that he finally got his due credit in Ghajini.

Born in a cultural family of Jorhat, Amrit’s life is all about daring to dreaming and achieving those dreams. After all, it is these very dreams that landed him in distant and unfamiliar Mumbai, where he had to wade through all the proverbial struggles before finally striking gold last year. “I was born and brought up in a family that had strong cultural leanings. After doing my graduations in Physics from JB college in Jorhat, I joined the sound engineering department of Jyoti Chitraban Film and Television Institute at Guwahati in 1999 for its three-year course.” It was in Jyoti Chitraban that he had his first brush with celluloid, having got the chance to work in a few Assamese films and a number of documentary productions. Amrit, however, insists that his real foundation in the world of Art was laid at home by his family members. As he recollects, “The cultural environment at home helped shape my sensibilities at a very young age. My mother Nalini Bala Dutta is a Sattriya dancer who sings Bargeet and plays the Khol herself. She is also a prolific actor – having participated in the Majuli Garamur Bar Satra Rax in her young days and with my father in various stages in Jorhat after marriage. Besides acting, my freedom fighter father, Deva Prasad Dutta, also writes and directs plays for children. My late sister Sujata Priyam was also an excellent Bihu dancer while my brother Bhagawat Pritam is a well-known film and television actor & a musician of the Assamese film and television industry.” Growing up in such an environment, it is unlikely that the performing arts would fail to affect the young mind. As such, it is not surprising to note that Amrit is also a prolific guitarist who had won the second best guitarist award in the Dibrugarh University youth festival 1995.

During his three-year stint in Jyoti Chitrabon, Amrit got to learn a lot from teachers like Farooq Iqbal, national award winner from Kolkata Anup Mukherjee, and others. Having got a strong base here in Guwahati, he then decided to move out and try his luck in the city of dreams – Mumbai. Accordingly, in the year 2002, he and his friend Debojit Changmai packed their bags and set out to follow their dreams.

“Since I was all of 25, I didn’t want to take financial help from my family,” says Amrit. It was here that his friends Mukut Moni Saikia, Diganta Borah, Rajiv Phukan, Kollol Dutta and Abhijit Duwarah came in to help him financially. “They are the real gems of my life. And I am thankful to God for making them a part of my life,” says Amrit. “Sometimes I feel they have
more confidence in my talent then I myself do,” he adds. Amrit collected Rs 15,000 with the help of his friends. But it was only when he reached Mumbai that the reality of the struggle sunk in. “The scenario was altogether different than what I had presumed,” says Amrit who was jobless for a year in Mumbai. After he exhausted his money, Mukul used to send him money through the postal service. “There were the times when I was totally penniless and Bollywood was also going through a rough phase,” says Amrit who had initially lied to his parents about having procured a job in the city. “At times, I used to become really frustrated and there were times when I wanted to go back to Assam.” It was only when his friend Debajit Changmai got a job in Rajkamal studios that Amrit started regaining his lost confidence. “After Debojit got a job he started taking care of all my needs,” says Amrit, who till today remains immensely grateful to all his friends for their help and support.

Amrit Pritam’s first break came about in 2003 with Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Naa Ho where he got the chance to work with stars like Shahrukh Khan, Preeti Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, and the like. “KHNH opened my doors to Mumbai,” recollects Amrit, who then joined Firefly’s Post Sound studio where he trained under industry bigwigs and National Award winners like Satheesh PM, Shajith Koyeri and Oscar winner Resul Pookuty, and the like. Amrit says, “Fireflys was just like a rofessional film School where I started learning about ABCD of Sound Editing & Sound Design.” In Firefly’s, he worked as a location sound recordist, Sync Sound editor and sound designer for more than 45 different national and international films. Some of the films which he has been part of include Boom, Nation without woman: Mathrubhumi, Maqbool, Ek hasina thi, Ab tak chappan, Missed call, Tibetean film Dreaming Lasha, Bluffmaster, The rising (Mangal Pandey), Shikhar, Zinda, Gandhi My Father, Black, Sawariya, Omkara, Salaam-e-Ishq, Parzania, 15 Th Park Avenue, amongst many others. He decided to go independent after five years in this studio and Ghajini was officially the first film which carried his credits.

Amrit’s area of choice i.e. sound designing is a very new concept in the Indian film industry with sound technicians depending, till recently, mostly on magnetic stripes to create the desired sound effects. It is only in recent years with the adoption of new technology and sound recording methods that sound designing has become such an integral part of the film world. Now one might ask what sound designing exactly is. Amrit explains, “Sound designing is all about
creating a new Sound environment with the help of different sound elements like Sound FX (like the sound of vehicles, rain, punches, gunfire, accidents etc), ambience (like the sound of birds, traffic, wind, forest, sea waves, night crickets, etc) Dialogue, Foley Sound (like the sound of footsteps, walking, running, hand movement, rustling of cloth, etc) and the like. Besides limiting the use of background scores, proper sound designing also enhances the overall outlook of the final production to a great level.” He further explains, “You can compare sound designing with painting. Just like an artist uses different colours to fill up his canvas, we use different sound elements to create a scene of a film. As a result, each and every scene of the film is like a canvas for us.”

And then came Slumdog Millionaire where he assisted Resul Pookuty in the location Production sound mixing department. The film won as Oscar for its sound designing. Talking about the film, Amrit simply says, “It was an awesome moment for me and my family and for the whole nation. I guess I have succeeded in making my parents proud of me.” He, however, gets real nostalgic while talking about his first red carpet experience in Macau during the IIFA awards last year. “To say that I was just elated would be an understatement. I was walking towards the stage and memories of when I first came to Mumbai and how my friends bailed me out in the initial stages started flashing across my mind,” he adds.

Success notwithstanding, Amrit still honours and takes due cognizance of his roots. A self- proclaimed simple Assamese boy, he is deeply saddened by the state of the film industry back home. “The Assamese film industry needs to adapt to the times if it is to survive. You cannot keep keep making VCD-based love stories with Bihu beats throughout the year.” He further says, “I am proud of my culture, of the State where I come from. But we need to plug our loopholes if we want to move ahead in life. There is no dearth of talent in Assam but what people suffer from are the lack of platforms to showcase their talent and perseverance to carry their dreams all through.”

For Amrit, who also picked up a AMMA (All Malayali Movie Award) for the film Pazhachiraz last year in Dubai and the APSARA Award for the Best Sound Design for the first underwater Indian film Blue along with Resul Pookutty, the dream run continues. Both these awards are special in their own ways. While Amrit had to recreate war sounds of the 1700’s for the film Pazhachiraz, Blue was the first Indian film to be shot underwater. “Except for the sound department, the entire technical crew of Blue had been brought from Hollywood. It was a huge challenge for us because we did not know the intricacies of recording sounds under water.” Amrit, who has now joined Resul Pookutty’s Canaris Post Sound Studio as Chief Sound Editor and Sound Designer, is presently working on a number of films that are up for release in the days ahead. One of these is the Rs. 150-crore Rajni-starrer film Robot, which is being directed by top Tamil director Shankar.

And till then, he continues to dream. For as he says, “Impossible is nothing. Once you know what you want to do in life and you are ready to struggle and learn, then, as they say, only the sky is the limit.”

Feedback: optionaldutta@gmail.com

Jamming in the city

Music lovers of Guwahati recently had the chance to be part of a highly interactive jamming session with some of the most well-known musicians of the region. I am talking about the jamming session organized as part of the inaugural launch ceremony of the DJ School of music in Rajgarh area of the city. The music school has been started by singer-guitarist Dhruva Sharma, who was the frontman of Friends – the oldest rock group of the State.

Some of the most prominent musicians of Guwahti and Shillong were in town last Saturday to be part of the official opening ceremony. The guest singers list included Khasi singer-guitarist Lou Majaw, Rudy Wallang and Tipriti of Soulmate, veteran Assamese guitarist Utpal Barsaikia, JP Das, Keith Wallang, amongst others.

While Guwahati has always been home to some prolific musicians who are doing very well in their professional careers, the lack of proper music schools have often proved to be a major hindrance for aspiring music students who are often found to lack a proper foundation. As such, a music school which has an experienced western classical music faculty is reason enough for good cheer. The faculty of the DJ school of music has musicians like Bredner Momin (piano), Madhurjya Bordoloi (guitars), Nomoni (drums), Ambar Das (drums) and Proma (piano).

Following a simple ceremony where all the musicians were felicitated with gamosas and japis, the guest musicians got down to do what they do best – jam together, of course! – much to the delight of all those present that day. While Rudy and Tips showed those present their musical acumen which has taken their band places all over the world, JP Das and Lou Majaw proved that despite their age they are still going strong. With his deep baritone and the occasional nasal twinge, Lou was at his characteristics best that day.

A host of musicians and music lovers of the city had descended at the Rajgarh area to be part of the opening ceremony and it was a sheer trip down memory lane for most of them present.

DIGITAL SUICIDE: Making a point

Digital Suicide is a three piece Guwahati-based rock outfit that is presently creating waves as one of the leading acts of the region and the country. The band’s USP lies in equal participation by all the band members, each of whom have a natural flair for making music, to create the trademark DS sound.

Their music has been inspired by the works of RD Barman, Bappi Lahiri, Classical Music, bands like RHCP, Placebo, Joy Division, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Lady Gaga, MJ, Radiohead, etc. The band has proved their critics wrong and continue to play their brand of contemporary alternative music constantly creating positive energy in and around them. They have just released an EP of five songs for which the band is experiencing a rapid growth of their fan base.

The journey can be said to have had its beginning in 2009 when contemporary songwriter, guitarist and singer Daniel Langhtasa, bassist and backing vocalist Dpak Borah and percussionist Ratan Bordoloi got together as a band and began questioning the self-destructive nature of a confused and chaotic world.

Hailing from Haflong, a small town in North-east India, which is cut away from the rest of the world due to the absence of any proper mode of communication and where lives have been torn apart by constant strife and violence, the members of the band were filled with frustration. The saddest part was that there was no outlet for their frustrations, until music came along. As Daniel says, “We resolutely locked ourselves in a world of our own and remained in the room for about 6 months, trying to understand the gravity of the relation between each of us, our music and the rest of the world. Music was no longer just a passion, it had became our sole mode of expression.”

With the hunger to play their music to people everywhere, the band shifted base to Guwahati city. But their dreams of finding an audience to play to in Guwahati also met with rejection as there were not enough concerts for rock band. “In the absence of a vibrant music scene, we started sharing our songs online and took part in active discussions and debates in online forums,” says Dpak Borah.

Some of the band’s prominent gigs in the recent past include the finals of the Campus Rock Idols in Hyderabad last year, Rock4Life show in Shillong last year, Sifung Rock show in Jorhat in January this year, National Youth festival in Bhubaneshwar, Fireball, amongst others.

The band is presently working on one of their dream projects called 3rd World Superstar Tour, which will start with a few venues in the Northeast. Daniel says, “We will soon start posting updates on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter pages. Do catch them at a gig near wherever you stay!

An inspiring alternative space for today’s youth

The most talked about event by the young artists from Delhi, “Curves & Shades”, was held at the State Art Gallery recently and the same is also creating quite a buzz in concerned circles. Held from May 29 to June 3 last, the event has been able to attract a lot of attention from both artistes and patrons alike. It is a platform that India Today quoted as being a “stroke of inspiration” for young budding talents and since then it has been a “runaway hit” (as reported by IANS). This amazing alternative space for encouragement to young artists from different fields of art form is in fact a innovation of Ranjan Engti, a popular Karbi artist from Karbi Anglong.

“Curves & Shades was conceived as an annual event in 2004 to highlight and endorse the creative aptitude of youngsters in the field of painting and photography from the North-east so that youth from diverse fields can come together to represent artworks depicting people, life, culture and nature. These art forms manifest themselves through the works of artists and photographers from each State of the Northeast. This year’s editions of Curves & Shades will tour all the eight northeastern States, exploring and providing a new platform to budding and new talents from various parts of the region.” says Ranjan Engti, the chief coordinator of the event.

A lot can be depicted through a few sketches of the brush; a framed photograph or a mud sculpted art form. Event coordinator Jinki Saikia say that Curves & Shades is a conglomerated platform where talents from different spheres of the Northeast, as well as India, can come together to portray artworks depicting people, life, culture and nature. The motivating crux for Curves & Shades is the need to preserve and depict the cultural traditions of the diverse Northeast region of India through multiple folds of aestheticism, she added.

Since 2004, Curves and Shades has successfully organized a number of events, which included painting and photography exhibitions in various stages of Delhi, as well as Karnataka Bhavan and Karbi Anglong in Assam. One of their major achievements was the successful screening of certain epics in the world of Assamese celluloid in several places of Delhi. For instance, Joymoti was screened at Spic Macay Hall in New Delhi on 2008, while Hastir Kainya and Aaideu were screened at the same venue in January last year.

This year’s episode of Curves & Shades featured three artists and three photographers. Along with Ranjan Engti, internationally renowned Karbi artist Augustine Rongpi also showcased their paintings. Rongpi has been successfully exhibiting his works in France for the last five years. Writer and poet Jinny Barman also displayed her colourful works which are inspired by nature and a positive attitude. Shutterbugs like Dhritiman Deori, a talented music composer from Guwahati and Pankaj J Dutta, a product of Sari Academy of Professional Photography, in Mumbai also participated in the event. Photographer and digital artist Sishir Basumatary also showcased his works this year. Jinki adds, “Bajok Doba – an upcoming album by Trideev Bora and Priyanka Bharali, two singers from Guwahati, is one of our discovery and we are providing them the stage to do well in their field.”

Ranjan believes that only creativity amongst the youth of the region can herald peace in the region. In his words, “Curves & Shades is committed towards encouraging and ensuring the involvement of our youth in achieving these objectives. We firmly believe that only creativity and the highest stakeholder of youth in it will lead to peace in the trouble torn areas.”